Enforcement of Child Arrangement Orders for contact

Having done my first enforcement application this week, I thought I would share this on the blog. Thankfully, these are fairly rare applications, ones that go beyond the first appointment at court are at any rate This is usually enough to bring the ‘offending’ party back into line.

I represented a Father who had obtained a final order for contact recently. The Mother stopped co-operating with the proceedings and had not complied with an interim order for contact for several months prior to this, nor did she attend the first appointment of the enforcement application.

The procedure is that there needs to be a ‘trial within a trial’ on the issue of failure to comply with the order. Directions for statements are made and a hearing is listed. Evidence is required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the ‘offending’ party has not complied with the child arrangements order. It is open to the Respondent then to seek to show that they have ‘reasonable excuse’ on a balance of probabilities for not complying with the order, thus providing a defence.

The court has it’s usual case management powers, so for example can order (particularly when it looks like the respondent to the application probably will not turn up) that the evidence is limited to written evidence and submissions, as happened in our case.

The court has a number of sanctions open to it, including unpaid work, curfew and financial remedies. It can also go down the route of committal to prison for contempt of court. The court can also order Cafcass to monitor compliance with any enforcement order made.

Our hearing is listed in a few weeks and I will update the blog on how the procedure worked.