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What happens if a former partner breaches contact order arrangements?

We get lots of questions about what to do when a former partner breaches contact arrangement rules.

In some cases, people have found that the other parent won’t co-operate, or is late or doesn’t show up.

But, of course, every case is different and the circumstances that lead a parent to breach contact arrangements change from person to person.

Here, Charlotte Sherborne, an Associate at Hugh James Solicitors who specialises in family law, explains what happens if a former partner breaches contact order arrangements:

One of the most difficult parts of separation for parents is agreeing on contact arrangements for the children. 

If an amicable arrangement can’t be achieved, many parents can then choose to go through mediation or, as a last resort, issue Children Act proceedings to ask a court to decide what should happen. Sadly, for some parents this is not the end of the story.

Having obtained a court order, many parents find their former partner breaches the order, leaving them once again being denied contact with their children.
What can you do if a court order is breached?
If there are regular and intentional breaches of an order by a former partner then it may be necessary to bring the matter back to court and to bring enforcement proceedings. However, this should be a last resort as it only causes more friction and expense.

Depending on the case and the nature of the breaches involved, the court has the power to order community service or a fine, and, in cases of the most serious and repeated breaches, a court can have the power to issue a prison sentence, although this is very rare indeed as often the parent breaching the order is also the children’s primary carer.
So, what is the best approach to take?
Try to sort things out amicably, get a proper understanding of your rights, manage your expectations and constantly review your child’s circumstances. This will result in the least amount of conflict. It also gives you the flexibility and goodwill that is very hard to achieve if you go through the court process. 

Charlotte qualified as a solicitor in 2003. Throughout her career Charlotte has worked and practised law in London, most recently at the leading niche firm Family Law in Partnership LLP. She now works at Hugh James where she specialises in Family Law, Divorce and separation, Pre-nuptials and living together.

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