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Breach of Contact or Residence Order: What to Do

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Apr 2019 | comments*Discuss
Court Order Contact Order Breach Courts

A 'contact order' is an order made by the court that determines who is entitled to communicate with a child (either through face to face meetings or telephone calls, or indirectly such as by letter). A 'residence order' is an order made by the court that determines where and with whom a child lives. From April 2014, these orders have been replaced with a single 'child arrangement order' which covers both issues (given that they are intrinsically linked).

You can apply to the courts for a child arrangement order. For most parents, this will be the end of the matter, and both parties will comply with the order. However unfortunately for some parents, this can be the stage at which further problems begin, if the other party breaches the order.

What is a breach?

Arguably anything that does not comply with the order is a breach. For example if the order states that the non-resident parent should have contact every Friday from 5pm and contact is not provided until 5:05pm, this is technically a breach of the order. However it is important to be reasonable; the courts are unlikely to take any action if the breach is insignificant.

The courts' guidance states that unless a breach is regular and intentional, they will not usually take action to enforce the order or punish the breach. Further it is important to consider the needs of your child first and so some flexibility may be needed on occasion.

"I have a contact order which says that I have contact with my 14 year old daughter from 6pm on three evenings a week. My ex-wife has agreed that she can play netball for her school team on Wednesday evenings until 6pm which means that I won' see her until 7pm. Can she do this?"

Whilst it would have perhaps been better for your ex-wife to discuss this with you first, try to be flexible. Does your daughter enjoy playing netball? The courts consider a child's welfare as paramount and so her participation in such activities (if she wants to take part) will likely take precedence here. However if this causes you problems, perhaps ask your ex-wife if you can swop the day that you see your daughter to a day when she is home earlier.

"I have lost my job and have been unable to pay child support. I have a court order to see them twice a week. My ex is now saying that if I can't pay child support, then I can't see my kids. Is this a breach?"

Any changes to a contact order must be agreed by both parties. One party cannot unilaterally decide to change the order or apply additional terms. If they wish to do so, they will need to refer the matter back to the Courts.

"I have met someone I really like and would like to introduce my kids to her. I have a court order to see my kids every Wednesday and Sunday. However, my ex has said she doesn't want the kids to meet my new partner and that I can only see my kids when she's not there. Can she do this?"

Concerns often arise over a new partner being introduced to children. However the Courts will not impose a restriction on whether this person can be present during contact unless they can be shown to be a risk to the child's welfare (e.g. someone with convictions for violence or sex offences).

What to do if there is a breach

1) Discuss

The first step in the event of a breach of an order should be to try to discuss this with the other party involved. Whilst this can often be awkward when a relationship between you has broken down, this is the quickest and cheapest way to resolve the problem. When approaching the discussion, try to be flexible. If the breach has occurred due to a change of circumstances (such as the child moving from primary to secondary school, or the other party changing jobs) then maybe you could agree a way to vary the order to something that could realistically be followed.

[The Court does not have to approve any agreed amendments to the order. However make sure that you have this agreement in writing to protect yourself should a further dispute arise.]

"I've had a court order for three years to see my children and everything was working fine, until we had an argument last week when she refused to let them come, after the third week in a row. Admittedly, it got a bit heated and we had a big argument on the doorstep. She called the police and now she has taken out a non-molestation order against me. What happens now?"

If you are unable to contact the other party directly (for example due to a non-molestation order) you may need to ask someone you trust to try to discuss the issue with them, or as per step 2 below, ask a solicitor to correspond on your behalf. In this situation, it is likely that some amendments will be needed to current contact arrangements so that you and your former partner do not see each other. For example one of you drops the children off at school and the other collects from school. Contact or Children and Family Centres will also assist with the transfer in such situations.

2) Write

If you are unable to get anywhere by discussing the issue with the other party, write to them setting out your concerns and proposals to resolve the problem. If you have a solicitor, you may wish to ask them to write to the other party reminding them of their obligations under the order. [Keep a copy of any letters / emails sent in case you ever needed to refer to these in court.]

3) Consider applying to Court

Court enforcement should only be used as a final resort, as this will be added expense, and will generally only serve to increase tensions between the parties.

In order to apply to the Court for enforcement of a child arrangement order (or contact order / residence order), you will need to fill in, issue and serve form C79 (which can be found on the HMRC website). The Court will wish to see that other methods of resolving the issue have been attempted, which is where copy letters (as in point 2 above) are useful.

If you wish to apply to vary a child arrangement order, you will need to use form C100 (which can be found on the HMRC website)

If you are considering making an application to Court, seek independent legal advice. The Citizens Advice Bureau can provide you with free and independent legal advice in this regard.

What can the Court do if a breach has occurred?

There are a number of options open to the Court in order to punish the offending parent and try to ensure that the breach does not occur. Which route the Court takes, will depend upon the circumstances including the severity and frequency of the breach, and where the child resides.
  • The Court can impose a community service order, requiring the parent in breach of the child arrangement order to undertake up to 200 hours of community service.
  • The Court can fine to the parent in breach.
  • The Court can impose a short prison sentence on the parent in breach. (This is however very rare, as the parent in breach is usually the parent with whom the child resides and the primary carer.)
  • The Court may also impose an order for the parent in breach to pay the other party financial compensation if the breach led to loss (e.g. a cancelled holiday).
If in doubt, it is always best to seek legal advice. Citizens Advice Bureau provide free and independent legal advice and can be contacted on 03444 111 444.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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Hi guys I was wondering if anyone els out there is having the same problem as me? My X tried stopping me seeing my daughter so I took her to court and won. I get to see my daughter now one week Friday to Sunday then the next week Tuesday to Thursday and so on! However the judge said and is in the order that when my daughter is on her holidays from school we MUST both have equal contact regardless of that order! My daughter broke up from school on Friday 12th & doesn’t return till the 30th so 18 days off I said to my X I would collect my daughter Friday as normal but wouldn’t return her till Saturday 20th as that’s 9 days then she can have her for 9 days equally spread out! However she said NO that’s not right because Friday to Sunday are my days anyway so I should have her them days then half of the holiday that’s left basically I get her for 12 days she only gets 6 days? I’ve tried my hardest to explain that regardless of my days her holiday actually started on that Friday and should be kept as the court ordered! I’ve even spoke to the caff caff officer who wrote the order and she said I was correct and she was wrong but yet she still refusing to have her back?? Am I in the wrong here??
Morgz77 - 18-Apr-19 @ 1:11 PM
Can anyone tell me if activities such as taking my girls swimming or indoor play area is not suitable for supervised contact as x is saying they are not as we only have 90 mins.
Smith - 10-Apr-19 @ 4:40 PM
@Lou if the activities are something like swimming or extra tuition then you need to weigh up the fact it is a life saving skill or educational that your child should learn/needs and unfortunately things like that are difficult to fit in after school so you have to bite your lip. If it's something like scouts or a sport e.g. football then simply write a one line email to your ex- wife telling her that you will not be taking him to scouts or the sport on the days you have him. Don't go into explanations and don't name call. Then simply tell your son the why you don't agree with him doing something like that in your time together. I should add my partner has had issues Iike with his ex but in our case we are the ones trying to do the educational/life saving skills.
ForLou - 17-Mar-19 @ 5:53 PM
You win ex you got what you wanted( hide my child) for years put (orders) on me .caused me (anxiety )been made fun off bye my own family (over you) .all I wanted was to meet my daughter .you have (successfully) beating me (congratulations) .but on a brighter note aleast I am not stuck with a (old cheating hag like you )and away from all your false accusations.(i am done) yeah I bet she injoy and thinks this so entertaining I hope you had fun mouding yourself to me .
Chris - 11-Mar-19 @ 8:24 PM
@dad39.i am not in the army always wanted (dream )to join (French foreign legion)in my 20smy (education level )held me back didn’t have the (confidence )with that side off things .i am construction worker like Freddy flintstone crush rocks all day .
Chris - 11-Mar-19 @ 6:45 PM
Advice please. Went to court and have a court order which gives me my kids every second weekend, twice weekly phone calls and various school holidays including 3 weeks at summer. My ex is now refusing to let me speak to or see the children as I have "breached the court order" due to me deploying (I am in the Army and the court were fully aware of this) I have now incurred costs for a holidays which she is now not allowing the kids to go to. What can I do?
Dad39 - 11-Mar-19 @ 6:25 PM
My biggest regret in life was not fighting for( full custody) off (my daughter )when I had the (money to fight and win )the (police even said I am right and should have fought her tooth and nail that( gods truth )when I told them about her behaviour and what she did.and the (remarkable thing to me it does not register with her )she thinks that kind off behaviour is acceptable .i can only imagine the upbringing my daughter had .
Chris - 11-Mar-19 @ 5:26 PM
@alienated.i know the feeling been frustrated with difficult situations all I wanted was to meet my (daughter )after all these years .and because my stupid ex wanted to get back together and that’s (never) going to happen .you know what made me (laugh inside )all the guys she was cheating with (remarkably strategically )wanted to be (around me again )sum even changed jobs to match mine ha ha .like I said go get her yourself .i only want to meet my (daughter) and not been in a strong financial situation sucks depressing.well it is what is I will try make the most off what I got .
Chris - 11-Mar-19 @ 3:24 PM
Hi does the C79 form apply in Scotland too ? My lawyer told me this is for the English courts.
Alienated - 11-Mar-19 @ 1:45 PM
I have a son aged 9, I went to court 4 years ago and gained a court order that stipulated I have him after school twice a week and two weekends a month Friday evening until Sunday morning, so Saturday is our only full day together, unfortunately his mother keeps booking things for him to do without my consent for every Saturday and expecting me to never have any plans and take him. We like to do things together like go to cinema and football matches, which she expects us to not do but to do things she sees a a priority for my son. When I disagree my ex starts up the parental alienation by telling my son I am stopping him do things. Is this a breach of the court order? i believe that it’s for my son and I to decide what we do on the weekends we are allocated by the court order?
Lou - 8-Feb-19 @ 5:26 PM
My former partner has breached each and every order set out by the court and they have failed to act on any single one of them 1) contact centre Oct 17 , failure to attend contact centre so returned jan 18 2) court stated no breach on her part, order reset for contact centre 2 hours twice a week which had been reduced from prior order. Failed and refused to attend contact centre. 3) returned to court April where court stated still no breach. Court order set out that I see my daughter 2 hours twice per week which lasted for 3 visits then contact stopped. 4) returned to court yet again no breach and order set as , first 3 visits with my new partner and her ex husband present then 3 hours twice per week my partner only present. First three visits happened however after that all contact stopped. 5) back to court Oct no breach yet again so court ordered over Xmas I see my daughter for several hours which was breached immediately so yet again no contact. 6) due back in court yet again on jan 14th regrading this matter so will keep you posted . Blackpool court do not care about any fathers rights even though I have had to fight for well over a year to only get to see my daughter less than 24 hours in well over a year. , good fathers fight to see their children but Blackpool court believe in mothers rights and no matter what they do not care about fathers. Well like I said will let you know in a few days how jan 14th goes betting on no breach again though
Geoff - 8-Jan-19 @ 10:30 PM
I have a court interim residency order there’s no social workers involved my 7 year old daughter is staying with her father she is crying every night and has said she wants to stay with me her father is very strict and is using her as a pawn in a game she stays with me every second weekend I pick her up from school every day and take her reluctantly bk at 6 pm she is very unhappy staying with her dad she has wrote me a letter stating she wants to stay full time with me is there any law Brocken if I take her and keep her at my house
Jamerie Currie - 29-Dec-18 @ 11:57 PM
myself and my ex have a court order in place, which my girls stay with me every other weekend, about because i have raised concerns over her new partner drink driving with my children in the car and also whilst under the influence of drugs, she has now stopped contact for this weekend i don't know what to do i've called the police and social services, i'm at my wits end i don't know where i stand.
Ryno - 30-Nov-18 @ 8:15 AM
I am 22 years old and have recently just become a father, my son is 6 months old and I have barely had contact due to me and my ex partner splitting up during the pregnancy. I have recently been in trouble with the police but over the 6 months since he’s been born I’ve turned it around I’m now working a full time job and am currently in the process of completing my court order as well but my ex partner still refuses to let me see my child, she claims I can see him at Christmas if I keep it up but I feel like if something doesn’t go her way again she’s just gonna pick and choose when I can see him, what do I do?
Breece - 24-Nov-18 @ 4:37 PM
I was taken to court by my ex husband and was given a court order for which he had visitation rights. approx 4 year ago he took my daughter as i was very poorly but we had an agreement where i had her on weekends till i was better and she could come back home. He moved home and I have recently found out where he is living. I am applying to the court for a breach of order as i feel i am not stronger and a lot better to be able to deal with this. Can anyone advise what i would need to do. I cannot talk with him as he is very abusive physically and verbally. He has also be very abusive to our 18yr old emotionally and physically to the point she left home but could not bring her sister with her.
minnie mouse 123 - 20-Nov-18 @ 6:46 PM
My ex wife has relocated to the UK from South Africa. We have a SA Court in place until a mirror order is made in England. We have both received an interim order from the English courts stating until such time as the mirror order is in place we are to do exactly what the South African court stipulates. I am sticking to the what the SA Court order stipulates (like glue), my ex wife has breached the same court order several times. Surely now after receiving an English interim order she is in breach of that to? and what are the ramifications of her breaching these court orders.
anotherconcernedfath - 20-Nov-18 @ 7:36 AM
Can a court ever force mother of children to deliver children to person who has requested contact with children
Feeling bulied - 19-Nov-18 @ 8:35 PM
I lost a legal battle to prevent my ex-wife taking our two young daughters to live in South Asia. She claimed she was starting a business out there, but in fact she moved straight in with a wealthy new boyfriend. We have a contact order that stipulates that she has to being the girls back to the UK at her expense, for the sole purpose of contact, every November, and at another time in the year when mutually agreed. She has played me around for an entire year now, claiming the children would be coming at one date, and then another. She has even accused me of being a terrible father because I've told her that because a fulfil a specialist role within law enforcement, I can't simply drop work at a moment's notice. I couldn't in a normal job, but particularly not in this one. Because she is still refusing to even confirm if she is coming this November (despite the fact that, in the absence of any other arrangement with me, she is obligated to), I haven't been able to book any time off. It has to be arranged well in advance, and now my diary at work is being filled with operations that I can't simply duck out of. My ex is insisting that she has to wait for her boyfriend to get a visa, and she "can't" come until this happens - despite the fact that she and the children are British citizens and the trip to the UK is solely for the purpose of facilitating contact. This has been dangling on for months now. She also suggests that if I can't guarantee that I will have the required 2 weeks off from work to take the girls full time, she won't come at all because she wants to have a holiday with her boyfriend and doesn't intend to take the children in the day if I have to go to work (if I can't book the time off at last minute). I have put my concerns to her in writing. I've warned her that she's breaching the court order. It's made no difference because there aren't enforcement mechanisms between the UK at the country she's in, or at least none that I can afford. Advice is welcome - I'm thinking a solicitor's letter before referring to the courts, but I'm not sure what's best. Any advice would be very welcome.
M. - 11-Nov-18 @ 2:23 PM
Hi Can anyone help I split with my partner and moved to the uk from Ireland we have 2 kids together and my ex is refusing to talk or reply to me can I go through the uk courts to obtain a contact order for my kids or do I have to go through Irish courts ? Or is there a way of starting proceedings from here to the Irish courts ? Any help would be really grateful as it’s really sad seeing them through photos my family get for me ?? Thanks in advance Gofferd16
Gofferd16 - 5-Nov-18 @ 10:41 AM
Justice4dads87.just back to court you sound like a good couple .as for myself I get my justice when my child a adult and there will plenty of time meet and greet .in the mean time just going to get on with my life I am feeling better then ever these days strong mentally and physically I mean What I am going in the home gym now I couldn’t do when in full training as a boxer and I am 37 feeling deadly it’s amazing feeling when you in prime physical condition and as the old saying goes push the body the mind will follow and vice versa .and your worries will disappear and you soon realise that you where only hurting yourself with negative and hateful thoughts about ancient history and once you realise that and let it go doors start to open .
Darwin is waiting - 19-Oct-18 @ 3:54 AM
Please can I get some advice on this! My partner has two children with his ex. She has since the day he left her been very hard to deal with not letting him see the kids etc! We went threw Court and got an order for him to see the kids every Sunday 10-5pm! This came to a holt last week as we asked her mother for the contact book. Apparently because we were “aggressive” which we weren’t she has stopped contact! After speaking with the court today we have to fill in another form and pay more money out to go back because she has broke this order!! Will someone please tell me how this is right??? We seem to be fighting a loosing battle and I feel for my partner so much! I don’t. I don’t know what else to do!! Some advice much appreciated
Justice4Dads87 - 18-Oct-18 @ 3:31 PM
Hello, Inhave contact order in place with my ex from 7:30pm until 8:30pm every other day on Skype. We are always on time but according yo my ex he can come any time and we have to wait for a full hour if he will come or not. Sometimes he might come online even 8:25 so we end up waiting for 55minutes for nothing. If we are ever late by 5 minutes he is telling us that he will apply to the court for us breaching the order. Can someone advise if it works both ways as my son gets quite upset when he has to wait for a long time.
Inac - 14-Oct-18 @ 9:55 AM
My parents have had a residence order for 9 years I have decided to get my son back my parents have breached the order for 3 years. What will happen to them.
Mazz - 12-Oct-18 @ 9:37 AM
My ex has a court order that allows him to see our daughter every fortnight from Saturday 10am until Sunday 6pm. This weekend will be 10 weeks since she last saw him. She has begged me not to send her when he finally get round to having her! Where do I stand as surely 10 weeks is a substantial amount of time for a 5 year old. He has had no contact with her at all not even a phone call.
Mum001 - 11-Sep-18 @ 10:23 PM
We have 3 children and a court order in place that states the children live with me seeing their dad regularly. On September 1st my ex took my son out for lunch and never brought him back. He has now applied to court despite the fact he is the one who breached the court order ! I am preparing to apply for an enforcement of the order. Can my ex choose which child to take to live with him as this is his intention to take our eldest son to live with him! He has brainwashed our son who now says he wishes to live with dad and gives excuses such as his siblings are too little and he needs his own space !
Distressed mum of 3 - 3-Sep-18 @ 8:43 PM
We have a RO in our name for my two girls and have done for 5 years- they live with me and see the mother for 80% of school hold, and every third weekend. The Mother has now refused to return them home today now the holidays are over. We only heard about this by letter from a Barristet on Bank hol Friday at 5pm. We been divorced for over ten years. (Thats the very very short version).
DistressedDad - 31-Aug-18 @ 6:53 AM
Hi My ex wife is again taking me to court ,this time its because my 11 year old was on holiday with and I had her passport and decided to take her on holiday to croatia for a week , i didnt tell my ex wife because according to my court order i needed to give three weeks notice but i couldnt do this ,however when my ex wife phoned and asked to speak to my daughter she could and found my our child was having a really good time .is this so bad ? that i have a risk that there may be a cost order ordered against me as she has hired a solicitor to fight me and i cant afford one ?
martin whelan - 24-Aug-18 @ 10:11 PM
@sherri.i am out work to didn't break my leg but fell off scaffold 3 stories up it callaped when pouring concrete the boom line got wrapped around the scaffold one guy died gods truth .and to make matters worse i miss my daughter and have that much free time on hands to think and it drives me mad .but i should be back at work soon when i get sighed off bye doctor .my x was hoping it was me that died .so i wouldn't take her to court over my daughter .
teddy - 18-Aug-18 @ 11:29 PM
nk - Your Question:
I have a Child Arrangement Order for my daughter to stay with me on 1st week of school hols and go on holiday with me on 5th week. Apart from cutting the 1st week short, her mother now is likely to not let her go on holiday with me (indicated by text messages 2 days before departure). I have made all the bookings and paid for the holiday. Should I go to court today for emergency enforcement or wait for the actual breach to occur (and lose all the bookings)? Thanksnk

Our Response:
Unfortunately, it would take too long to come to court. A solicitor's letter reminding your ex of her obligations to the order and the warning if she breaches it, also, that you will refer the costs to her if any bookings are lost (and the matter has to go to court as a result of the breach), may do the trick.
SeparatedDads - 17-Aug-18 @ 12:19 PM
I have a Child Arrangement Order for my daughter to stay with me on 1st week of school hols and go on holiday with me on 5th week. Apart from cutting the 1st week short, her mother now is likely to not let her go on holiday with me (indicated by text messages 2 days before departure). I have made all the bookings and paid for the holiday. Should I go to court today for emergency enforcement or wait for the actual breach to occur (and lose all the bookings)? Thanks nk
nk - 17-Aug-18 @ 10:41 AM
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