Contact Orders - Enforcement
It is thought that in over 90% of cases parents manage to agree the living arrangements for their children when separating. Of the remaining 10% of cases, which require an application to court parties most often either reach an agreement or at least live with and abide by any court orders for contact which were made. There are a tiny percentage of “intractable” contact disputes.
The Children and Adoption Act 2006 is designed to help in circumstances such as these and to give the Courts more muscle in ensuring that contact ordered actually happens. The Court may make:-
Contact Activity Directions – Such an Order requires a party to take part in an activity designed to promote contact – for example, classes designed to inform parents of the impact that hostility to other parent and allowing a breakdown of contact may have upon children and counselling etc. A party may not be forced to undergo a medical examination (e.g. by a psychiatrist).
Contact Activity Conditions – Such an Order may be attached to an Order for contact requiring a party to comply with conditions – for example, classes designed to inform parents of the impact that hostility to other parent and allowing a breakdown of contact may have upon children and counselling.
The Court may make such Orders:
- In respect of a parent of a child
- Where the proposed activity is “appropriate”
- Where to make the Order promotes the welfare of the child
The availability of contact activity providers is currently limited. State assistance with cost may be available – but the party concerned may be required to pay. The types of activity contemplated may include classes/group sessions dealing with anger management and/or parenting skills.
Compliance with the terms of those orders will be monitored by the Court Welfare Service.
Enforcement of Contract Orders
The Court also has the power to impose sanctions for non-compliance with Contact Orders by making an Enforcement Order which may be made where –
- The welfare of the child justifies this
- There is no reasonable doubt that a parent has failed to comply with a contact order – without reasonable exercise
- That the making of an Order is necessary to serve compliance with the contact order.
Enforcement Orders may require a non-compliant parent to:-(a) undertake unpaid work – a form of community service(b) provide financial compensation (not exceeding amounts actually lost) to the other parent.
The Court does have a range of other tools to promote compliance with Contact Orders including
- Nominating a Children’s Guardian to represent the Child (See separate briefing note)
- Committing the non-compliant parent to prison (extremely rare)
- Transferring residence to the other parent – becoming more common but still rare.
Lawson Lewis Blakers have considerable experience in dealing with complex Children Law cases.
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