My ex is failing to keep to the terms of a child access order - what can I do?


Child custody and Access Orders

What is a child access order?

A child access order or ‘contact order’ is an order from the court which sets when you can see your child. A contact order will normally last until your child is 16 - however, you can ask for the order to be varied by the court if circumstances or your child’s needs change.

Since 8th December 2008, all contact orders have a warning notice attached to them setting out the consequences of failing to comply with the order. Any contact orders that have been amended since this date will also have a warning notice.

What can I do if my ex-partner is not keeping to the terms of a contact order?

If for some reason you believe that you are being hindered from seeing your child and the court order is being breached unreasonably there are a few things you can do:
  • Talk to the other person who has custody of the child. It may seem like a long shot but they too want what is in the best interests of your child, especially if your child is becoming stressed because of your absence.
  • A letter from your solicitor reminding them of their obligations under the contact order may give them the nudge they need to put the plan back in place.
  • An application to the court to force them to comply. If they do not comply, they will have to heed the consequences of the court.

How can I obtain an Enforcement Order?

If the court agrees that the contact order has been breached and your ex-partner does not have a satisfactory excuse, then they will issue an enforcement order.

An enforcement order requires the person in breach to carry out anywhere between 40 to 200 hours of unpaid work monitored by the probation service. Furthermore, if the breach has led to a financial loss, like a missed family holiday or some other memorable expensive event, an application can be made to the court for financial compensation.

Along with the enforcement order the court also has the power to impose a fine, enforce a prison sentence or a suspended sentence or transfer the residence of the child to the other party. The last two conditions are however very rare.

Going to court should never be the first option in situations where children are involved as it can create more hostility between the parties. However, if you feel there is no other way to protect your child’s right to see you then this may be your only option.

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