No Contact Order

Pursuing a no contact order is a complex area of family law that requires specialists advice and guidance.

Children can often be exposed to abuse through the relationship of their parents or domestic violence. Such behaviour can often cause harm to children from an early age.

In such instances the courts aim is to strike a balance between maintaining a child’s contact with both parents whilst considering the welfare needs of the child which is paramount. So what options does a court have with regards to child custody and child contact where a child is subject to such violence or abuse?

Article Contents

What is no contact order child arrangements?

A no contact order, as the name suggests is an order issued by the family court which stops a parent from having any contact with the child. A no contact child arrangements order is commonly used in cases of domestic violence and can also be applied to abusive parents. An order also stops any indirect contact such as communication by email, telephone, text messages or social media.

What is needed for a no contact order?

In order to secure a no contact order, the court will need to consider the nature of any allegation of abuse or domestic violence from one parent. The courts will consider the allegations as well as the welfare and safety of a child. A safeguarding report from Cafcass may also be obtained to identify whether there is a risk of abuse or domestic violence. The courts may also order for a fact finding hearing to determine whether or not any allegations of abuse and violence can be proved.

Before a no contact order can be granted the courts will also consider the following along with the welfare of the child:

  • Whether there is a finding of abuse, or an admission,
  • the parties conduct to each other, and the effect of that abuse on the child and the current living arrangements,
  • the effect on the child’s relationship with his or her parents,
  • the applicant parents’ motivation – is it to see his/her child, or are they using the process as a form of abuse against the other parent,
  • what the behaviour of the parent is likely to be during contact and how will that affect the child,
  • the effect of that abuse and what is the potential for that abuse to continue.

A no contact order is an exceptional order. The courts will also consider the parents right to a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights. An order for no contact deprives the child of a relationship with their parent. However, the courts paramount concern is the welfare and the risk of harm to the child.

Prohibited contact

A no contact order prohibits a parent from having any sort of contact with the child. The parent will usually be instructed to stay away from the child and other parents place of residence. An order also prohibits contact through other forms of communication such as telephone, emails, messages and even indirect contact through third parties. The prohibitions of a not contact order remain even if contact is initiated by the other parent. Even I the other parent invites the parent against whom a no contact order has been made they can still be held to have been violating the order.

How long is a no contact order in effect?

A no contact order is usually a temporary order although they can be made permanent. This order is usually part of a pending criminal matter against the parent.

An order expires when the sentence in a criminal matter expires or if a case is dismissed and the parent is found not guilty.

The family court can also cancel an order if they feel there is no longer a need to protect the child. Parents can also agree between themselves to cancel the no contact order providing the court is happy to instruct for this.

Violation of No Contact Orders

There are serious consequences and implications if a no contact order is violated. A parent against whom a no contact order is made can be subjected to:

  • Potential jail time
  • Contempt of court
  • Payment of fines
  • Loss of certain civil rights

The violation of an order is considered as a crime, as well as a violation of a probation, parole or bail conditions. If determined that a parent on probation or parole has violated a no contact order their original sentence may be impose. If a parent is on bail for domestic violence or abuse and violates a no contact order the court can revoke the bail and the parent can be held until they are charged or prosecuted.

Can I cancel a no contact order?

One parent may look to cancel a no contact order if they feel there is no longer a need to protect their child from the other parent. If both parents agree to cancel a no contact order the courts will determine whether the circumstances have changed and whether it is in the welfare and best interests of the child for the no contact order to be removed.

What is the difference between restraining order and no contact order?

Both the no contact order and restraining order are protective in nature. A restraining order is intended to protect you from further harm from someone who has hurt you or is harassing you. Unlike a no contact order the restraining order is a civil order and restrains the person inflicting the abuse or harassment to be kept away from you. A parent can obtain a restraining order against their spouse or former partner providing they have been harassed or subject to domestic violence. A no contact order prohibits the abusive parent from having any contact with a child from the relationship whereas with a restraining order the abusive parent may still be allowed to maintain contact with the child.

If you feel your child is likely to be affected by contact with their parent who is abusive you can contact our offices for a free initial consultation. Our family lawyers in York consider a case in which a no contact order was made against a father.

A father fails to overturn a no direct contact order at an appeal

Following a divorce or separation parents often turn hostile towards each other. This becomes evidently clear in proceedings relating to child contact and child arrangements. When one parent who has custody of children decides to move on with their life with a new partner there could be issues with regards to children and the non-custodial parent. Often non-custodial parents may feel their children have been alienated against them and may not easily accept findings against them in child disputes.

Such is the case of PA v CK & Others (2018) in which there were various disputes and factors which the court was ultimately having to decide upon. The case concerns a father who appealed an order of no contact order with his child as well as the suspended change of residence and the change of surname which were not considered by the court.

Background of the case of PA v CK & Others

The case concerns a child born in 2008. The parents of the child lived together from 2003 until 2011. By 2013 the mother was in a relationship with another man who she subsequently married. They had one child and were expecting another child at the time of the appeal. Since the separation the child in question lived exclusively with her mother. It was interesting to note that since 2013 the parties have been involved in litigation resulting in five years of conflicted litigation with the child at the centre of it.

In 2013, proceedings were commenced in the Telford Magistrates’ Court and an order for supervised child contact was as well as a series of findings against the father which the judge summarised as being of “bizarre or controlling behaviour. The father was criticised for his failure to accept those findings, and still did not accept them at the time of his appeal. The judge notes that the supervised child contact went well.

Bizarrely in 2015 an application to adopt the child was made by the mother and her new partner. According to the judge it was clear the mother and her partner sought to extinguish the father’s parental responsibility and remove him from any role in the child’s life.

After a number of hearings and in mid-2016 the mother and her new partner withdrew their application for adoption. By which time the father believes much damage had been done, and the child had been encouraged to call her mother’s partner as daddy and her father by his first name.

Fathers child contact breaks down following the court order

Despite previous child contact going well in January 2017 the child refused to get out of the car to see her father which was the last occasion when there had been successful face-to-face contact between the father and daughter. This was unsurprising to the father who said this was the result of the years of hostility to him from the mother and her new partner.

The case again went to the courts in January 2018 when the court refused the father’s application for a suspended residence order and made a no contact order except for indirect contact only, by Skype/telephone, letters and gifts. Again, the father was not able to obtain a direct contact.

The courts consideration when dealing with the fathers appeal for direct contact

When considering the appeal for the no contact order the judge stated

“the problem in this case is that there has been five years of litigation, huge ill will, multiple attempts at therapeutic interventions, the involvement of many professionals, and a complete lack of progress, and the child has been caught in the middle of this conflict. It is not easy to see the way forward. The child, inevitably, has sided with those with whom she is living. I need only remind the mother and her partner, and I am sure they are very aware of this, that the child is the daughter of father, Mr. A, and they owe it to her to promote him in a positive light. Sooner or later, if they do not do so, it is likely to come back and bite them”.

In refusing the decision for direct contact with the father the judge stated, “The prospect of yet more highly conflictual litigation between these parents, with the child in the middle, would in all probability be deeply damaging to the child and cause further difficulty in her resuming a relationship with her father”.

The judge however re-iterated that Mr. A is and remains the child’s father and has a role in her life as such. It is upon the mother and her new partner to encourage the Skype contact and to encourage the child to reply to communications from the father, however briefly, even if it is just a card, saying, “thank you.”

It is therefore clear when considering cases for contact the judges will consider the damage caused or the damage that may be caused to a child which could even mean offering no direct contact to biological parents.

If you are trying to get a no order contact or defending one, speak to our family lawyers today to arrange a consultation

If you would like more information on seeking direct contact with your child or discuss any aspects of child law including issues of defending a no contact order please contact us on 0330 094 5880 or let us call you back for a free initial consultation.