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Breach of Contact or Residence Order: What to Do

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 Aug 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 my ex partner has got an order where my daughters live with him my oldest daughter come bk to live with me in 2017 as there was issues with her and her step mum now my youngest daughter is here for the holidays and saying she dont wont to go bk to her dads as the same issue are happening to her as well now can I keep her here to safeguard her or will I have to take it bk to court
Dicko - 11-Aug-19 @ 3:03 PM
I have a court agreement order to see my children my ex has stopped me from collecting them but has gone to work and left them with her mother can I force her to hand the children over to me as she ( the ex mother ) has no parental rights to my children and if so how
J - 10-Aug-19 @ 7:05 AM
hi ive got a resdence order of my grandson which had from birth to the age of 18 his mum is casing so much trouble she as not seen him for 28weeks and before that 6 months and black mailing him wanted to see him and or daughter got took away when she was 2 ive rang police as has arasmant from her know she is demanding to see him he dont want any thing to do with her
sally - 8-Aug-19 @ 6:48 PM
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First page rankings - 7-Aug-19 @ 10:50 AM
@worriedmum.i am a ex father it’s been 10 years sence I last seen The child .(there is no way in the world I would go to court for visitation ).gods truth is there is no room in my life for a child even the old every second weekend I can’t do it .plus it’s been 10 years so who cares really .The child is a stranger to me and I her in reality it would be just awkward now weird .plus I don’t class myself as a parent in any shape or form .the child would feel the same way .truth is everything worked out perfectly for me I never had to pay child support or have the burden off looking after a child .the mother got what she wanted and I got what I wanted .it was a great understanding off each other .she knows I am not father material.and I couldnt care less about who the mother is with it’s her life .
C.laurie - 6-Aug-19 @ 9:05 PM
So I been to court and my ex has breached it a few times but in not overly worried about that but now he wasn't to change what doctors and dentist and school the children go to and as it's 50/50that he's the first adress even tho he walked out on us and didn't have contact for 4 years I can't afford to go back to court is any of this legal?
Worried mum - 6-Aug-19 @ 3:49 PM
Hi all, Does anyone know what happens when the non resident parent breaches a court order and refuses to pick child up for contact? Bearing in mind this date was on his list of dates he’s available for contact but now can’t because of a party all weekend... ?? There seems to be so much support for dads who wants to see their children. My daughter dads ran off for 6 years and is now back “ready to be a dad” but still picking and choosing when. Thank you
Donz - 6-Aug-19 @ 6:31 AM
My nephew his mother and siblings travels to Dover to see friends but the father of the children live there and has court orders against him not to have children, my 16 yr old nephew has seen his farther and went to his house which father and new partner have told him to stay with them ( brain washing him) now the boy says he doesn't want to come home , police and social will do nothing and the mother and other children are due to travel back home tomorrow and is besides herself as wants son hom
Ell - 29-Jul-19 @ 5:28 PM
Hi id appreciate if anyone has been in same situation i have been given the full residence by court for my 2 children by court 3 years ago. Mother of my children is constantly breaching the court order shes supposed to pick them up from school on friday which she only did for few months and then refused to and for the past few months she even trying to avoid having them. She has been leaving them both alone at home telling them shes got work on Saturday and they stay at home with no food until 6pm. Im as a father has done everything for them and have raised them since they were very young now they are 9 and 12 years old. Wiill it be helpful if i involve social workers again or directly contact the court. Thanks
Shak - 6-Jul-19 @ 12:03 AM
Hi all, My brothers ex cheated on him, took the kids and moved in with her parents (who happen to be wealthy).First she took him to court (with solicitors paid for by her family) to tie him downwith financial costs (he has a low paid job) and she managed to negotiate 70% of the house value, even though they both put in equally.Next she started on the kids, reducing his access to two/three days a week - worked for one year. By this time my brother was representing himself as he couldn't afford solicitor costs. Then she made up allegations (none proven) with her solicitor about my brother.The court admitted there was no evidence but said they would reduce his contact. His contact was then reduced to once a month, this has been dragging on for two years now as the court wont change even though no evidence, no police reports, no social services issues, no CAFCAS issues.She has today got her solicitor to say she is cancelling contact all together. So like all of you, the usual steps. However my query is how can this happen, there seems to be no solution?A woman wants equal rights, equal pay, but a man cannot have equal rights to see his children? Lawyers, courts, social services, CAFCAS all seem to be crippled and just go 'whatever the mum wants she gets'.All the time enforcing the father to keep paying maintenance to her for not seeing his kids. MP's are scared, Parliament is scared.I appreciate that some fathers and mothers are bad parents and shouldn't have kids or any contact.But this doesn't mean everyone should be painted with the same brush... Surely something needs to change and everyone should keep addressing this with their MP's so maybe parliament will listen...
DavidB - 31-May-19 @ 1:26 PM
I have days awarded to me by the court but my ex frequently books holidays on those days, can i refuse to let them go because technically she has no right to regardless of wether it will financially impact her
Lee - 24-May-19 @ 11:32 AM
Hi it's me again didn't get ant answers as yet but the mum didn't go for meeting at the access center ( which the sheriff ordered ) what happens now
Nan - 18-May-19 @ 5:58 PM
I have a 15yr old boy who lives with my ex , in our house which I don’t live in anymore , after she locked me out after I found out about her second affair . Soliciters say house has to be sold as we don’t earn enough for either to keep it , so she now has split the house in two and has filled it with lodgers to pay our joint mortgage , i can’t afford to force the sale and she also owns another house which they can both live in if our house was sold , we were never Married . I am trapped as I can’t move on due to my name still being on the mortgage . I.e I can’t rent or buy due to the mortgage company’s stance on not taking my name off .
Snowman - 15-May-19 @ 11:49 AM
@Nan Think it depends on your circumstances as to how long it takes from court hearing to contact centre. If there has been a long break in contact, the courts could take as long as 12 months to get contact established again. If the break was short then it shouldn’t take too long. Good luck
Hay - 14-May-19 @ 7:37 PM
@beck as a mother who’s been in a similar situation I would advise you to go to back to court. They usually act in the child’s best interests especially when mental health and parental alienation is a concern.
Hay - 14-May-19 @ 7:32 PM
4 years ago my daughter went to live with her father. (there was a contact and residence order in place which stated that she and her brother were supposed to live with me until they are 16) the father brainwashed her into going to live with him so in the end i let her go (she was 15). he then proceeded to work on my son in the same way until last year he did the same thing and left (again with my permission). now here is the but! the father has basically been making my sons life hell and i am concerned for his mental health ( i only discovered this when i was allowed to see him 9 months later, have had 0 contact with him or my daughter in that time), and my son is now desperate to come back. i stated to my son that i was more than willing to come fetch him once his exams were finished (he is still 15 and doing GCSE's). so of course my son went and told this to his father who's response was "not happening, your mine now, i have you till your 21" . what do i do? i know my ex wont willingly let him go and the court order will still be in effect at the end of July (only just my son is 16 in august) how do i go about rescuing him and keep myself out of handcuffs in the process?
beck - 10-May-19 @ 9:41 AM
Hi I have interim residency of my daughter, been through court etc, had her for 6months now and my ex gets to see her Tuesday Thursday Saturday but she’s harassing me all the time had to change my number and she still manages to get it, I’ve met someone else and been together for 5 months now but looking to move in with her but my lawyer is telling me to keep my daughter away from my new partner and I can’t move in with her etc, is this right??
Steven - 9-May-19 @ 11:01 PM
Am here for a bit advise of people whom have gone through this before. Now up to a certain point of this year i was allow to see my child for a very little amount of time where my ex was saying you need build it up where from the point of i have care and done most things for my child when were together. however where i when to mediationshe refuse to go a person said we tried with her we happy to sign it off so we can go court. I told her am putting in a court application she bannedfor me to see my child. my question is will the judge ask why have stopped him seeing his child where there no reasonable excuse what can the judge do?
Homeward - 8-May-19 @ 11:41 AM
Judge ordered acess to a father to see his child at a acess center How long on average does this take
Nan - 6-May-19 @ 4:05 PM
How long after a child hearing in court .doese someone wait to see their child in a access center ( Recquiired by the judge ) This seams to take forever
Nan - 6-May-19 @ 4:03 PM
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
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