Child Arrangements Orders – breaking through the deadlock

Matthew Roberts, a solicitor at Wansbroughs Solicitors in Melksham, discusses child arrangements following a separation. 

Unfortunately it is not always possible for parents to agree the care arrangements for their children following separation. In those circumstances the Court can be called upon to determine what arrangements are in the best interests of those children. These arrangements can be set out in a Child Arrangements Order specifying, amongst other things, with whom the child is to live and spend time with. 

In reality, a Child Arrangements Order will not always bring matters to a conclusion. Often one parent will be unable to accept the terms of the Order and will obstruct its implementation. This article briefly examines what options are available to parents to enforce the terms of a Child Arrangements Order and ensure that contact arrangements are not frustrated unnecessarily:- 

-Formal correspondence: Further proceedings should always be seen a last resort and if parents have been unable to resolve matters between themselves, further formal correspondence from a legal representative can still sometimes help to break the deadlock. Their role may simply be to clarify the terms of the Child Arrangements Order or set out in detail the consequences of breaching that Order; 

-Variation of existing Order: If circumstances have changed significantly since the initial Child Arrangements Order it can sometimes be helpful to seek a variation of that Order to reflect or take account of the current state of play. In extreme cases, the Court can be asked to determine whether it would be in the child’s best interests to transfer their primary residence to ensure their relationships with both parents are being promoted equally; 

-Enforcement Orders: It is possible to seek an enforcement Order requiring that a person in breach of a Child Arrangements Order carry out unpaid work. The Court must however be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a person has failed, without reasonable excuse, to comply with the existing Order; 

-Financial compensation: If a parent has suffered financial loss as the result of the other parent’s breach, it may be possible to seek compensation up to the amount of that loss; 

-Contempt of Court: A Child Arrangements Order should include a prominent warning that failure to comply will amount to Contempt of Court. Contempt of Court is punishable by a fine, sequestration of assets or imprisonment. The latter clearly being a remedy of last resort. 

When the Court is asked to determine any of the above applications, the child’s welfare will be their paramount consideration. No action will be taken unless the Court believe this to be in the best interests of the child or children in question. 

The Family Team at Wansbroughs are well equipped to advise on all private children law matters including the potential enforcement options outlined above. If you would like further information Wansbroughs Family Team offer a free 30 minute initial consultation to all new enquiries. Call 01225 896100 or 01380 733300 or email family@wansbroughs.com.

Last updated 13/11/2018