If parents have gone through the court process for a Child Arrangements Order then that order is binding on both parties. This means that if either parent breaches that order, then they will be in contempt of court.
The consequences of being in contempt of court are fines, enforcements orders and even imprisonment although in reality the latter is rare.
We would always advise that in the first instance the parties discuss the breach of the order and try and resolve the matter without having to return to court. As the client will already be aware the court process is not only financially draining but also emotionally draining.
It might be the right time for both parties to attempt mediation to resolve the reason for the breach. For more information on the benefits of mediation you can read our recent article here (https://owenkenny.com/should-i-attend-mediation/). If mediation is not suitable, or there is high levels of hostility between the parents then there may be no choice than for the matter to return to court for the court to enforce the original order.
When considering whether to enforce the order, the court will consider a number of factors. This includes whether the alleged non-compliance are agreed or whether there needs to be a separate hearing to establish whether the order has been breached. The court will consider the reasons for the breaches. The parent who breached the order may have a justifiable reason.
The court has several powers available to them when considering enforcing the order. These are as follows:
– Referral to mediation or a Separated Parents Information Program
– Unpaid work
– Committal to prison, in the most serious cases
– Changing which party the child lives with or a variation of the existing order
– A fine
– An order for compensation for financial loss
Enforcement proceedings can often shed light on whether an arrangement is actually working. The court may use it as an opportunity to consider whether the existing order needs to be varied.
If you would like further advice on varying or enforcing a child arrangements order please contact our family team on 01243790532 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.