Going against a family court order

Going against a family court order may be the only option that maybe available to a parent in order to protect their children’s safety and welfare. A court order made in the family court is held to be legally binding and must be complied with at all times unless there is a reasonable excuse for not doing so. Going against a court order is a serious offence and if one party has broken a court order there can be serious consequences.

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What happens if you do not follow a court order?

Quite often family court orders can be broken by one party. Typically going against a court order occurs in cases of child contact or spousal maintenance. In terms of child contact one parent may fail to comply with the order which requires facilitating contact or visitation with the other parent. With regards to spousal maintenance one ex-partner may stop making the agreed maintenance to the other.

In some situations a minor deviation from the court order may not be considered as amounting to breach of a court order. This could include issues where one party is unable to comply with the court order due to work or other commitments and has notifies the other party. Where one party is constantly going against a family court order and there is no reasonable excuse for the breach then the courts have the power to make an enforcement order if it satisfied that a breach of an order has occurred beyond reasonable doubt.

If an enforcement order is granted by the family court it will be monitored by the probation service and will require the party in breach to undertake between 40 and 200 hours of unpaid work. Where a party is going against a family court order which leads to a financial loss then an application for financial compensation can also be made to the family court.

How to enforce a family court order?

All contact orders made from December 2008 by a family court include a warning notice which sets out the consequences which could be imposed if the order is breached. If a court order does not contain a warning notice then a party will be unable to apply for an enforcement order where the order is breached. If however a court order is dated before December 2008 then an application will need to be made to the court to have a warning notice attached to the court order. The Form C78 will need to be completed and submitted to the family court to apply for a warning notice to be attached to the court order.

In order to apply for an enforcement order an application form will need to be completed and submitted to the family court. The application to enforce an order is made using the Form C79. Once this form has been completed it can be submitted to the family court which made the original order or any court which has the power to deal with family law cases.

Is going against a family court order seen as contempt of court?

Going against a family court order is a very serious breach. The courts have been given the power to find an individual who is breaching their order to be in contempt of court for failing to comply with the terms of its order. Contempt of court includes interfering with the administration of justice and carries the following sanctions:

  • Imprisonment
  • Fines
  • Seizure of assets

What happens when a family court order is broken in the UK?

Where a court order is breached in the UK, the UK courts have the power to enforce the order and parties to the Order are able to make an application to enforce this order as well as the courts being able to hold a person breaching the order in contempt of court. Difficulties arise where a court order from the UK family courts is breached outside the UK. Not all foreign legislations will recognise and uphold the UK family court order. Methods of enforcing UK court orders abroad depend on the nature of the order and where it is to be enforced. The most common countries where a UK family court order may still be enforced abroad are:

  • Countries which are parties to the European Enforcement Order Regulations (EEO);
  • Countries which are signatories to the Brussels Regulation or the Lugano Convention;
  • Countries with which the UK has a reciprocal agreement in place; and
  • Countries for which none of the above apply which are commonly the USA, Japan and China.

If you are concerned with an order from the UK family court which has been breached abroad then contact our offices to discuss whether the existing court order can be enforced abroad.

Can a parent stop a child from seeing the other parent?

It is important to note that it is a child’s legal right to have access to both parents in their life. A parent cannot stop a child from seeing the other parent unless access will be harmful for the child’s safety and welfare. In some instances where there is no existing court order in relation to child access and child contact one parent may attempt to prevent a relationship of the child with the other parent. However the child’s welfare and safety should be the primary consideration and not personal agenda’s between disputing parents.

In the absence of a court order parents should attempt to resolve child disputes amicably amongst themselves.

Where parents are unable to resolve disputes amicably between themselves, at Kabir Family Law our child law specialists can assist with mediation to try and help with reaching a solution out of court. Where a solution is not possible to be reached then we can assist with making an application to the family court to obtain a child contact order to help reunite parents with their children.

Where an existing child contact order is in place a parent cannot stop a child from seeing the other parent as this could amount to contempt of court and could also lead to enforcement proceedings, both of which are serious and have serious implications. The only exception to stopping a child from seeing the other parent is where there are concerns to the welfare and safety of a child. In such a situation the courts may consider further evidence and may look to make a variation to the existing court order.

How to avoid mothers breaking court orders?

Quite often a mother may find herself with having obtained a court order from the family court which provides for them to have residency of the child and to allow contact for the father. We often hear about mothers breaking court orders where they do not facilitate the contact between the child and the father.

As discussed above the courts regards such a breach seriously and have the powers to enforce the order where such a breach occurs. Mothers breaking court orders can be avoided if the mother is able to provide reasons for them failing to comply. Rather than stopping contact or breaching the order mothers can contact the further to raise any concerns or make them aware of any issues. Initially this could be done informally and if no action is taken then mothers can formally write to the father with their reasons. This formal correspondence could also be used as evidence within the family court should further breaches occur.

Mothers also have the option of making variations to existing current family court orders rather than mothers breaking court orders. Attempts to make an urgent variation order can often be the best solution before a mother completely failing to comply with current court orders. Mothers are able to make variation orders where the father is not agreeable to vary the order by consent or reach an agreement to an alternative arrangement in writing.

Mothers often find themselves in a predicament where they have made an application to vary the court order but the matter may not be listed for until after the child is due to spend time with the father. Mothers find themselves in a difficult position where they will be breaking a court order and be in contempt of court if they don’t follow the order and other hand there may be a risk of harm to the child if the contact proceeds as per the court order. Where an application for a variation to an existing court order is made and the mother can prove she has taken reasonable steps to discuss the issues with the father, the court may not criticise the mother for her actions in breaching the order where the intentions are purely based on the best interests and welfare of the child.

Mothers should obtain legal advice before breaking court order?

Family law specialists can often provide advice and assistance on how to avoid mothers breaking court orders. At Kabir Family Law we can provide tailored consultations and advice to deal with your specific concerns. Our family lawyers could assist by helping you understand the implications of breaching court orders and could provide guidance on the steps that can be taken to avoid such breaches. Where needed we can assist you in contacting the other parent to try and reach an amicable solution which will avoid the need for court orders to be breached.

Case law suggests that mothers can be imprisoned for failing to comply with current orders in place. The case of Gibbs v Gibbs is an example of the serious implications where the father made an application to commit the mother to prison for constantly breaching the court orders. The judge rules that “in light of the mother’s continued defiance, unwillingness to change, and lack of insight on the impact of the impact of her behaviour” he was left with no other option but to commit her to prison for 9 months. Contact our family lawyers in York  today to discuss how you can avoid being in breach of family court orders.

How to deal with father’s breaking court orders

Where a father is breaking court orders, the mother should try and amicably approach the father to try and ascertain the reason behind this. Parents should attempt to initially resolve the matter between them without the need of the Courts intervention. Where there is no development then mediation and or assistance from family lawyers should be sought which may lead to an existing being reached.

Where a mother has attempted to resolve the issues and the father is still consistently breaching an order in place then application can be made to enforce the terms of the order which could lead to the father carrying out unpaid work as well as being punished and or fined for being in contempt of court. The courts also have the power to amend the existing contact order and the living arrangements for the child.

The courts can also utilise other resources such as ordering a parent to take part in programmes or counselling and the use of Family Assistance orders to ensure families are adhering to and promoting contact between the child and parents

Is there a reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order?

Quite simply child arrangement orders are orders of the court and must be complied with at all times. There are various sanctions which could apply if a child arrangement order is breached which range from a fine to a custodial sentence for repeated breaches. However there may be times where one parent will need to breach the court order. One parent may argue they have a reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order. This could be related to the child itself, i.e. the child does not want to go for contact on that specific day or they have an alternative arrangement made. In such situations it would be wise for parents to communicate between themselves and make the other parent away to see if alternative contact can be arranged as opposed to breaching the order.

However there may be genuine reasons where one parent has a reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order. This for instance could be where the child is unwell or not fit enough to leave the home. Another reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order maybe where one parent encounters issues with transport, such as their car breaking down, there being no public transport available, or they are unable to arrange for alternative transport for a certain day. These all could be considered as a reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order providing these are not occurring regularly or in a pattern. It is important to note that when considering a breach of an order of the court the court will need to be satisfied that the breach is significant and intentional and there is no reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order.

The court is therefore unlikely to take any enforcement action if there is a reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order.

What happens if a reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order is repeatedly used

If you as a parent feel that the parent who is in breach of a child arrangements order is repeatedly using the same excuse and stating this is a reasonable excuse to breach a child arrangement order then you should consider seeking legal advice. As with any breach you should keep a written note of when each breach occurred and what excuse was used for not complying with the child arrangements order.

You should try to establish whether there is a reoccurring theme or a pattern in when the order is breached under the pretext of there being a reasonable excuse to breach child arrangement order. In such situations there may be deliberate and intentional breach of a child arrangement order by one place. In such instances our family law specialists can assist you in assessing the breach and if necessary assist you with your enforcement application to the court.

Breaching spousal maintenance orders

Quite often despite a court order for spousal maintenance an ex-partner may suddenly stop paying this maintenance. If this occurs the courts have the power to enforce the order under part 33 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and could also order for the arrears to be aid swiftly.

With an enforcement the person responsible for paying the spousal maintenance can be liable to pay the arrears and the interest on the unpaid amount of spousal maintenance. Such an action must be bought within 12 months to bring an enforcement. Where the arrears are more than 12 months permission will be needed from the court first to collect these.

The court could also issue a judgement summons which carries a threat of imprisonment where a breach takes place. Contact out offices today to find out how we can assist in enforcing the order relating to your spousal maintenance following your divorce where your ex-partner is failing to make such payments.

What happens if i break a prohibited steps order?

You might be wondering whether prohibited steps orders are breached given they are an order preventing a person from specifically carrying out a certain course of action. This may be a prohibited steps order to prevent one parent from removing a child from the care and control of another parent, or even preventing one parent from removing the child out of the country. If you are a parent against whom a prohibited steps order has been made you may find you question yourself what happens if i break a prohibited steps order. It is important to note that a breach of a prohibited steps order is seen as a contempt of court. If you break a prohibited steps order and the other parent applies to the court for an enforcement of the order the courts even reverse the prohibited steps order by making an alternative order such as a specific issue order. This means the court could potentially make an order for the child to be returned to the other parent, if the matter concerns international travel then the courts may consider an order to place the child’s passport safely to prevent this. Therefore whilst questioning what happens if i break a prohibited steps order you might want to remember that this could even lead to a custodial sentence or even worse the child being removed from your care and placed with the other parent.

Contact us today for more information before going against a family court order

At Kabir Family Law, our family lawyers purely deal with all aspects of family law including child law matters and divorce matters. If you are a concerned partner or ex-partner and are experiencing a breach of an court order contact us today on 0330 094 5880 to discuss your options or let us call you back.