My ex-partner is not complying with the Child Arrangements Order – what can I do?
A Child Arrangements Order is a court order which details who a child will spend time with and for how long, but if the other parent isn’t adhering to the Order, what can you do?
What is a Child Arrangements Order?
A Child Arrangements Order sets out the days and times that a child will spend with each parent. Often a Child Arrangements Order is worded so that the obligation is on the parent with whom the child lives to ensure the child is made available to spend time with the ‘non-resident parent‘ at the specified time detailed in the Order.
All Child Arrangements Orders now contain a clear warning in bold telling the parties of the importance of complying with the terms and the potential consequences for failing to do so and hopefully that will be sufficient for most people to ensure compliance with the Order.
What should I do if my ex-partner is not adhering to a Child Arrangements Order?
If you feel that an Order is not being complied with you could try to discuss with the other parent either directly or through solicitors and mediation in the hope of resolving the issues without having to go to Court.
If that fails, you can make an application to the Court for enforcement of the Order where you can set out the details of the times that you consider the Order has been breached. If the other parent does not accept the allegations of breach, the Court will list a hearing to hear evidence from both parties and to make a finding as to whether the Order has been breached.
The other parent may try to argue that they have a reasonable excuse for breaching the Order, for example if the child is unwell or where there were issues with transport. If the Court does not agree that there are reasonable grounds, the Judge has a range of powers available if they do find the Order has been breached without reasonable excuse. They include:
- 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
If you are worried that an Order is not being complied with, it would be a good idea to keep a note of all incidents and alleged breaches and any communication between the parties about those dates. That evidence will be useful in any contested hearing. You will need to consider whether there are reasonable grounds for contact not taking place – for example if your child is unwell and that can be verified by evidence from the GP for example, the Court are likely to find that there was a reasonable excuse for contact not taking place on that occasion.
If the arrangements in the Order are not working for any reason, it might also be worth considering whether there should be a variation of the terms to ensure that contact will take place in a pattern that works for everyone. For clear and repeated breaches however, the Court are likely to make some form of punitive Order to punish the non-compliant parent.
If you need any help in respect of enforcing a Child Arrangements Order, our dedicated and specialist family law team can assist. Call us today for your free 30 minute consultation on 0800 2800 421, or get in touch here.