Dealing with a breach of child contact order

Child contact orders are orders granted under the section 8 of the Children Act 1989. The order is commonly obtained from the family court upon the separation or divorce of parents. The child contact order will confirm the parent with which the child will live with (the resident parent) and the child contact arrangements for the non-resident parent.

Some parents following their separation or divorce will remain amicable for the sake of their children and will attempt to reach an agreement between themselves with regard to their children. However, where this is not possible due to an acrimonious separation, it will usually be for a court to decide on the arrangements for the subject children.

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What is a breach of a child contact order?

For most parents following the child proceedings and a granting of an order the matter in relation to their children will end. Unfortunately for some parents, further problems may arise despite their being a court order. Parents may be forced to return back to the family court where the other parent is in breach of the existing court order.

A breach of a child contact order is where one parent fails to comply with the terms of the order. The child contact order will usually specify the days and times when both parents will have their children and when the children are to be returned to the other parent. If a resident parent fails to provide child contact to the non-resident parent at the time specified then this will be constituted as a breach of the order. On the other hand, if the non-resident parent is late in collecting the child or returning the child this can also be classified as a breach of the child contact order.

How should a breach of a child contact order be dealt with?

As with all child law matters, parents can attempt to resolve minor issues between themselves without the need for involvement from a family court. This solution will be ideal with the breach is minor and not regular. Such breaches often tend to take place where one parent is late in collecting the child due to traffic congestion or employment commitments. A resident parent may also be in breach of a child contact order if they fail to provide child contact due to an illness or other unforeseen circumstances. In the examples mentioned our family lawyers suggest parents clearing any differences and resolving the issues amicably between themselves.

What should I do if a breach of a child contact order becomes regular and more frequent?

If there is a minor breach the matter regarding the child contact order can effectively be resolved amicably between both parents. However, where a breach of the contact order is become more consistent and frequent in nature then further steps may need to be considered in order to enforce the existing order. It is important to note that the courts will only consider enforcing its order where the breach is regular, frequent and intentional.

Where breaches of a child contact order become more regular, consistent and appear intentional then a parent must consider whether there is an emerging pattern and an underlying reason for the constant failure in adhering to the existing order. A parent will have the option of approaching the family court in order to enforce the current order in place.

Enforcement of a child contact order due to a breach

Where parents are unable to reconcile their differences in relation to the child contact order breaches, or family specialists at Kabir Family Law recommend considering an enforcement of the child contact order. In order to make an application for an enforcement the parent who has been affected by the breach will need to complete a form C79. Although matters through the family court can be costly and time consuming, this may the only viable option to prevent one parent from constantly breaching a child contact order and preventing the other parent from having contact with their children. If the court is satisfied that the breach is regular and intentional the courts can take actions to enforce the order and as a result punish the parent responsible for the breach.

How to prepare ahead of making an enforcement application to the family court?

Given that the court take child matters and breach of its orders seriously, our family lawyers recommend you prepare ahead for any enforcement proceedings. The initial preparation a parent can undertake is to have a verbal discussion with the parent responsible for the breach. This is an important way in trying to understand whether there is in fact a genuine reason behind the breach or whether it is a tactic used to prevent contact intentionally. Quite often having such discussions may prevent the parent responsible from carrying out further breaches.

Consider writing to the other parent if oral communication fails

Where a parent feels they are not getting anywhere with amicable conversations they should consider writing to the parent and setting out their concerns with the current arrangements together with setting our proposals to try and resolve the situation. If despite you raising written concerns the other parent continues breaching the order, then you should consider seeking assistance from mediation or family lawyers. Quite often involvement from third parties and neutral individuals could promote dialogue and provide a solution to the problem. It is important that if you are considering enforcement proceedings you keep a detailed log of the times when you have discussed the situation with the parent breaching the order and keep written copies of the communication sent. This could be way of letters, text messages or emails. Should the matter proceed to the family court you would be able to present factual evidence to rely on and illustrate that where possible you have attempted to resolve the problems without success.

What factors are considered by the court when dealing with breach of child contact orders?

When deciding to enforce an order the court will need to be satisfied that the order is necessary and proportionate based on the seriousness of the breach. The courts will take into account:

  • The reasons for the non-compliance, and if there is a genuine reason whether there is any evidence available;
  • The effect of the breach on the child. This will usually consider whether a child has been unduly denied contact with a parent as a result of the breach;
  • The welfare checklist in whether it would be in the best interests of the child to enforce the order;
  • Whether the parents should attend any parenting programmes; and
  • Whether Cafcass or the local authority should investigate the matter further to consider underlying reasons such as parental alienation or deliberately blocking child contact.

What powers do the family court have when dealing with breach of child contact orders?

Where the court is satisfied that one parent has failed to comply with a child contact order it has the power to enforce the order in the following ways:

  • A court can issue a fine
  • Commit the parent responsible for the breach to prison
  • Order compensation for financial loss, this is usually where one parent has suffered by travelling for an agreed contact which has failed,
  • The court can impose community service order
  • Vary the order in place by reconsidering the child contact order and the living arrangements.

The above range of powers available to a court illustrate that the courts take a breach of its order seriously can impose a wide range of sanctions depending on the nature and severity of the breach.

Arrange a free consultation today to discuss the importance of a Scott Schedule and how to complete this.

Should you be a parent who is fed up with constant breach of child contact orders and require assistance to enforce the existing order then contact Kabir Family Law today to explore your options today on 0330 094 5880 to discuss further or arrange a call-back.

With family lawyers in Oxford and across the UK in locations including York, Manchester, Fulham, London and Newcastle we are proud to have the national reach to help client’s across the country.