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Breach of Court Order: What Steps to Take Next?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 27 Feb 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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[Add a Comment]
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
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
Moms - 12-Feb-17 @ 7:25 PM
hi my sons father took me to court for contact after i stopped contact as it was upsetting my son, anyway he got contact reinstated & now has unsupervised contact for 3hrs every other saturday but he is consistantly late bringing our son back leaving me & my younger daughter waiting outside in the cold for him to return. We've had to cancel plans we had made for some afternoons because of him being late, His excuse is always the same he blames the buses ive tried to talk to him about his timekeeping, he usally manages to get there on time taking our son 10-15 mins before his contact start time but hardly ever manages to return him on time is there anything i can do, ive looked for info online but its mainly aimed at nrp whos ex is stopping them seeing the kids thanks
Soph - 11-Feb-17 @ 10:29 PM
Hello. Me and my partner have been split for sometime. We have a court order saying hand overs are meant to take place at a certain spot. Yet she is getting her solicitors to contact me saying we must go through contact centre. It says it must be done at a certain spot and yet they are not listening to the court order or what I'm trying to say
Knuckle - 10-Feb-17 @ 4:04 PM
Jj - Your Question:
Hi if I feel I have a safe guard issue can I breech an arrangement order.My ex partner has been abusive and agress ive What do I do As I do not trust my ex with my child

Our Response:
Before you breach the order you may wish to seek some legal advice in order to explore your options.
CourtroomAdvice - 9-Feb-17 @ 2:57 PM
Hi if I feel I have a safe guard issue can I breech an arrangement order . My ex partner has been abusive and agress ive What do I do As I do not trust my ex with my child
Jj - 9-Feb-17 @ 1:08 AM
Hi my mom has full residence order over my first son and a intrim residence order over my second son both had contact stated in the order which my mom has never Relly kept to changed and stopped contact for no valid reason even social workers was aware of this and didn't pull her up on it it's been nearly two years since case was closed and 2 years with no contact as I have tried asking texting calling. Offered therapy mediation nothing works I dunno what to so nobody steered me for guidance and just left me to try find out by myself my mom said if you take me court a judge won't allow you to see them it's been two years. I don't no what to do is this true would a judge say this. Or can I get her to court new order to be made. And put for contact. Then get it increased and go from there the aim is to have them Back however my mom never let's the contact last enough to get to stages like increased contact or over night contact
Nicky - 4-Feb-17 @ 10:25 PM
Duchess - Your Question:
Hi we r grandparents my daughter has our grandchild who is nearly four we helped raise her when she was born and she lived with us up until the age of two my daughter stopped me access because she dosent always get on with my partner her stepfather not her dad and we took it to court and got contact order and the child's arrangements order States for her new partner to bring my Grandaughter to us on a Sunday 11 till four o'clock for six weeks then we have her on a Friday overnight till sat morning till twelve she has done a couple of visits but didtn stick to times and now she has topped me seeing my Grandaughter again I ve told her that's wrong and again I've informed social services even though they have closed and my partner has rang the courts can she do this as j also rang the child's nursery to explain the situation and get them to have a word with mom and to think of the child we r meant to see her thus Sunday but she won't bring her down and she didth bring her down last week what can we expect from the courts now and mom playing up can she stop us again as we haven't done anything wrong really need help thanks

Our Response:
Any changes to a contact order must be agreed by both parties and one party cannot unilaterally decide to change the order or apply additional terms. This means your daughter is in breach of the order. In the first instance you may wish to ask a solicitor to send a letter to your daughter highlighting the terms of the order and the repercussions if she continues to breach it. This may do the trick. However, if it doesn't, as specified in the article, you would have to apply to take the matter back to court to have the order enforced. There are a number of options open to the court in order to punish the offending parent and try to ensure that the breach does not re-occur. Which route the court takes, will depend upon the circumstances including the severity and frequency of the breach.
CourtroomAdvice - 3-Feb-17 @ 2:15 PM
I stayed in the marital home past the time aloud and have to go back to court on 2/27/17 are they going to make me leave right away
William Pritchett - 2-Feb-17 @ 10:56 PM
Hi we r grandparents my daughter has our grandchild who is nearly four we helped raise her when she was born and she lived with us up until the age of two my daughter stopped me access because she dosent always get on with my partner her stepfather not her dad and we took it to court and got contact order and the child's arrangements order States for her new partner to bring my Grandaughter to us on a Sunday 11 till four o'clock for six weeks then we have her on a Friday overnight till sat morning till twelve she has done a couple of visits but didtn stick to times and now she has topped me seeing my Grandaughter again I vetold her that's wrong and again I've informed social services even though they have closed and my partner has rang the courts can she do this as j also rang the child's nursery to explain the situation and get them to have a word with mom and to think of the child we r meant to see her thus Sunday but she won't bring her down and she didth bring her down last week what can we expect from the courts now and mom playing up can she stop us again as we haven't done anything wrong really need help thanks
Duchess - 2-Feb-17 @ 5:49 PM
Misshadenough - Your Question:
HiMy partner took his ex wife to court as she was making it very difficult for him to see their son. There is some distance between them (8 hour car journey) and things were getting impossible. He was awarded once a month contact of a weekend and half of all school holidays. I can't begin to tell you how many times she's cancelled the weekend visits and also holiday visits are constantly messed up. She has now decided to take their son on holiday in the Feb half term despite my partner being awarded half of these holidays? She has told him if he wants him he's to fly to their holiday destination to see him? Also the court order states my partner will collect his son from his home address only. We think she's breaking the court order but what do we do next?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, anything that does not comply with the order is a breach. 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, in your partner's case if the breaches are deliberate they should be recorded. Also, 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. As February half term will be on us before your partner has time to apply and have the order heard in court, I can only suggest he asks a solicitor to send his ex a letter outlining the terms of the order and the seriousness of the breach and that if the order is not kept to, he will take the matter back to court to have the order enforced. This means if his ex goes away, then he can take the matter back to court. Any other breaches recorded will help your partner's case.
CourtroomAdvice - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:08 PM
Hi My partner took his ex wife to court as she was making it very difficult for him to see their son. There is some distance between them (8 hour car journey) and things were getting impossible. He was awarded once a month contact of a weekend and half of all school holidays. I can't begin to tell you how many times she's cancelled the weekend visits and also holiday visits are constantly messed up. She has now decided to take their son on holiday in the Febhalf term despite my partner being awarded half of these holidays? She has told him if he wants him he's to fly to their holiday destination to see him? Also the court order states my partner will collect his son from his home address only. We think she's breaking the court order but what do we do next?
Misshadenough - 1-Feb-17 @ 2:00 PM
There is a court order that my ex husband is not to come near my house & that his new wife has agreed to be the contact regarding the children & that she is to collect & return children to my home in there weekends. After 6 months they have constantly changed there weekends as they go abroad 5 times a year as well as weekends away, many times my ex husband has collected the children (waited out in car) my ex boyfriend has helped me by taking children round to my ex husbands as he has been over the limit, one I dropped them off and my ex husband came out & was offensive, also the times that they have collected my children has got earlier( with no notice)So I told his wife that from now on she collects the kids at 6 & drops them off. I got a load of abuse from her that she will not collect the children they are nothing & wants nothing to do with them. Last weekend my ex husband deliberately turned up late 9pm I would not let him take children I was verbaly insulted by him as well as on Facebook. I have allowed these constant changes for my children's sake but I won't be called offensive words by them both in front of my children anymore. They have constantly breach the court order what do I do?
Coco - 28-Jan-17 @ 9:17 PM
Elle - Your Question:
Hi, My partner took he's ex to court in November 2016 because she was always making it hard to see he's two daughters. He got every Monday and Tuesday and every other weekendsHe's had one full weekend where it was stated he's oldest needs to go to dance every Saturday at 10am and her dance outfit will travel with her. But on he's first weekend she did not supply the dance outfit and infsct turned up and sat there the whole dance class changing the daughter and making her sit with her and not my partner even though it was he's weekends.He's next full weekend is this week and she is saying he can't have them on Friday because he didn't bring he's youngest daughter to the dance place (she's 2 and he left her with her nan so she was in the warm as the church is cold and has no toys or entertainment for her) it is no where stated that the youngest has to be at the church just that the other daughter has to be there. Is that enough to take it back to court/have it enforced? She also wants the girls to go to a party after the dance class which my partner said only if he can take them which she said no to. So he will only have 3pm Saturday-6.30pm Sunday.When he meant to have 4pm Friday- 6.30pm Sunday

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. 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. I think in your partner's instance, a letter from a solicitor reminding your partner's ex of her obligations to the order and the repercussions if she doesn't keep to it might work.
CourtroomAdvice - 27-Jan-17 @ 11:46 AM
I have a court order in placeafter my ex partner was ill treating my kids . She not aloud any un supervisedcontact. And I gave the grandparents a chance to do the right thing and put my kids first and keep them safe . They couldn't do this I had stop contact as wasaffecting the children. I'm made to be the bad guy. Well the mother of children and grandmother turned up outside my daughters on her birthday knowing for well she not aloud to . Told her she having a baby.This has upset my children knowing she didn't even fight for them just replacing them. Apart from changing schools.Does anyone know what I coulddo or what my rights are . Thank you
Benny - 27-Jan-17 @ 12:00 AM
Hi, My partner took he's ex to court in November 2016 because she was always making it hard to see he's two daughters. He got every Monday and Tuesday and every other weekends He's had one full weekend where it was stated he's oldest needs to go to dance every Saturday at 10am and her dance outfit will travel with her. But on he's first weekend she did not supply the dance outfit and infsct turned up and sat there the whole dance class changing the daughter and making her sit with her and not my partner even though it was he's weekends. He's next full weekend is this week and she is saying he can't have them on Friday because he didn't bring he's youngest daughter to the dance place (she's 2 and he left her with her nan so she was in the warm as the church is cold and has no toys or entertainment for her) it is no where stated that the youngest has to be at the church just that the other daughter has to be there. Is that enough to take it back to court/have it enforced? She also wants the girls to go to a party after the dance class which my partner said only if he can take them which she said no to. So he will only have 3pm Saturday-6.30pm Sunday. When he meant to have 4pm Friday- 6.30pm Sunday
Elle - 26-Jan-17 @ 4:15 PM
Cs - Your Question:
My ex won a child arrangements order of our daughter last year but has now stopped me from having her is he within his rights to do so?

Our Response:
No, 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 or you will need to refer the matter back to the courts. If your ex is in breach of the court order then you can take the matter back to court to have the order enforced. However, in the first instance, you may wish to ask your solicitor to send your ex a letter reiterating the terms of the order and the possible repercussions if those terms do not continue to be met.
CourtroomAdvice - 25-Jan-17 @ 11:59 AM
My ex won a child arrangements order of our daughter last year but has now stopped me from having her is he within his rights to do so?
Cs - 24-Jan-17 @ 4:29 PM
RT - Your Question:
My partner is currently going through court as his ex has unilaterally stopped access since finding out about me. Bear in mind she has always been on and off as to when she decides he can see their daughter. Not only has she refused supervised contact after the first hearing, she has disputed court orders to read out letters to her daughter as a way of indirect contact for the father. We are hoping come the next court date, an order will be put In place to reinstate the original day's when my partner had his daughter. We want to take her on holiday, but worried that even with the court order in place that his ex is still going to be difficult. Bear in mind she's changed her mind twice, at the last minute before, meaning a waste of money on booking the holiday. How could we overcome this obstacle?Thanks,R

Our Response:
If you want to take your partner's child on holiday, then he would have to apply for a Specific Issue Order. Specific Issue Orders, much like the name suggests, are orders sought from the family court to determine a particular matter in connection with the exercise of Parental Responsibility. These orders can cover a wide range of issues that parents cannot agree on. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. if the court orders your partner's ex to allow his child to accompany you on holiday, his ex will be bound by the court order. However, this is still not without friction, and I don't wish to be the harbringer of bad news, but where the order is awarded there can further issues if the child's resident parent can find a good enough excuse not to let the child go nearer the day.
CourtroomAdvice - 24-Jan-17 @ 10:40 AM
My partner is currently going through court as his ex has unilaterally stopped access since finding out about me. Bear in mind she has always been on and off as to when she decides he can see their daughter. Not only has she refused supervised contact after the first hearing, she has disputed court orders to read out letters to her daughter as a way of indirect contact for the father. We are hoping come the next court date, an order will be put In place to reinstate the original day's when my partner had his daughter. We want to take her on holiday, but worried that even with the court order in place that his ex is still going to be difficult. Bear in mind she's changed her mind twice, at the last minute before, meaning a waste of money on booking the holiday. How could we overcome this obstacle? Thanks, R
RT - 23-Jan-17 @ 10:06 AM
Danny - Your Question:
Hi my wifes ex took her to court and said he had a shaking disorder. So in the court order it says he mlcannot drive the children around unless he has a gp letter stating he is safe to do so. We found out he has been driving them around behind our backs. Is she within her rights to stop contact until she receives the gp letter?

Our Response:
Yes, if he is in breach of the court order then you can exercise your parental responsibility rights by requesting this.
CourtroomAdvice - 20-Jan-17 @ 10:46 AM
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