Child Arrangements & Enforcement Order Process
With all parenting disputes, it can be difficult for separating couples to reach a fair and reasonable decision regarding their children’s living arrangements. Many divorcing parents who cannot come to an agreement take the matter to a family court to obtain a Child Arrangement Order. As a result, and if it is in the child’s best interests, the judge or magistrate will make an order. The order will advise where the child will live and how much contact the child has with each parent.
Unfortunately, obtaining a Child Arrangement Order does not always conclude the matter. If one parent does not comply with the terms of the order, further steps need to be taken. This is known as an Enforcement Order.
What is an Enforcement Order?
If your ex-partner has not complied with the Child Arrangement Order, you can apply for an Enforcement Order. For example, if one parent does not allow the other to have contact with their child during the court-ordered time, that parent could be breaching the Child Arrangement Order.
If one parent breaches the Child Arrangement Order, the parties should firstly try to resolve the matter themselves. It is far more cost-effective and efficient for parents to find a solution outside of court.
However, this cannot always be the case. If you want to proceed with a child Enforcement Order, further applications to a family court will need to be considered and made to secure compliance.
Obtaining a Child Enforcement Order
The timing of such applications needs to be thought of carefully. Where it is alleged that the terms of an order have been breached, the Court needs to investigate. Firstly, the Court will examine the nature of any breaches and establish the reasons for them. Then, if the Court takes the view breaches have occurred without good reason, enforcement orders can be made:
- A person in breach of the terms of an order can be ordered to carry out unpaid work.
- Where a person caused financial loss as a result of breaching an order, they can be ordered to pay compensation.
- In cases of significant and persistent breaches, the Court can order a change of residence for the child or children.
- Ultimately, the Court can impose a custodial sentence for breach of a Child Arrangement Order under its general powers to deal with people considered to be in contempt of court by giving notice of an application for committal to prison.
In addition, if your ex-partner still does not comply with the Enforcement Order, you go back to court.
Even where there are clear breaches of a Child Arrangements Order, obtaining an Enforcement Order is not always straightforward. The Court always has primary regard to the welfare of the child or children involved. In some cases, imposing an Enforcement Order would negatively impact on the child. Therefore, if the Court has good reason, they will not enforce the order.
The courts appear to be taking a tougher stance in cases of non-compliance with Child Arrangement Orders. Recently, a number of cases reported the parent in breach was committed to prison for a short term. In some circumstances, the main residence of the child is switched to the parent seeking contact after the Enforcement Order.
Enforcement of a Child Arrangement Order
If you have children and are contemplating or proceeding with divorce, you should seek advice from a professional family law solicitor. Major Family Law can provide their specialist knowledge on Child Arrangement Orders and Enforcement Orders in the event you and your partner cannot come to an agreement.
Contact us today for a free, preliminary consultation and receive expert guidance from Major Family Law, the UK’s leading children’s and divorce solicitors.