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Breach of Court Order: What Steps to Take Next?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 16 Oct 2019 | 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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I have a court order in place with my ex, this has been in place and working for 4 years. He only has letter box access with my eldest not that he’s not heard from him during that 4 years (he was smacking our eldest) however he still had weekly contact with an overnight stay with our youngest, a few weeks ago my youngest who is 10 broke down and confessed his dad has been mentally abusing him for over a year (I won’t go into details it’s too upsetting) obv I stopped contact and informed social services of the information my son had given me. Does anyone know what will happen next?
Rachiel12 - 16-Oct-19 @ 9:53 AM
Advice . I’ve recently got my second child arrangement order for my 10 year old . Due to the first one had my 15 year old on it but she now live with me after being abused by her mother . My x has no family left here who want anything to do with her . And our two eldest no longer talk to her . So basically has no One other than my 10 yo daughter . She’s on about moving away 100 miles to a new job . My youngest dosent want to go cause it means no longer having contact with any family whatsoever . Plus it’ll mean I will no longer be able to see her during the week . My ex says I can’t stop her . But clearly she would be breaking the court order by just doing it . Plus my weekends would be approximately 5/6 hrs shorter with the extra travelling
Mooman - 14-Oct-19 @ 7:46 PM
Been to court on and off for 6yrs, first time I was accused of hitting her, then I was accused of hitting my son so contact stopped again. It seems we’re going back soon as whenever contact progresses to the point in which I was requesting in court which she refuses to agree to, then she cuts contact for made up reasons that never get proved and the judge just claims it’s tit for tat as it’s my word against hers. Now she is claiming my sons mental health is affected and instead of insisting he comes with me, she asks him is he going and he shakes his head and gets upset. I believe he wants to come as when we have contact he is perfect with me. How do I prove that she is manipulating him and lying when she says it’s the contact progressing too quickly that’s caused him to have his upsets??
Hurt man - 13-Oct-19 @ 1:51 PM
And if you dare interrupt to ask a question during the court proceeding by God don't you get a telling off from the judge. If you sit there and let the mother say all her BS and not say anything then it's like you agree, but if you try and defend yourself the judge just gets mad and shuts you both down. Iv got a court case ongoing for over 1 year multiple failings by social services not doing reports on time or even turning upto court
Daz - 25-Sep-19 @ 11:19 PM
Only seems law and courts are only there to persecute on the mother to father side not once ask the children or do anything when the father asks and has facts not scorned rubbish fact
Yup - 17-Sep-19 @ 12:24 PM
My son has a Court Order to see his 3 year old son every other weekend Friday to Sunday and the other weekend only on a Saturday which Xmas and birthdays arranged so each parent gets the day alternatively.The mother changes all of this to suit her so that she has him all of the time and if my son disagrees we do not get to see him.The reaosn for this Court order in the first place was that my son did not see his son for 7 months when he was born and even though money was transferred each month to support him she still refused.The mother is a menace causing trouble every weekend with constant demands, refuses collection and pick ups and airs her views on social media to make my son look like a bad person and hes not.All he wants is to spend quality time with his son when he has been access to.Do we go back to Court as she was warned last time she was in contempt of Court?
JD - 13-Sep-19 @ 4:16 PM
I have a court order showing 50/50 care of 2 kids, with me sat/sun-wed, with ex wed to sat/sun. Eldest child returned to me Mon after a weekend school trip. I find ex at school intending to collect him and take him to me (to get suitcase back). I told him not to do this, how so I write to his solicitor to ensure this incident doesn't go unnoticed?
Kjames - 10-Sep-19 @ 7:08 AM
Lavender . The same thing happened to me after numerous incidents regarding safeguarding and abuse as advised to stop contact only to deny it later on placing me in breach of court order and the judges ripped into me but wasnt concerned about the safety of my children at all , the whole system is a joke and it seems like many before your child has to be severely injured or worse before the people that are in place to protect them actual do their job .
Tricks - 6-Aug-19 @ 8:34 AM
Hi my son was adopted in October 2016 and I've been trying and calling the Foster and adoption team and to find out letter box contact is not setup me, my husband and second eldest daughter signed but my older daughter and mother in law still not signed was supposed to get contact last November and then got told July but still not setup so social services breaking court order so need advice please
Sue - 22-Jul-19 @ 11:32 PM
I had a court order to see my 3 children in which my ex breach of order. I went for enforcement order. My ex had breach the court order. The hand overs are between my partner and my ex. Not my self. Today on handover my ex had her partner with her and my kids. He seems to be a control freak. To the point it all kicked off. Never before have we had any problems with hand over until today. Things got really heated. I got the full blame for it all. The court order says hand over to be only my partner and my ex only. Am not sure if they have breach the court order or not.
Spot face - 13-Jul-19 @ 11:37 PM
My exe has a court order to see his son which he does but the times on a Friday are not suitable. How can I get it changed and who do I need to contact at the court?
Squirrel - 22-Jun-19 @ 7:50 AM
my ex for the last 4 years has been a nightmare, but a court order was put in place which gave him access in the last few weeks he has not turned up for contact and now other people have informed us he has leftthe island he did not tell us, i contacted the court they have said its not my fault that i haveturned up and made sure the child was available for contact, i asked about varying the court order they have said i do not need to (and i asked about getting rid off it all together, so we can get on with our lives, he also stopped paying maintenance )dont know were he is no phone calls nothing
Katie - 16-Apr-19 @ 2:49 PM
Hi, My ex and I recently appeared in family court where I was granted an interim court order to see my child, however I have turned up on the last 4 occasions and she is not handing children over. She then tells a version of events that happened and my version, which differ greatly. What happens and how can it be proven who is telling the truth?
Hi - 12-Apr-19 @ 7:37 PM
Does anybody actually comment back with actual legal advice?
Tinkiren - 5-Apr-19 @ 4:52 PM
I recently applied for a CAO and have been to my first hearing. The court adviced him to stop ignoring my messages and reply as soon as possible to my messages. My ex still is ignoring me to have regular contact and will only let me have contact when he has his day off. What do I do now? Can I contact the court and let them know?
May - 18-Mar-19 @ 4:39 PM
I’ve just been in court today after I put an application to vary a contact order and also my x partners application to enforce the contact order. However even though I suspended normal contact because of safeguarding concerns the judge was more concerned with his application and my breach of contact order. I’ve been told also that I need to get a letter from social services to prove that they advised to suspend contact. It’s a complete joke they were not interested in previous domestic abuse or safeguarding concerns for the children just his rights nobody seems to be interested in listening to the children I just give up!
Lavender - 25-Feb-19 @ 4:27 PM
Hello . I have a child arrangements order in place stating that my son resides with me and has visitation with his dad every other weekend and wednesdays etc... however for the last two weeks he has refused to return him and will only allow me to see him supervised visits with his family. He claims to have taken him because with me his life is in danger . I have 3 other children who all live with me and social services and other authorities do not have any concerns . My sons dad is using the excuse that i am in a violent relationship even though i am not . The police say they cannot get involved and social services say they cannot either . I cannot afford court fees . What do i do ?
Emsie - 2-Feb-19 @ 7:08 AM
I have a court order set in place.I went through legal aid and managed to get a solicitor to help me.My ex partner has always been abusive towards me in every aspect just not physical more emotional mentally,verbally.I was very suicidal. My question is anyway I have a court order that he sees his child twice a week via FaceTime.I don’t want to do this as he is being very abusive to me whilst my daughter is present and calling me infront of her.How can I get it changed without going court ???
K - 12-Jan-19 @ 3:39 PM
My daughter has court order to see her dad every fortnight, long story short I ended up having to pay more because he wouldn't agree to picking her up on a Saturday morning he demanded Friday afternoon school even though the courts and myself said it wasn't possible to collect her every other Friday 3pm say but he demanded and cost me more,to him now not communicating with me and asking my dad to drop her off at station for 5pm due to work. this is in breach of his court order and also again he is in £2k over arrears because he isn't working where do I stand he has only collected her 5 max times from school because of work yet CMS state he isn't working . Where does the line stop breaching order and hasn't paid a penny toward financial dupoort. I claim nothing in benefit I work full time and have nothing apart from a beautiful daughter who loves me
Trace - 11-Nov-18 @ 2:22 AM
Hi. I'm a step dad, and my stepson has contact with his father through a contact order everyother weekend, Wednesday evenings and shared holidays. The father is a known cannabis user and was told by the courts not to use cannabis 24hrs before contact and for the duration of contact, yet my stepson has said a number of times he believes his father is using 'Wacky Baccy' as he calls it, everytime he is there, which makes me believe he is drug driving with my stepson too as he does drop offs. Along side this my stepson tells me his father tells him to be naughty when he comes home to me and his mother, otherwise he will be told off. Can you please give me advice on what to do?
Dave - 24-Oct-18 @ 4:11 PM
Could you please advise. When me n my ex divorced I stayed in the house with our 2 kids. He wanted his half of the equity in the house so as part of the divorce my mum lent me 15k to pay him off but he had to release all his interest in the property which I paid my solicitor £500 and a court order was raised.He was paid the 15k but never adhered to the court order so I stets the process of getting his name off . My bank paid my spicier fees for the new mortgage but we're charging me £318 to take his name off. I have asked him to pay this and he refuses. How do I stand as he has broken the court otder
Amber - 22-Sep-18 @ 7:23 AM
I am at my wits end my ex has alienated me from my son and gained residency of him because my oldest daughter has got a few mental health problems he blamed her for the abuse that has blatantly been happening i have been following the court order and he had broken it last weekend because of the cusp of the half term holidays and i sort legal advice today saying that every thing he is not agreeing with and trying to force me to limited contact thats not even the allocated 50/50 half term holidays and its now making me so ill and feeling depressed that i am starting to feel like that because hes not agreeing with anything other than his started terms that i want to withdraw my half of the contact order and give up trying to fight for my sons rights
Missy - 25-Jul-18 @ 8:41 PM
Can anyone please help, my wife has lost her two children to her ex, this was agreed in court yet he has completely stopped the children from having any contact with her via phone or other. There was a few orders set out by the court yet he has adhered to none of them, can somebody please advise of what the best steps are to take as she is an emotional wreck and as not spoken or seen her two children for 6 months now, she has tried to contact them all the time but he is brain washing them. Unfortunately we are not in a position to pay for solicitors, just some good advice would be most welcome. Many thanks in advance
Belly - 27-May-18 @ 12:41 AM
Sophie- Your Question:
At this far in the process therefore I am asking on here. Sorry for the long 3 page message and thankyou for your time and help.

Our Response:
Unfortunately, this is rather a long message and one that cannot be answered as in-depth as you require. We cannot anticipate what the court may decide. Likewise, it is unlikely your partner would be allowed custody of the child if he is not in his child's life very much. A court will only hand the child over to the other parent in extreme cases. The court will also only go so far with breaches of contact orders with regards to punishing the child's mother (prison is only ever seen as a very last resort - as it is not seen as being in the child's best interests). The Separated Dads forum may be able to answer your questions. However, it is always best to keep questions short and concise.
CourtroomAdvice - 14-May-18 @ 2:58 PM
at this far in the process therefore I am asking on here. Sorry for the long 3 page message and thankyou for your time and help.
Sophie - 11-May-18 @ 9:55 PM
failed to attend some court hearings and was therefore found in contempt of court but unfortunately has continued with her abnormal behaviour. This year She was also to provide a GP report regarding her mental health and her evidence of being bed bound but failed to bring it to the last hearing and stated she was unwilling to pay the £70. This was not mentioned again and I believe she does not have to provide it now and it has been dropped however we believe it should be looked into again regarding her mental health. What do you advise we request regarding this please? The last hearing was a monthago And for not providing the GP report she was issued unpaid work, the judge also confirmed to her and my partner that their child is clearly happy and smiling in the pictures which my partner had provided however she has continued to breach the order again and their is another hearing due in June to review. It also said on the court order that it will be assessed by caffcass if their is unpaid work available.Does this mean that their is a chance that she may not receive the unpaid work and if so what will happen then? She is now laughing at the fact she has community service saying I haven’t got it yet have I. It is clear now that even the process of unpaid work has had no effect as she has only allowed him to come once and is still claiming he is unhappy yet my partner sent her the reassurance that time of his son having a good time which he is doing for evidence in court as it is working however she is extremely unhappy about this and has now blocked his number. Please could I ask for your advise on what to put in this next statement and for your professional opinion as we are seriously considering requesting for a change of residency as we feel it will be the only way to guarantee he will have a relationship with both his parents. Do you think it would be to early to ask during the unpaid work process as I strongly believe a fine will have no affect as she is so desperate for him not to come. We know that prison is a last resort but that would be down to the judge as we would much prefer him to come and live with us. We are also mentioning holidays and Christmas as every year he has missed out on both as per court order and she has claimed to my partner there is no chance we will have him for a week however we are due to have him in August again this year for the week. Every year we have booked it off to take him but she has claimed he is to poorly on the day which has had a depressing affect on the week and his son has missed out on so much due to the matter. Is there anything we can request regarding firm boundaries to holidays this year? My partner has used solicitors in the past however it is expensive and we feel it has been more successful since he has represented himself and provided his own evidence with my support as nobody nose the case better than him. Unfortunately there is no more information or advise on the internet a
Sophie - 11-May-18 @ 9:40 PM
Hi My partner has been going through thecourt process for 4 years to see his son who is nearly 6. It will now be the 10th time the matter has attended court and each time the court order has been enforced the mother has allowed his son to visit our home at first however it was always hit and miss for a few week and then contact stopped completely for months at a time for different reasons until the next hearing. She has used many different reasons in court for her non compliance including not knowing our address and being bed ridden etc which were found to be all lies. She has persistently manipulated every situation when speaking to cafcass and CSA however my partner has always payed child maintenance from birth every month and has bank statements to prove this. It has been evident that although I do not get involved with the matter and I have never met her in person (my partner picks him up alone) she does not want her child to have a relationship with me when he visits our home and is extremely jealous when he goes home happy.Unfortunately she now claims my partner has never been there so that is the reason she will not turn up although he has not stopped asking to see him since there separation and she has never allowed him to visit their home which is the reason for applying to court in the first place, since applying all he has done is attempted to encourage her to follow the court order however she still refuses. Up until last year she has used the reason that their son does not want to come and is screaming (we have never witnessed him screaming). She had forced him to tell my partner he doesn’t want to which has made his son cry at handovers on several occasions, My partner has witnessed her dragging his son to the car and forcing him to say he doesn’t want to go which has been reported in previous position statements. She used to ring when he was at our home however his son has secretly refused to speak to his mum as he is scared to admit he wants to sleep the night and begins to cry as she demands he is to ring her all the time/ bring him home earlier and persistently interferes with contact. Their child is under extreme pressure not come and it is very concerning of the emotional effect which we have also expressed in statements as he is crying to my partner saying his mum is saying to him ‘i am going to miss her way to much if I sleep and I should ask to go home before bed’ It has all been reported in statements along with many other incidents including her verbal abuse towards my partner at handovers which she has been warned about by several judges. When she has stopped contact my partner still turns up every time and sent her messages but no response. Last year She failed to attend some court hearings and was therefore found in contempt of court but unfortunately has continued with her abnormal behaviour. This year She was also to provide a GP report regarding her mental health and her evidence of being bed bound but fai
Sophie - 11-May-18 @ 9:32 PM
AS - Your Question:
Hi,my daughter has a contact agreement to see her son, wed overnight, Thursday after school and Saturday from 12pm overnight until 12pm sunday. This was put in place after father broke previous court order and refused contact for 3months. He does not inform my daughter of medical or education appointments until the last minute. He has stopped the weekly wed overnight to fortnightly. My daughter and her boyfriend had a row and my grandson got upset. We agreed for my grandson not to see the boyfriend for a little while as situation seemed stressful. However the father has put a full ban now which prevents my grandson staying overnight at all. He has also refused the wed after school and has dropped to just thursday after school for 3 hours. He is now not dropping my grandson off until after 1pm.He has said that this will continue until he decides which is never. What can we do?

Our Response:
If your daughter and her son have a court order in place, then her ex is in breach of 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. Before your daughter applies to court, a solicitor's letter reminding her ex of the terms of the order may help.
CourtroomAdvice - 23-Apr-18 @ 2:36 PM
Hi, my daughter has a contact agreement to see her son, wed overnight, Thursday after school and Saturday from 12pm overnight until 12pm sunday. This was put in place after father broke previous court order and refused contact for 3months. He does not inform my daughter of medical or education appointments until the last minute. He has stopped the weekly wed overnight to fortnightly. My daughter and her boyfriend had a row and my grandson got upset. We agreed for my grandson not to see the boyfriend for a little while as situation seemed stressful. However the father has put a full ban now which prevents my grandson staying overnight at all. He has also refused the wed after school and has dropped to just thursday after school for 3 hours. He is now not dropping my grandson off until after 1pm . He has said that this will continue until he decides which is never. What can we do?
AS - 21-Apr-18 @ 5:59 PM
jw - Your Question:
HiI have a Child arrangement and Prohibited steps order Section 8 Children Act 1989in place.The Child arrangement order which was agreed by both myself and my boys mother in august 2017 states,Recital2 days Father1 day Mother2 days Father3 days Mother on a continually rolling pattern.The prohibited steps order states, The Father (myself) is forbidden to remove the children from the care of the applicant mother or the children's school / or any third party to whom their care has been entrusted by the applicant mother save for the purposes of spending times agreed in the recital to this order and additional periods agreed between the parties.The boys mother has now stopped me seeing my boys and has withdrawn her agreement to the Child arrangement order agreed in August 2017. She has withdrawn her agreement to this order through a letter from her solicitor which I have received. I have applied for a C79 enforcement order to be put in place as this isn't the first time she has stopped me seeing my children.Ultimately my question is this,Can my ex stop me seeing my children by withdrawing from the agreement through her solicitor, or does she need to take her argument back to court to get the Child arrangement order changed/amended before she can stop me seeing them and picking them up from school?She is saying by withdrawing her consent from the Child arrangement order agreement, the prohibited steps order now comes into place full time preventing me having the boys on the prearranged days set out from August 2017 or removing the children from the care of the applicant mother or the children's school / or any third party to whom their care has been entrusted by the applicant mother.Any help and advice on this would be greatly appreciated.Thanks in advanceJ

Our Response:
Theoretically, 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. However, your ex can withdraw from the child arrangement order if she thinks it is in the best interests of your children and of course, much depends upon the reasons why access has been withdrawn. Your ex will have to face the court when you apply for a child enforcement order and attempt to justify her reasons for breaching the order. Contact orders made after 8th December 2008 automatically include a warning notice. The warning notice sets out clearly the potential penalties and enforcement measures that are available to the court if the contact order is broken. A solicitor's letter (reminding your ex of the terms of the order and the reprecussions of not keeping to it) may work before you apply to court. If it doesn't work to get access back on track, then as in all cases the court’s main concern is the welfare of the children in question. The court will always put the children’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order, or an enforcement of an order.
CourtroomAdvice - 19-Apr-18 @ 9:55 AM
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