How do I enforce a contact order?

If there’s one truism about the law, it’s that a court order is worthless if it can’t be enforced.

Getting a contact order (that is, a child arrangements order providing for you to have contact with your child) may involve a considerable expenditure of time, stress, and expense. But getting the order may not be the end of the story. You must also be prepared to enforce the order, if the other parent does not comply with it.

So how do you go about enforcing a contact order?

Well, there are a number of options, but the system can be quite confusing, as the court will not necessarily take the enforcement option you request. We will therefore keep things simple, by setting out the main options that the court has on any application to enforce.

The first thing to say is that before it takes any enforcement action the court will take a number of steps, including ascertaining the facts, considering the reasons for any non-compliance with the contact order, and considering the welfare checklist, as explained in this post.

The things that the court can do when it hears an enforcement application include the following:

1. Refer the parents to a Separated Parents Information Programme (‘SPIP’). A SPIP is a course which helps the parents understand how to put their children first while they are separating, including helping parents learn the fundamental principles of how to manage conflict and difficulties.

2. Vary the child arrangements order, which could include a more defined order and/or reconsidering the contact provision or the living arrangements of the child.

3. Make a contact enforcement order. This is an order imposing an ‘unpaid work requirement’ on the person in breach of the contact order. The enforcement order will mean the person has to do between 40 and 200 hours of unpaid work, monitored by the probation service.

4. Make an order for compensation for financial loss, where the person seeking to enforce the order has suffered financial loss as a result of the failure to comply with the contact order, for example, where the cost of a holiday has been lost as a result of a contact order being broken.

5. Fine the person in breach of the contact order.

6. Lastly, the court can make an order committing the person in breach of the order to prison, although this is unusual, and such an order would normally only be made as a last resort, following several blatant breaches of the order

If you are considering applying to a court to enforce a contact order then we can put you in touch with an expert family lawyer to assist you in making the application. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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