How can a contact order be enforced?

What can the court do if you have a contact order, or a child arrangements order providing for you to have contact with your child/children, and the other parent is not complying with the order?

There are a number of steps that the court can take to enforce a contact order, including:

• Imposing a fine upon the other parent. A fine can only be imposed if the contact order included on it a ‘penal notice’, stating that the order must be obeyed and that a breach of the order can be punished by a fine or imprisonment.

• Committing the other parent to prison for contempt of court. Again, a penal notice must have been included on the order.

• Making an enforcement order, imposing an ‘unpaid work requirement’ on the other parent, similar to the community service order used by criminal courts. The court can only make an enforcement order if it is proved that the other parent has failed to comply with the contact order without reasonable excuse, for example that the child was ill.

• Making a financial compensation order, requiring the other parent to pay financial compensation to you for any losses that you incurred as a result of the failure to comply with the contact order, for example travel expenses. Again, there must be no reasonable excuse for the failure to comply with the order.

Note that enforcement and financial compensation orders cannot be made unless the contact order included on it a warning notice saying that the order must be obeyed, failing which an enforcement or financial compensation order can be made. All contact orders made since 2008 should include such a notice.

If you require further information regarding enforcement of a contact order, Family Law Café can help. To contact us click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

Image: Father & son, by Robyn Jay, licensed under CC BY 2.0.