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Divorce law blog

The course of a mother’s love never did run smooth:

23/07/2015   By:

Rebecca Minnock and the importance of obeying a court order.

A mother on the run, a kidnapped child, a getaway car, a grandmother sent to jail…The dramatic events of the Rebecca Minnock case gripped the nation back in late May and early June. If you, like she, are intending to breach a Child Arrangements Order, think again. Judge Stephen Wildblood QC, who heard the case, stated: "Parents who flout court orders are the scourge of the system.” The consequences of breach may be detrimental and can only serve to harm your case in both the short and long term.

On 27 May 2015, a court ruled that Ethan, the 3 year old son of Ms Minnock and Roger Williams, should live with his father and only have supervised contact with his mother. On the same day, with the assistance of her mother and mother’s former partner, Ms Minnock fled with Ethan in tow. She eventually handed herself in to the police on 12 June 2015 after 17 days on the run. The immediate consequences of her decision not to follow the order have been harrowing for all involved with Ms Minnock’s mother being sentenced to 10 days in jail and her mother’s former partner receiving a 28 day sentence. Ms Minnock narrowly escaped a 28 day prison sentence after her ex-partner dropped the charges.

Whilst it can sometimes be very difficult to accept a court order, the consequences of not obeying can devastate families and cause long lasting scars.

Legal penalties include:

  • An immediate prison sentence with a maximum of two years; 
  • A suspended sentence, the execution of which is suspended for such period or on such terms or conditions as the court thinks fit; 
  • A fine or seizure of assets with there being no limit on the amount of the fine.

Further to this, not obeying a court order will be taken into very serious consideration should any future legal proceedings arise. It is very rare that the court will order for there to be no contact whatsoever between a parent and child, usually ordering supervised contact in anticipation of it being moved on to unsupervised contact. By flouting an order, however, you damage your chances of that being granted. The court system has a long memory and will not change residence orders lightly, especially if a parent has shown themselves to be untrustworthy. In addition, breaching a court order betrays not only the trust of the court but the trust with the other parent. Such actions can have a major impact on the relationship between the parents and the co-parenting of the child going forward.

There is no doubt that taking matters into your own hands only serves to damage the relationship between yourself and all other parties as well as damaging your chances of achieving what you want. No matter how vitriolic you feel, it is never worth putting the court’s view of your integrity on the line. If you do not want a court order to be imposed on you, you could consider exploring non-court dispute resolution methods. In some of these methods, the agreement is reached by negotiation between the two sides which you might feel suits your needs better and sets the tone for how you would like future dealings to be conducted. For more information on non-court dispute resolution or on anything discussed in this article, please contact one of our team.

Angelika Ketzer

Trainee Solicitor

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