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Breach of Contact or Residence Order: What to Do

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 12 Oct 2023 | 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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Gav - 17-Apr-22 @ 11:42 PM
Hi I'm wondering if anyone has been in a similar situation and could advise me in anyway possible. Last September I agreed for my children to stay with their dad's as my house was unsafe and not secure enough to safeguard them. It wasn't police protection although police were called but a voluntary agreement for 24 hours untill plans to rectify the home were secured. However this spiraled out of control within hours and was told they wasn't allowed to come home and were subjected to an initial child protection conference meeting the same week. I have 4 children the 2 oldest were cin plan and remained with there dad's (separately) youngest 2 were child protection and with their dad (together) for 3 months I got them back on the 17th December after 3 months. My daughter is old enough to make decisions she's almost 18 and decided to remain with her dad. My son wasn't there the day in question he was already with his dad for his contact. There is a residence order with my son in favour of myself back in 2012. His dad will not let him see me nor any contact and it's been 10 months to long. I would be very grateful in some advice in how I go about getting him back and the steps in action needed to take the proper way. His dad is an alcoholic and when we were in a relationship the domestic violence involved was horrendous hence the court order. He is manipulating, sly and and a cruel liar that never is at fault for anything. I'd Greatly appreciate a response regards kes
Kes - 13-Jun-21 @ 5:58 PM
Hi I'm wondering if anyone has been in a similar situation and could advise me in anyway possible. Last September I agreed for my children to stay with their dad's as my house was unsafe and not secure enough to safeguard them. It wasn't police protection although police were called but a voluntary agreement for 24 hours untill plans to rectify the home were secured. However this spiraled out of control within hours and was told they wasn't allowed to come home and were subjected to an initial child protection conference meeting the same week. I have 4 children the 2 oldest were cin plan and remained with there dad's (separately) youngest 2 were child protection and with their dad (together) for 3 months I got them back on the 17th December after 3 months. My daughter is old enough to make decisions she's almost 18 and decided to remain with her dad. My son wasn't there the day in question he was already with his dad for his contact. There is a residence order with my son in favour of myself back in 2012. His dad will not let him see me nor any contact and it's been 10 months to long. I would be very grateful in some advice in how I go about getting him back and the steps in action needed to take the proper way. His dad is an alcoholic and when we were in a relationship the domestic violence involved was horrendous hence the court order. He is manipulating, sly and and a cruel liar that never is at fault for anything. I'd Greatly appreciate a response regards kes
Kes - 13-Jun-21 @ 5:57 PM
This article is the theory, not the reality. The UK family courts DO NOT ENFORCE NRP FATHER'S CONTACT ORDERS. See the statistics. Contact Orders are an illusion. UK family courts exist to enable mothers to legally kidnap children if they so wish. Don't waste your time.
Father - 9-Mar-21 @ 2:10 PM
My partner gained more access to his child in November 2020. The parent between them have to slip the summer holidays. If it is 5 weeks the child is to be with the father for 2 weeks if it is 6 weeks the child is to be with the father for 3 weeks. The order states this. Now the mother is saying that it applies to full weeks (Sunday to Sunday) so summer holidays are 5 weeks. This isn’t in the order. She has refused to see it is a 6 week holiday. When does he take it back to court? Now as he has written proof that she will only allow 2 weeks or when it has been breached?
Marge - 1-Mar-21 @ 7:44 PM
I have a court order that states i have my daughter every week at my mums saturday over night to sunday and wednesday to thursday and drop her at nursery. Now shes started school and my ex has stopped me having her over night i get her for 2 hours on the wednesday now which means shes breaching the court order. My lawyer i never hear from and it sounds to me like the courts are not interested. She seems to be able to do what she wants and get away with it. Iv breached it a couple times but in my daughters best interest but im straight up court. What do i need to do i really cant bare it anymore my mental health has plunged significantly. I just dont know what to do anymore.
Andy - 12-Dec-20 @ 9:07 PM
My son went to live with his dad when he was 3 (his dad still lived at home with his mother) so technically my son moved to is grandmas house and a residency order was put in place to state where my son would live. My ex partner has since moved in with his GF and my son now lives there, I have no issue with this but my son has told me he wants to come back and live with me so I spoke to his dad about it and he has started being abusive saying "it can go through court etc" and telling my son "i will miss you i dont want you to go" so he's manipulating him and hes 11 yrs old. Now the issue I have is if he's saying i need to go to court, hes already breaching a residency order anyway? Not sure what to do to be honest can anyone advise? Thanks
Ell211 - 15-Oct-20 @ 10:47 AM
Hi I am from scotland. My Ex don't send my daughter whenever she feel. We have a Agreed solicitor letter about weekend visit but most of the time she donot send my daughter. I understand in England and wales you can represent yourself and fill C100 to get visit right. How I can do something similar at scotland to get a court order. I cannot find anything in scottish court website how to fill such a form or even possibility to represnt myself. My solicitor running the Seperation agreement for 1 year and costed me £3k. For Child contact court order she is asking deposit of £3k, which i didn't have.
Dan - 12-Oct-20 @ 5:00 PM
I have a court order that I speak to my 14 year old daughter on a Saturday then I pick her up the following saturday, then phone call,etc. Contact has been up and down it goes good for a short while then goes really bad again. Now my daughter is getting older I would lat least like to see her and take her out for a couple of hours every other week. My ex has always made it as hard as possible for me to have any kind of contact with my daughter since I applied for a contact order in 2012 and had to get another contact order in 2016. Now my daughter says she don't want to see me again and when I do get to speak to her on the phone my ex is always in the back ground making phone calls very hard for contact. Just would like a bit of advice if anybody can give me if because of my daughter's and her wishes that she don't want contact will that mean I will never see her again.
Biff - 21-Sep-20 @ 6:45 AM
My ex girlfriend not letting me see my daughter cuz I called the social servicesbecause she's leaving my daughter in the carseat and leaving her for hours while. Y daughter crys till she becomes sick and could not breath so now I'm taking her to court to get to see my daughter for 2 days a week Friday till Sunday but my ex is saying she will tell the court I have to pay child support and I'm not working at the moment cuz of my disabilitydo I still have to pay child support if I'm not working and I'm disabled I just want to know if the court will say pay child support thank you
Musta - 29-Aug-20 @ 3:37 PM
Hiya All. I have 3 children with my ex husband and another child by another father who sadly passed away. Since then I became very ill and depressed. I was a single mother with my 4 beautiful children who I love so very much and was working full time. I self sufficently contacted Social Services as advised from my docter for help finacially, housing etc as advised by my GP. I have no friends or family support. Nobody had concerns about my parenting and I love my children so much. My Ex husband spoke to S.Services and explained that I am a bad mother and really stuck a knife in and caused parent divide and parent alienation beween the children and myself. I could go on for ever but to cut to the chase a Child Arrangments Order by the court was placed and in November 2019 he phoned to tell me I could not see the children anymore. I have secured a court date very soon to fight the case that he has breached court order, I want to see my kids. Anyone encounted this. help please
AnnaB - 30-Jul-20 @ 2:58 PM
I have contact with my three children every other weekend which I wasn't happy agreeing with but deemed it to be the best for the kids so they got quality time with both me and their mum as after school doesn't allow a lot of time for them to do much! Even with this is place their mother is always late dropping them off and always late picking them up! This varies from 10-30 minutes. The pickup side had a knock on effect with my work which means I'm late. I also have them for 2 lots of 1 week in the school holidays, as per the court order they drop off in the evening and pick up is in the morning. We come to collection this morning and as I write this (9am)their mother is nowhere to be seen (not that I'm moaning about seeing my kids for longer, however my kids are excited to see their mum) I'm not sure what I should do with this!
DJMarshall - 24-Jul-20 @ 8:59 AM
I have a court order in place which states the mother must make sure that the children spend time with me every other Saturday between 9.00 and 16.00 and one call a week. The mother is saying my oldest child doesn’t want to see me and have not seen him since the court order was introduced. Is she right that if he doesn’t want to come then I have no rights? She has also said that she has booked to go away on my weekend I have them and has told me I have to deal with this? Shouldn’t she have to ask permission?
Hobbs - 17-Jul-20 @ 8:06 PM
Due to domestic violence my ex got one call a week ( which I abide by ) and when contact centre opens he’s allowed a visit every 2 weeks until she’s comfortable enough with him for him to take her out on his own ... because I won’t allow him to my house he’s said he’s taking me back to court for an enforcement order ... but as far as I’m aware I’m abiding by what the court order stated ... it goes from love songs to insults and abuse and since that’s not worked he now wants a dna test ...( which I’m ok with although a little insulted ) our daughter is nearly 5 and apparently someone in a pub told him she’s not his ... a part of me .., a large part wishes he wasn’t the dad as it’s been years of abuse regardless of us being apart for nearly 3 years ...who can help and understand my situation
Lute - 16-Jul-20 @ 10:19 PM
hi my ex wife had an affair and took the children. I had to jump through hoops and eventually went to gourd for a court order. We have been back two other times when I've had to file for an enforcement order. Both times her solicitor used this to vary the order to reduce contact by having things such as (on my available time) written in and highlighting on the order available time is days off, of on leave. Thus I can not take the children to school at 9 am if I am due to start work at 9 pm that day. And I cant skype call in the evening if I finished work at lunchtime etc. She would not allow contact for the first 12 weeks of covid lockdown even though the government allowed it but I was even told it would be difficult to take to court and the delays were near a month long. I now see the children on negotiated weekends (not the court order as she feels its better for the children's home schooling). My issue now is I have a holiday to france booked (driving and staying in a mill just for our family bubble). In the beginning of August. She is saying she is not happy for them to go even though I have answered all questions and said how we would follow all guidance. Its all paid for, can't get money back and kids want to go. Is there something I can do or rush through a judge in time (as long delays in court process) for this one issue in time for us to go?
g - 12-Jul-20 @ 4:01 PM
@henbury.after my very (long hard think) .and that I have come to the conclusion that I am (officially done) .i don’t care what the child does she can change her name go for it go under your mothers or father name whatever.(but they must realise in my heart and mind now that I am done I have reached the point now) .so even if the child has a change of heart and wants to meet me when she is older I wont a bar of it because( I cried all my tears and mourned Loss of my daughter and I have buried you now the same as I did my father and I will never speak her name again ) or ever post in blogs like this for the rest of my life) .from now on it’s just me I never had a child .goodbye forever god bless .
C.laurie - 26-May-20 @ 11:33 PM
@henbury.with my long hard think I realised with the (child’s age )if she wanted to meet me or even to talk to me so would call but she doesn’t .that my brother( speaks volumes to me ) .and realised its best to give up and focus on my life .in reality the child wouldn’t care if I was (dead because there is zero emotional attachment )why even bother worrying or wanting to meet someone who doesn’t even want to meet you and with the age of the (child )I can’t (justify )getting a solicitor or bother with courts it’s just not worth it to me .(you will come to a point where you are done and once there and made that decision you feel better and you stop thinking about the whole situation and just get on with your life .
C.laurie - 26-May-20 @ 6:06 PM
@henbury.i myself have a daughter that I am not allowed to see from orders her mother .the child is 16 now so I am done for good now .i feel it’s best I myself have sat bye myself and had a (super long hard think) .and realised the child is 16 right she has (zero emotional attachment to me )because she doesn’t even know me .why put myself though all theses (court cases) right to get one phone call a week And be treated like a prisoner and most likely she wouldn’t even pick up the phone .i am not a smart men but I know when to cash in my chips .and after my long hard think her mother and step father can have her I am done .
C.laurie - 26-May-20 @ 5:39 PM
@henbury.how old are your kids ?.if it was me and I went to court 5 times and if your child is 16 and over and have there own phones and still dont call you or want anything to do with you I would just drop it leave it and get on with your life .sounds like the mother won’t ever budge and the kids don’t want to no you .you need to sit down bye yourself and have a long think on weather it’s worth going back to court or just let them get on with it .
C.laurie - 26-May-20 @ 5:09 PM
My kids mum took out a restraining order against me so contact is so hard to deal with, I have an access orderin it I'm entitled to 1 phone call per week for 5 mins, I have to provide a mobile phone for this, in 4 years 11 mobiles have been provided all have been broken and calls missed, regularly they claim the phone isn't working and I don't get a call, the kids no whave there own mobiles that their mum got for them but she won't let me have the kids phone numbers or the kids to have mine, I can't afford to keep supplying phones is this enough to put in a C79 we have been to court 5 times in 5 years, I really don't want to do it again but she refuses to budge at all
Henbury - 26-May-20 @ 1:31 PM
@mum.get over yourself do as a favour reread your post ?.all I smell desperate vindictive women .you women are all the same .same as that sam bournes and they wonder why I never bothered with a (court order) and why I was( abusive I wanted rid of her for good and the same with her children ).now I can spend the rest of my life in peace away from (cheating ugly old women) and her offspring.why in the hell would someone demand contact under these circumstances??. .
C.laurie - 26-May-20 @ 12:18 AM
Court order already in place! Just before lock down the father of my child didn't turn up for contact, I texted and he didn't respond, 2 weeks later the same thing happened with no notification from him! The day after the second occasion he messaged to say he won't be seeing our son anyone because of the pandemic!he rang our son twice In 12 weeks, our son has only just turned 2 so it's a long time without any contact!Last weekend be collected our son for the first time in 12 weeks even though the situation hasn't really changed with covid, he then said be doesn't want our son on a Wednesday any more even though it's in the order! He believed the court order is on me and that if he wants to sacrifice his time with our son then I need to deal with it! This is a person who demanded every weekend and every Wednesday for contact, I'm sick of him dropping our son when it suits him and am considering stopping contact and contacting the courts! He was abusive in our relationship and no he is using our son to keep the control!!
Mum - 25-May-20 @ 10:37 PM
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