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Breach of Contact or Residence Order: What to Do

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 10 Jan 2020 | 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 I am after some advise, I have a live with order and there is also a contact order in place for my ex to have our DD every weekend for a couple of hours, I am aware that I can take our DD on holiday for up to 28 days but how do I go about it with the contact order being in place? I just dont want my ex taking me back to court for going on holiday, I would video call and call my ex whilst on holiday. Thanks
Lucy - 10-Jan-20 @ 12:50 PM
Hi I live in scotland and went through the process of putting in place a contact order as my children's mother would not stick to the separation agreement. I would have preferred at least 50:50 arrangement but accepted the final agreement of every other weekend reluctantly as I know how biased against fathers the family courts are. Since the order was made I have learnt that my ex has been failing to get my 8 year old son to school on average 1 day a week and is constantly late on days when he does attend. (she lives only a few minutes away from the school.) I have also had confirmation from my children's GP that she has failed over the last year to take them to multiple appointments and referrals for health issues. I have also in this time rebuilt my life, clearing the debt from my first marriage. I have remarried and purchased a nice home in the countryside, which is a stark contrast to my ex's rent home and my new wife recently gave birth. I intend to go back to court to seek residency or at least 50:50 so I can support my children getting to school, doctors appointments and so they can spend time growing up with their brother. Do I ask the courts via a writ to set aside the contact order and make a residency order for residency and if not set aside the current contact order for a new contact order? (or is the latter not setting aside but ammending?)
Scotdad123 - 7-Jan-20 @ 2:43 PM
Please do take your daughter to the DR.Any father have similarrights eith the mother and I am sure he would be more than capableto look afterhis daughter.Offer help and advice but do not minimise his parentalresponsibility. Communicate and raise your concernsand worries yo the dad. You will be breaching the order.Discuss it and he might be flexible.
Floppie - 6-Jan-20 @ 6:16 PM
Mother has court order where kids stay they but child doesn't want to go back home what can I do
Sie - 4-Jan-20 @ 7:26 AM
I would like to join this forum on behalf of my partner to find some solutions to issues to do with his son and his ex. Best Flo
Mychildsake - 1-Jan-20 @ 10:27 PM
She has also pleased guilty to the beaches of a non molestation order this week, with a years community order and community service as punishment.
Prawny1 - 4-Dec-19 @ 10:37 AM
Situation is different with my uncle, he has had residency of the kids for seven years so far. It is the mother causing trouble all the time, she even tried to get my uncle evicted (he lives with my gran, pensioner and the mother made false accusations saying gran had moved out to get her rent stopped and her pension) so that the kids would be homeless and she could try get them. She even tried to snatch the lad when he was very young, so uncle had to get prohibited stops order. Mother had told the little girl her dad didn't love her anymore now he has a new son, and that if it wasn't for his new partner and son they would be back together. To cause bad feelings at home.
Prawny1 - 4-Dec-19 @ 10:35 AM
@prawny1.i was barred from applyingvisitation for two years bye the courts because off (violent outbursts) towards the child mother and the police even the magistrate and my neighbour at the time Who I assaultedI was just fed up back then with everyone I felt like (joke walked on and I was at my wits end) and just started fighting everyone even family I bashed my cousins husband at the time because he wouldn’tget my (weed )because he’s wife my cousin was in labour with there first child and he missed the birth off he’s daughter because he was in the emergency department getting stitches most off my family (dropped me )after that and (gave witness statements to the police (dogs ) and I was (charged )again .i thought it was funny at the time I (didn’t care ).just another slap on the wrist and boring day at the court house and it was .didnt really start thinking about my daughter to I seen a photo off her online she grow into a (pretty young women) even heard she is straight a student .i called she doesn’t want anything to do with me which is fair enough I feel my (slate is clean) I did right thing bye calling .all the best to them I think I glad they all moved on with there life’s and if she wants to change first name or surname go ahead .
C.laurie - 3-Dec-19 @ 10:15 PM
@prawny1.i was barred from applyingvisitation for two years bye the courts because off (violent outbursts) towards the child mother and the police even the magistrate and my neighbour at the time Who I assaultedI was just fed up back then with everyone I felt like (joke walked on and I was at my wits end) and just started fighting everyone even family I bashed my cousins husband at the time because he wouldn’tget my (weed )because he’s wife my cousin was in labour with there first child and he missed the birth off he’s daughter because he was in the emergency department getting stitches most off my family (dropped me )after that and (gave witness statements to the police (dogs ) and I was (charged )again .i thought it was funny at the time I (didn’t care ).just another slap on the wrist and boring day at the court house and it was .didnt really start thinking about my daughter to I seen a photo off her online she grow into a (pretty young women) even heard she is straight a student .i called she doesn’t want anything to do with me which is fair enough I feel my (slate is clean) I did right thing bye calling .all the best to them I think I glad they all moved on with there life’s and if she wants to change first name or surname go ahead .
C.laurie - 3-Dec-19 @ 10:00 PM
My uncle has residency order for his two children his elder lad doesn't see his mother because he is tired of being bugged to move in and listening to bad comments about his dad (he is 16 now anyway), Uncle has fought the mother in court three times because of false abuse claims where the mother wanted residency, the second time she was banned for two years from applying for residency, as soon as that ban was up he had to go to court for the third time following more false abuse claims where she was banned for a further five years. (Little girl would be 16 by then) The mother has always showed favouritism to the little girl to the point the lad has never even had a bed to sleep in at mother's house but the girl has her own bedroom. (Little girl is still young enough for mother to manipulate) the mother has continually breached the order refusing to return the little girl on time, picking her up from school on days she isn't supposed to, police refused to force the return of the girl, Social services don't care about the continued emotional turmoil and instability the mother is causing, and recently we found out she has been claiming benefits for the girl for the last 18 months telling the benefits agency the girl lives with her.(she told the little girl that she had gone back to court and won) At the time that she has made the fraudulent claim she was refusing to return the girl for about a month, my uncle had to confront her at the school with his residency order and get the school to call the police. He didn't want this because the mother has continually used the school as a battleground, the police refused to go to the mother's house to get the girl back even though there was a residency order in place. My uncle only found this out after a long battle trying to get his claim reinstated which was stopped without explanation. Benefits agency are now telling him they believe the mother despite the residency order, they told him he needs court permission to show his residency order as evidence in his benefits tribuneral. When they first split up 7 years ago the mother didn't see the kids for 6 months, and threatened that uncle would never see them again if he applied for the benefits. She has only ever wanted to kids for the benefits so that she can get her rent paid and not have to work,
Prawny1 - 3-Dec-19 @ 12:43 PM
@annon.what does poorly mean ?.is child in a bad paddock or a horse ?
snuggles - 21-Nov-19 @ 5:44 AM
@annon.oh you poor thing my heart goes out to you darling .cant you read the orderoh what mean ex you have .oh my god you blokes are funny
Snuggles - 21-Nov-19 @ 5:17 AM
Please please please can you help me. There is a court order in place my ex and I agreed with switching a weekend due to my daughter do a dance show she is 3. He missed her show due to saying he was ill. This weekend she is due to be with her father but she is ill and taking her to the drs in the morning. If she doesn’t go to her father this weekend have I breached the order? I need some clarity on how the order works. From the date of the order is when the weekends start we had a gradual process as my daughter saw him in a contact centre and wasn’t right to jump straight to overnight access. She is poorly and on one hand he should have to deal with her being poorly as that is part of being a parent. But he hasn’t looked after her properly in the past and she has come back with a high temp and had to have antibiotics. Social services have recently been involved also. I’m petrified of breaching the order but isn’t the best thing is to have her the following weekend??? Please I’m desperate!!!!!!!!
Annon - 21-Nov-19 @ 3:26 AM
I have been to court and spent £15,000.00 to get to see my daughter and all was going ok for a few years. I moved to Jersey and my ex blocked all emails telephone numbers and FaceTime communications. I haven’t spoken or seen my daughter for over a year. Social services aren’t interested, her school treats me like a criminal and the only way I can do anything about it, is to go back to court which I can’t afford. I have never done anything to jeopardise the communication, the courts always found in my favour and I’m the one who is treated like the bad person. My ex is the one that ran off from our marriage a week after our daughter was born, I’m the one that waited around for 18 months because she said she was ill and the war started when I said I’m not waiting around anymore. I can carry on spending money on courts but nothing will ever improve, it might for a short period but then the process will start all over again. What are you supposed to do ?????
Jboy - 8-Nov-19 @ 6:37 PM
If the mother off my child reads this ?.you created enough wreckage in my life (stuffed up )my relationships I had with my family members.i will never talk to you again (gods truth )I see you for what you are now I am (no child anymore ).you can have your daughter and if I ever catch you at the cricket nets again or anywhere near my (house)(I will call the police gods truth I want nothing to do with you )
C.laurie - 6-Nov-19 @ 1:23 AM
@bipty.i 100 percent will (never )have anything to do with the child’s mother and truly 100 percent believe I can do that I live in a (free country ).and if this pathetic women wants to snoop around my life I will call the (police )on her for staking me (cricket nets ).if she has found new love again good for her more reason for her to stop staking me and worry about her own family .because in reality my family is my (brothers )We are not bothered about her or her children gods truth.and if her (child was raped well call the police ).get new love off life to hunt the rapist down it will create a bond between new father and daughter
C.laurie - 6-Nov-19 @ 12:24 AM
@bipty.the mother off my child finds (new love all the time) even falls in love with women .(i want nothing to do with her gods truth and I truely believe I can do that )and if she is married now I am (happy for her ).I tried to see my daughter and after the last (court appearance) was the (icing on the cake I am done ).she can have her daughter my slate is clean I am not going( jail again )over trying to my daughter.they can have the (perfect family unit )all the best to them .i would (appreciate) to be left alone now so I can live my life with my brothers .
C.laurie - 5-Nov-19 @ 9:44 PM
Looking for advice. Me and my x partner separated 9 months ago but remained living together. Recently he discovered that I have moved on and found love with another man. He has not accepted this and has taken my 3 year old daughter to West Wales 90 miles away to his parents on what i believed to be a holiday. He is telling me that I have choose my new boyfriend over my child which is untrue as I only agreed to a holiday. He wants nothing more to do with me and believe he is able to do this. I am looking for some advise as he told me today he is not returning my daughter.?
Bipty - 5-Nov-19 @ 6:03 PM
Hello, I am looking for some advice on how to move forward with my situation. My ex wife and I split over 18 months ago and I found myself going to court to gain access to my daughter, after a long, drawn out court case I was granted 6 nights per month through a court order along with alternate Christmas' starting this year. The plan that was put in place for Christmas and is listed on the court order is that I collect my daughter at 2pm and drop her off at 6pm Boxing Day. My ex is now refusing to follow the plan and has stated I can only have my daughter on the 23rd- Christmas eve dropping her off at 5pm. I have explained to my ex wife that the court order states I pick her up at 2pm on Christmas day but she has told me to contact a solicitor. After a very expensive battle to get the order put in place I am unable to do this. What steps can I take to make sure I see my daughter on Christmas day?
SGHit - 21-Oct-19 @ 12:00 PM
Good afternoon, I am looking for some advice for my brother. He was awarded residential custody of his son three years ago, the mother spent 2 years taking it back to court over 5 times for varying issues the son was interviewed several times by carcass and social services who recommended that he reside with his father. The last court hearing the judge stated the was no reason for the residential order to change, and that enough government money and time had been spent unnecessarily and the order stood for nine years and any further applications would have to go through the judge and it would only get back into court if their was safeguarding issues. Since then the mother has called the police several times raising issues of safeguarding, the police visited my brother but no action was deemed necessary. Two weeks ago his son ran away aided/coerced by someone who payed for a taxi and a train ticket to London, allowing him to travel alone. Since this time the son has claimed that his father has assaulted him 3 months ago. Bearing in mind he returned home on the Sunday night before been coerced the Monday morning. Social services say they can.’t get involved with the case as they see no safeguarding issues and it was a police matter. The mother is constantly putting of the son been video interviewed and my brother has been told that it could take up to 41 days.What can he do there have been overheard conversation where a member of the family has been heard saying this is the only way you will get to see your mum. There have been concerns from Judge and the social services during the hearings about the mother’s capability of providing an emotionally stable upbringing. I would like to say that this has been a harrowing experience for my brother and has had to battle government and police lack of knowledge/ perception that fathers do get custody these days, instead they presume the mother has and never ask but have to be told. I am sure this behaviour would not have been tolerated if it was he other way round.
Confused - 19-Oct-19 @ 4:51 PM
Hello looking for some advice I went through court for access to see my son I got through the case with me winning access and got a order in place my ex partner after a while continued to be hard work and slowly started things hard and cut the contact once again I have since then been in limbo with what to do going through court and not seeing my son put me in a bad place I suffer with mental health issues I had to get my head in the right place before thinking about going back to court please could I have some advice thank you
Tony - 13-Oct-19 @ 4:25 PM
Hi all. Can you help me. I have a arrangements order and everything was going fine. Out of the blue I got a message saying my child has written a letter to the teacher and they have told mother to stop contact and apparently social worker has too. I have no idea what it’s about. Please can someone offer me some advice. Thanks in advance.
F1Racer - 13-Oct-19 @ 8:15 AM
I have a court order in place that states my son (3) should be collected by myself on a Tuesday from school and a Saturday Yo sleep over. This Tuesday my ex breached the order by collecting him from school without my permission. I wrote to her as advised and now she has "suspended contact" for me to see him tomorrow and his sleepover. Apparently her solicitor is aware but noone but my ex has notified me. Surely a solicitor or a court would have to contact me straight away? The reason she gave was a concern for his welfare. I called child services who have no logs of concern registered because there isn't any. The police said they can't enforce a family court order. What do I do??? As far as I am Aware it's just her word against mine. Am I legally ok to go collect him as outlined in the order? Can the police enforce it. And more importantly can she just suspend contact at any point? If so what's the point in the orders
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Linda Bailey - 8-Oct-19 @ 7:48 AM
Hi, my partner applied for a child arrangement order 3 years ago, and the mother has not always complied! This year my stepson come to live with us due to being abused by the mother, and doesn’t have much contact with her nor wishes to, she also still has his daughter in her care. My question is now that his son lives with us, does the court order still apply to him? And should he still see his mum on every other weekends?
Rina - 28-Sep-19 @ 10:57 AM
Hello J.You can try to communicate with the mother in writing, to arrange the collection of the children, as stablished by the order, so that you can also use this as evidence, for the court, if she does not comply with the agreement. If an agreement is not reach and you are not allowed by the mother to collect the children, while a court agreement in place, you should notify the court of the breach of this order, as you also have parental rights.
Lucy - 20-Sep-19 @ 1:33 AM
Hello "Clem". She can't change the arrangements if stipulated by the court, or she will be in breach of the court order, what you could notify to the court. Whatever you discuss with the mother in regards to contact or any changes, I'll recommend you do so in writing, by email, so that you will have a record that can be use in court. If there is a court order in place and if changes are required as for the boys to enjoy some activities, you can get some amendments to the order, through the court, if she doesn't agree to some changes, to also accommodate the times or days that the boys expend with you. If you also like to spend some more time with your son, the court will consider and support the boy wishes. I hope it helps.
Lucy - 20-Sep-19 @ 1:00 AM
Hello "support". As you are the main career of the child and if a court order is in place you can notify the school, so that they wont allow the child to be collected by the father, if he is not allowed to do so, as per this order. If he hasn't seen his son in a year and if you disagree to allow now the contact stated in the court order for visitation every other Sat and an overnight stay, it's my suggestion to write to the court for an amendment of the court order that is active, explaining the historical after the order, what changes you request to be applied to the order and the reason, always taking as a main focus why those changes are in the best interest of the child. I hope it helps
Lucy - 20-Sep-19 @ 12:31 AM
I am supporting a parent who says.....'We have a new child arrangement order in place which states my son resides with me and he can visit his father every other Sat and can now have an overnight stay. He is not allowed to collect my son from school. On his first overnight stay his father dropped him at my parents house because he found out that I was having a night out. He breached his order and since he hasn't seen our son. A year has gone by and he is now wanting to see our son and is ringing his school where he has just started 3 weeks ago saying that he will be coming to collect him. I don't know where I stand because I don't want my son to go, he didn't want him overnight when he was allowed and he hasn't been bothered in a year. Please can you advise what I need to do ?'
support - 19-Sep-19 @ 9:45 AM
Not sure what to do. My children are 15 and 13, both boys. There is an arrangement through the court currently and has been for the last 5 years that I have my boys every other weekend and every Wednesday. I usually drop them off at a neutral venue at 7:45pm on Sunday night the weekends I have them. Things between my ex and I are very acrimonious. My eldest has now started playing fooball. I tried to find a neutral venue but my ex enlisted him at a club in her town (We live about 25miles apart). I explained that if this happen I really couldn't help with travelling to games etc. Now instead of dropping off at 7:45pm she has insisted that he is dropped off at 12pm on a Sunday (fair enough). However, to avoid an extra trip she wants my youngest son at the same time. This results in me losing 8 hours with him basically. I am unhappy with this. I have suggested that if I do this could I have him an extra day during the holidays. She will not agree. There is no compromise. She now says if I do not drop the youngest at 12 then she will stop them coming to me at a weekend. Should this happen - how will the courts react? My eldest will be 16 in a few months and I am considering applying to the courts for extra time with him as he would like this also. Any ideas what the courts view on this might be?
Clem - 17-Sep-19 @ 10:23 AM
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