Breach of Child Arrangements Order – What Should I Do Next?

Breach of Child Arrangements Order – What Should I Do Next?

On the breakdown of a relationship, consideration will need to be given to the arrangements for any children, including with which parent they should live and how often they should spend time with the other. If parents are unable to agree these arrangements between them, either through discussions or through mediation, an application will need to be made to court for a Child Arrangements Order. After the court process is finalised, the parents will have a clear court order setting out the arrangements for the children. This is often a welcome relief for parents who have previously been unable to agree arrangements and who now have the finality of a court order to rely upon; but what happens if one parent fails to comply with the terms of the order made?

What can be done if a party is failing to comply with a Child Arrangements Order?

If one parent prevents the other from spending time with the children as set out in the order without real justification, this is a breach of the order. When making a child arrangements order, the courts are required to attach a notice warning of the consequences of failing to comply with it.  The Court has a wide range of powers in the event of a breach taking place without reasonable excuse, and includes: -

  • A variation of the order to reconsider the contact arrangements or where the child should live,
  • the making of an enforcement order requiring the parent in breach of the order to undertake unpaid work.
  • An order for compensation for financial loss
  • A fine
  • Committal to prison

Alternative dispute resolution

In the first instance, it is of course important to try and resolve any dispute regarding arrangements for children outside of the court process. Our team of Family experts can help you to communicate with the other parent and get to the bottom of any underlying issues which may be causing the other parent to act in breach of the order.

Applying for enforcement

Where discussions and/or mediation are unsuccessful or not appropriate in a given case, then if a court is to consider a breach of the order, a party will need to make an application to the court for enforcement.

When the court considers whether to make an enforcement order, the court must be satisfied that making the order is necessary and proportionate to the seriousness and frequency of the party breaching the order.

The court will consider: -

  • The reasons for the breach
  • The effect the breach will have on the child
  • The welfare of the child
  • Whether advice from CAFCASS is required on an appropriate way of moving forward

It is important to send a clear message to a defaulting parent that, in the absence of proper justification, breach of a Child Arrangements Order is unacceptable.

Urgent applications

Sometimes, enforcement applications will need to be made on an urgent basis, such as where a child has been withheld following contact in breach of a child arrangements order. An application to court needs to be carefully drafted so as to ensure that the court understands the urgency of the situation and our team can help you with the application process.

What if a parent does have a proper justification for the breach?

If you are the parent who is currently in breach of the order and you do consider that you have sufficient concerns which warrant the breach, then it will be necessary for you to make an application to court to vary the terms of the child arrangements order which are in place. We can talk through your concerns and advise you of the process of making such an application and the likelihood of success in light of the information you provide us.  

How we can help

If you have a Child Arrangements Order in place which is not being complied with and you would like advice and support as to the next steps, contact our Family Law team today on 0330 0945 500, email family@nevesllp.co.uk or complete our Online Contact Form and we'll get back to you.