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Divorce law blog

What happens if my ex breaches a child arrangements order?

15/02/2017   By: Claire Molyneux

What can you do if the court has made a child arrangements order (CAO) relating to your child but your ex is not complying with it?

First, remember that a CAO is legally binding. Attached to each order is a “warning notice” which sets out what the court can do when someone is not complying with the order. This includes finding that person in contempt of court and sentencing them to prison, fining them, making them undertake unpaid work or ordering them to pay financial compensation.

If you feel that your ex has not complied with the terms of a CAO, you can apply to the court to enforce the order. The first thing the judge will do is check whether you and your ex agree the facts about the alleged breach. If you don’t, there may need to be an extra hearing to deal with that. Once the judge knows what the facts are, they will consider why the order has not been complied with. They will involve CAFCASS if necessary.

If the judge finds that there has been no “reasonable excuse” for your ex not to comply with the order, then any of the following might happen:

  • you and your ex are ordered to attend a Separated Parents Information Programme;
  • the existing CAO is varied – if the order is no longer working, the court will try and adjust it so that it can work; 
  • an enforcement order is made for your ex to undertake unpaid work – this only usually happens if CAFCASS recommend your ex for this and can show that unpaid work is available; 
  • your ex is ordered to pay compensation; 
  • your ex is sentence to a short stay in prison; or 
  • a fine is imposed on your ex.
There are many reasons why arrangements under a CAO might break down. If you find yourself in a situation where a CAO is no longer working, don’t simply ignore the order. Go back to the court, explain what is not working and ask the court to help you and your ex come to a new arrangement. 

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