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Breach of Court Order: What Steps to Take Next?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 6 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Contact Order Court Warning Notice

Q.

I have a court order in order to see my daughter. In court the times were agreed as to when I get to see my daughter. Her mother keeps changing the times when I can pick her up so is constantly in breach of the court order.

I am not happy with this and there is no reasoning with the mother. How do I take it back to court?

(C.T, 2 April 2009)

A.

Contact Orders

A contact order is a court order which sets out the circumstances in which someone who does not live with a child may see that child. Contact Orders often relate to a parent’s contact with their child but they may also be made in relation to contact with the child’s grandparents, brothers and sisters or other relatives.

Breach of a Contact Order

The odd deviation from the terms of a contact order may be forgiven. However, it can be very frustrating for a parent without custody if the parent with custody seems to be deliberately preventing contact. Talking to the other person should always be the first step. If - as in your case - this gets nowhere, a letter from a solicitor reminding the other person of their obligations may work. If they still refuse to comply, an application may be made to court.

Warning Notices and Enforcing Contact Orders

All contact orders made since 8th December 2008 contain a warning notice setting out the consequences of failure to comply. A contact order varied by a court after this date should also have a warning notice attached. Before applying to enforce a contact order made prior to that date an application must first be made to have a warning notice attached to it.

An application to have a warning notice attached to a contact order is made using form C78 which is available to download from the HMCS (Her Majesty’s Court Service) website.

The Court’s Powers to Enforce a Contact Order

If a court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a breach of a contact order, and that there is no reasonable excuse for the breach, they may make an enforcement order. An enforcement order requires the party in breach to carry out between 40 and 200 hours of unpaid work, which will be monitored by the probation service. If breach of the contact order has led to financial loss – for example a cancelled holiday - an application may also be made to the court for financial compensation.

An application for an enforcement order, or for financial compensation, is made using form C79, which may also be downloaded from the HMCS website. The application may be made to the court which made the contact order or to any court which has the power to deal with family cases.

The court also has the power to find that an individual is in contempt of court for failing to comply with a contact order. If a party persistently breaches a contact order they may be held to be in contempt of court and could be committed to prison or fined.

It would be advisable to seek legal advice about your situation before making an application. The Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to provide free legal advice about the steps to take following breach of a contact order.

For more information about family courts and what to expect take a look at our article What Happens at Family Court.

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Life- Your Question:
Hi there I have a court order a child arrangement put in place I have Beth to court twice over my ex husband trying to get custody of my two children the order was put in place but he is not following it at all he is suppose to ring at 7.30 every eve but doesn't he now sees them alternative Sundays but doesn't pick up on time or drop off on time it's suppose to be 10 till 6.30 he Turns up at 10.30 home between 4.30 5 please can you help what can I do about this ? This is effecting my two children especially my oldest

Our Response:
Arguably anything that does not comply with the order is a breach. For example if the order states that the non-resident parent should have contact every Friday from 5pm and contact is not provided until 5:05pm, this is technically a breach of the order. However it is important to be reasonable; the courts are unlikely to take any action if it considers the breach insignificant. The courts' guidance states that unless a breach is regular and intentional, they will not usually take action to enforce the order or punish the breach. Further it is important to consider the needs of your child first and so some flexibility may be needed on occasion. However, any changes to a contact order must be agreed by both parties. One party cannot unilaterally decide to change the order or apply additional terms. If they wish to do so, they will need to refer the matter back to the courts. The first step in the event of a breach of an order should be to try to discuss this with the other party involved. If your ex refuses to listen and continues to breach the order, then if you have a solicitor, you may wish to ask them to write to the other party reminding them of their obligations to the order. Mediation can be used as the next step. Court enforcement should only be used as a final resort.
CourtroomAdvice - 8-Aug-17 @ 10:39 AM
Hi there I have a court order a child arrangement put in place I have Beth to court twice over my ex husband trying to get custody of my two children the order was put in place but he is not following it at all he is suppose to ring at 7.30 every eve but doesn't he now sees them alternative Sundays but doesn't pick up on time or drop off on time it's suppose to be 10 till 6.30 he Turns up at 10.30 home between 4.30 5 please can you help what can I do about this ? This is effecting my two children especially my oldest
Life - 6-Aug-17 @ 6:21 PM
Hi s.S breached the court order which has put my daughter @ risk. They have had 2 do pregnancy test n std tests.my solicitorhas said it will cost me 120 pound 2 c him as I got no income comming in as I'm appealing esa decision 2 kick me of can any give me some advice on my right please
Netty - 20-Jul-17 @ 5:28 PM
Beth - Your Question:
My friends have a court order for the living arrangements of their 6 year old granddaughter. She lives with them but spends one weekend in three with her father. He has just sent them a message to say he is not bringing her back. His reasons are spurious, both court and Social Services are satisfied with her care at home - but what can my friends do in the short term? Taking it back to court is costly and takes a long time.

Our Response:
If a child arrangement order is in place that specifies the child is to live with her grandparents, then the police can return the child to the grandparents on the back of the court order.
CourtroomAdvice - 17-Jul-17 @ 3:30 PM
My friends have a court order for the living arrangements of their 6 year old granddaughter. She lives with them but spends one weekend in three with her father. He has just sent them a message to say he is not bringing her back. His reasons are spurious, both court and Social Services are satisfied with her care at home - but what can my friends do in the short term? Taking it back to court is costly and takes a long time.
Beth - 16-Jul-17 @ 8:37 PM
Angie - Your Question:
Socail worker failed assesments to be done yet her dad who is in jail sighed her over to our foster care we not had visit since she been taken nowember need urgent help

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot advise on this - you would have to seek legal guidance.
CourtroomAdvice - 13-Jun-17 @ 9:53 AM
Socail worker failed assesments to be done yet her dad who is in jail sighed her over to our foster care we not had visit since she been taken nowember need urgent help
Angie - 12-Jun-17 @ 2:27 AM
Social worker failed to carry out assesments on juge order social worker refuse to speak anyone faliy i not seen my granchild since she was placed. In foster care i need urgent help
Angie - 12-Jun-17 @ 2:24 AM
Social services failed to do assments for foster care of my granchild on judges order my grandaughter is with strangers problems with same social worker previously and should not be involved in this due to previosly haveing conflict with family
Angie - 5-Jun-17 @ 11:12 AM
I recently went to court with my ex to teach a court order with the kids, ever since that he has breached times, stopped contact with me from my eldest son as to which he snatched the phone from him half way thorough a conversation and put it in the bin leaving him distressed and in tears Late drop offs ignoreig contact early pick ups and no communication when daughter has chicken pox, the most recent is when he left our one year old daughter alone with his girlfriend which in he pre conditions was stated will not happen but presumed it was agreed so never brought it up in the court order previously so this week I stated that unless he can agree it Doesn't happen again until I feel my daughter is old enough and the trust is built then this weekends contAct will be restricted. I have now received notification he is going for an enforcement order after this weekend. Is there any advice on what to do as all I've asked is for my baby not to be left alone with a young girl whom I don't trust and who has no legal responsibility over my daughter .... he's dating there's punishments but I've tried to rectify and propose the conditional proposal as stated in formal statement for court
Nat - 5-Jun-17 @ 10:49 AM
I recently went to court with my ex to teach a court order with the kids, ever since that he has breached times, stopped contact with me from my eldest son as to which he snatched the phone from him half way thorough a conversation and put it in the bin leaving him distressed and in tears Late drop offs ignoreig contact early pick ups and no communication when daughter has chicken pox, the most recent is when he left our one year old daughter alone with his girlfriend which in he pre conditions was stated will not happen but presumed it was agreed so never brought it up in the court order previously so this week I stated that unless he can agree it Doesn't happen again until I feel my daughter is old enough and the trust is built then this weekends contAct will be restricted. I have now received notification he is going for an enforcement order after this weekend. Is there any advice on what to do as all I've asked is for my baby not to be left alone with a young girl whom I don't trust and who has no legal responsibility over my daughter .... he's dating there's punishments but I've tried to rectify and propose the conditional proposal as stated in formal statement for court
Nat - 5-Jun-17 @ 10:45 AM
I have just recently found out that I could try to get my son back if the sgo is breachedwhen I went to court over my son in 2012 my sons auntie got granted an sgo but she's not allowed to refuse me contact what ever I ask for contact and she's not allowed to be called mum and she is doing both would I be able to get legal aid if I took this back to court as I have spoken to her on numerous of times that she is breaching the sgo and all she has said is so what please could I have some advice on trying to get legal mad to take it back to court
Jamie94 - 9-May-17 @ 12:33 AM
POPPLEPIPPLE - Your Question:
My 8 year old daughters father and I were in Court Feb 2015 as I am anti vaccinations and he is pro. The Court advised that they would not agree at the time whether or not she should be vaccinated unless we both returned to Court with a valid argument.My ex at the time decided that this would take up too much of his time so he didn't pursue it.The second issue I raised at the Court was the fact that he was leaving our then 6 year old unsupervised at his home [albeit for only 15 mins at a time but as she has learning disabilities she was less aware of danger than most her age]. The Court ruled at the time that she shouldn't be left alone at any time unless he and I both agreed that she was old enough. Within a few months my daughter was telling me that he was still leaving her alone whilst he went to collect the 'takeaway'. I'd lost the will to fight him anymore by this timeHowever 2 days ago my daughter told me that she'd had all her injections when she was with her dad just before Easter. I messaged him straight away to ask for clarification and his response was 'she's dreaming'. I then emailed him saying that we should meet together with our daughter to explain the problem to her re 'making up stories' [even though I strongly suspect he took her to a private clinic and had them done without my or the Courts consent]. He hasn't replied -and I suspect he wont either. Please advise. If he has done this I will have no option bit to take him back to Court?

Our Response:
I'm afraid there is little I can do to advise here as it is one parent asserting his parental responsibility rights. Plus, (if I have read your comment correctly) the court has not issued an order to rule against him taking her to have her injections. Therefore, your only recourse would be to seek legal advice to see 'if' you have a case to answer, based upon you reasons.
CourtroomAdvice - 4-May-17 @ 11:30 AM
My 8 year old daughters father and I were in Court Feb 2015 as I am anti vaccinations and he is pro. The Court advised that they would not agree at the time whether or not she should be vaccinated unless we both returned to Court with a valid argument. My ex at the time decided that this would take up too much of his time so he didn't pursue it. The second issue I raised at the Court was the fact that he was leaving our then 6 year old unsupervised at his home [albeit for only 15 mins at a time but as she has learning disabilities she was less aware of danger than most her age]. The Court ruled at the time that she shouldn't be left alone at any time unless he and I both agreed that she was old enough. Within a few months my daughter was telling me that he was still leaving her alone whilst he went to collect the 'takeaway'. I'd lost the will to fight him anymore by this time However 2 days ago my daughter told me that she'd had all her injections when she was with her dad just before Easter. I messaged him straight away to ask for clarification and his response was 'she's dreaming'. I then emailed him saying that we should meet together with our daughter to explain the problem to her re 'making up stories' [even though I strongly suspect he took her to a private clinic and had them done without my or the Courts consent]. He hasn't replied -and I suspect he wont either. Please advise. If he has done this I will have no option bit to take him back to Court?
POPPLEPIPPLE - 3-May-17 @ 1:08 PM
Bella99555 - Your Question:
Hi I would just like to ask a few questions. I went to court back in /2013/2014 for care proceedings etc what lead to my ex partner having a residence order and myself contact order supervised at my mums house. I don't have the order as I was never senT one but have all the court bits in a big file. The s services wrote out a list of dates for contact following on from end of 2014/2015. I was stopped contact from my son in march 2015 for no reasonable explanation as to why I was not allowed to see him no more, it was excuses and lies. I have applied back to the court as he has br ached the order by deliberately not allowing me contact. My mum text many times To try and arrange contact and all the reply was once was if you want to see the child go to a contact Centre or our house what is not a suitable option as he can't even speak to me without be civilized. So I have made a application and is set for April 2017. I just don't no what to expect and the court process. I am having To represent my self and I am very scared as I don't know what to say or how it all happens as was different when I was in court beroRe. I just don't want to come out of there not knowing when or if I will see my child again. I would like to have him living again with me when we have rebuilt our relationship end things are going well as I feel when I go back to court he will just stop it again. It is heartbreaking.

Our Response:
There is advice you can get. Some McKenzie Friends will give free advice and can help you in court, please see link here for more information. The fact is that litigants in person often feel overwhelmed by the court process especially where the other party has legal representation. To reassure you, litigants in person MUST be treated equally before the law and have equal access to justice. Judges have a duty to ensure a fair trial by giving them due assistance to achieve this. But that duty does not extend to giving legal advice. Nor can a judge be seen to favour one party over another, even if that party is a litigant in person. Litigants in person should bear in mind that a judge's role is to determine both the facts of the case and the law applicable to those facts and presenting a case involving difficult points of law is no easy task for lawyers with many years experience, let alone a litigant in person. Which is why it is expected that with the increasing numbers of litigants in person, judges will need to be exceptionally proactive in managing cases where litigants in person are involved, particularly where the other party has legal representation, to ensure that the litigant in person is not disadvantaged in the proceedings. However, some people prefer to represent themselves as they can give their own points of view in their own words. What you must always keep in mind is that the court is solely interested in what it thinks is in the best interests of your child. Mud-slinging and name-calling towards your ex will not be tolerated, but an objective, rational and considered view on why you think it is in the best interests of your child to spend time with you and continue to have a quality relationship with you, will be. In addition, remember it is your ex who is in breach of the court order, so it will be him who has answer to the judge about why he is in contempt of court (which is seen as a serious default). I hope this helps.
CourtroomAdvice - 23-Mar-17 @ 11:43 AM
Hi I would just like to ask a few questions. I went to court back in /2013/2014 for care proceedings etc what lead to my ex partner having a residence order and myself contact order supervised at my mums house. I don't have the order as I was never senT one but have all the court bits in a big file. The s services wrote out a list of dates for contact following on from end of 2014/2015 . I was stopped contact from my son in march 2015 for no reasonable explanation as to why I was not allowed to see him no more, it was excuses and lies. I have applied back to the court as he has br ached the order by deliberately not allowing me contact. My mum text many times To try and arrange contact and all the reply was once was if you want to see the child go to a contact Centre or our house what is not a suitable option as he can't even speak to me without be civilized. So I have made a application and is set for April 2017.. I just don't no what to expect and the court process. I am having To represent my self and I am very scared as I don't know what to say or how it all happens as was different when I was in court beroRe. I just don't want to come out of there not knowing when or if I will see my child again. I would like to have him living again with me whenwe have rebuilt our relationship end things are going well as I feelwhen I go back to court he will just stop it again. It is heartbreaking.
Bella99555 - 22-Mar-17 @ 5:53 PM
My daughters abusive and manipulative ex has a court order for visits. He is meant to start having their 3 year old for weekends next month, however I am concerned over a number of issues: the child has said they cannot say what they had for dinner as they have to keep it secret, I am concerned that he is telling the child to keep secrets. the father lives with his new partner and her family whom no one knows, how can we ensure the child is safe? they have 2 Staff dogs, which we do not mind, but are they used to small children? My daughter has always wanted him to spend time with his child but he did not for almost a year. He has never had time alone with the child. Does this sound safe? Any advice would be greatly appreciated as sick with worry Thanks
Spud - 12-Mar-17 @ 9:56 PM
Hi my ex partners father is saying he is going to take me to court for access to my child my ex partner has no relationship with my child or contact and hasnt tried to , if my ex partners dad gets a court order for access for to my child what could i do to prevent him seeing him as my son is affraid of him due to aggressive behaviour and and i feel he is a risk ti my son although prior to this they did have a relationship until he put my son at risk ?
Pattern - 9-Mar-17 @ 9:44 PM
My mum has a residance order ober my 1st child, i now have 3 other kids that live with me and no social care involvment, shes now 5 and been with her since 6 months do i stand a chance at getting her back? I know i still have guardianship but my mum is so controlling when it comes to that and i didnt get a say in what school she went to or medical things or anything
lb123 - 4-Mar-17 @ 8:48 AM
Nessa - Your Question:
Mi daughter ex got custody of 1 of her 3 children his son court order contact for her but now he stop her and the siblings seeing her son he playing games as they not even got the court order paper work yet and now telling her she got to go contact center is there any one that can help in any way please

Our Response:
If your daughter's ex is not keeping to the court order, then I suggest your daughter asks her solicitor to write a letter informing her ex of the terms of the order, and the repercussions if he doesn't keep to it. However, if he decides to continue to breach the order, then your daughter would have to take the matter back to court to have the order enforced.
CourtroomAdvice - 28-Feb-17 @ 12:01 PM
Mi daughter ex got custody of 1 of her 3 children his son court order contact for her but now he stop her and the siblings seeing her son he playing games as they not even got the court order paper work yetand now telling her she got to go contact center is there any one that can help in any way please
Nessa - 27-Feb-17 @ 5:51 PM
In my Court order it says that if my ex is not capable of looking after my son I shud be asked my ex went away to nite and as not asked me and as sed her mum can Ave I'm will a judge enforce the order for that
Joey - 18-Feb-17 @ 1:20 AM
What is defined as an arrestable breach of a court contact order?
Iamjelly - 16-Feb-17 @ 12:28 PM
Anon - Your Question:
Further to my comment above.she is threatening to take me back to court because I often get the girls home half and hour late, this is mostly due to me living an hour away but also due to the fact she is so unpredictable I just don't know what might happen the following weekend.

Our Response:
Arguably anything that does not comply with the order is a breach. For example if the order states that the non-resident parent should have contact every Friday from 5pm and contact is not provided until 5:05pm, this is technically a breach of the order. However it is important to be reasonable; the courts are unlikely to take any action if the breach is insignificant. The courts' guidance states that unless a breach is regular and intentional, they will not usually take action to enforce the order or punish the breach. However, it is important that you too stick with in the terms of the order, so there cannot be a tit-for-tat enforcement. It's better to arrive half an hour early so that you can ensure you are on time, than be late.
CourtroomAdvice - 14-Feb-17 @ 1:56 PM
Anon - Your Question:
In august last year I took my ex wife to court as she kept messing around with my access to our children, the court ordered much more that I had asked for and so all was well, since then there have been threatening messages with regards to access, messages like if you don't answer my call your not seeing the kids this weekend, deliberate delays to our holidays, Brooke won't be with you this weekend as she is sick!! On occasions no one has even been home on the days I have been to collect them, there is no compromise it's just your not having them this time and date and if you don't like it take me back to court.she has had solicitors write me stating they are limiting one of the girls time with me from the weekend to just Sunday's.it's a nightmare, she was requesting I bathed the girls before bringing them home. It then I'd get them home and she would tell them they stink and make them shower!!! I really don't know what to do next?? Can you help on my next steps?

Our Response:
You may wish to ask your solicitor to write a letter to your ex to warn her about breaching the court order. With every court order comes a warning regarding the repercussions the parent will face if they ignore the order. Any changes to a contact order must be agreed by both parties. One party cannot unilaterally decide to change the order or apply additional terms. If they wish to do so, they will need to refer the matter back to the courts. Therefore, every breach should be noted and diarised and if the breach continues, you should take the matter back to court to have it enforced.
CourtroomAdvice - 14-Feb-17 @ 1:51 PM
Sam cook - Your Question:
My X partner breach a court order two days after we come out of court.refuse from seeing her son.and to talk to him because of her new boyfriend

Our Response:
If your ex is in breach of the order, then you should ask your solicitor to send a letter re-iterating the terms of the order and the possible repercussions if your ex continues to act in contempt of court. If your ex continues to ignore the order, then I'm afraid your only option will be to take the matter back to court to get it enforced. Each order comes with a court warning. A breach proved against the non-compliant party may result in your ex having to undertake up to 200 hours unpaid work, or pay compensation to reimburse any financial loss suffered as a result of the breach, or a fine. In more serious consistent cases, a court can commit the offending other to prison. However, this is very rare.
CourtroomAdvice - 14-Feb-17 @ 10:46 AM
Further to my comment above.....she is threatening to take me back to court because I often get the girls home half and hour late, this is mostly due to me living an hour away but also due to the fact she is so unpredictable I just don't know what might happen the following weekend.
Anon - 13-Feb-17 @ 6:16 PM
In august last year I took my ex wife to court as she kept messing around with my access to our children, the court ordered much more that I had asked for and so all was well, since then there have been threatening messages with regards to access, messages like if you don't answer my call your not seeing the kids this weekend, deliberate delays to our holidays, Brooke won't be with you this weekend as she is sick!! On occasions no one has even been home on the days I have been to collect them, there is no compromise it's just your not having them this time and date and if you don't like it take me back to court...she has had solicitors write me stating they are limiting one of the girls time with me from the weekend to just Sunday's....it's a nightmare, she was requesting I bathed the girls before bringing them home. It then I'd get them home and she would tell them they stink and make them shower!!! I really don't know what to do next?? Can you help on my next steps?
Anon - 13-Feb-17 @ 6:12 PM
Moms- Your Question:
Hi my ex partner took me to court over a year ago to seek contact that I wanted all along. Anyway since the court order was in place for contact. He has not turned up and just messed my 5yr old son who is high rate disabled with autism.over 50 times. What do I do

Our Response:
If your ex has not stuck to the agreement of the order, then the order is rendered null and void. I'm afraid there is little you can do here. If your ex decided to come back and try to implement the terms of the order, then you are under no obligation to let him see your child as he has breached the terms.
CourtroomAdvice - 13-Feb-17 @ 3:00 PM
my X partner breach a court order two days after we come out of court.refuse from seeing her son.and to talk to him because of her new boyfriend
Sam cook - 13-Feb-17 @ 7:31 AM
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