Breach of a child arrangement order; don’t get mad, get in touch
When parents separate, many obtain a child arrangement order from the courts.
This lays out where and whom the children live with, and how the non-resident parent can communicate and have contact with their children.
Technically, this order will be breached if any conditions of the agreed levels of contact have been broken. For example, if one parent is given contact from 6pm on a Thursday, the other parent dropping the child off at 6.05pm is technically a breach. However, a court certainly wouldn’t take action on such a minor breach, as the court would recognise that a busy family life doesn’t always run to time.
Breaches through change in circumstances
More problems arise when major breaches occur through more major changes in circumstances. The child arrangement order assumes everything will continue the same, but of course life isn’t like that. The order will probably need to be reviewed in the light of changes in a parent’s life, whether a new job, a new home, or a new partner.
You and your ex can agree suitable changes to your order between you, and the court doesn’t need to approve them. You both should put the agreed changes in writing to protect yourselves against any later disagreements or uncertainty. (At LGFL, we can help with writing this to ensure it is legally binding - just call us for details.)
Serious breaches of child arrangement orders
More serious breaches can occur when communication or already-strained relations break down. The court will only deal with breaches that are both regular and intentional, and sadly it’s these kind of cases that we see all too often on our visits to courtrooms. AT LGFL, we believe that with early communication, parents can resolve the issues and reach agreement without the need for court intervention.
My ex is in breach of our child arrangement order
What should you do if your ex is breaching the order? First of all, try and discuss it with them. It may be a little difficult, but it’s the most direct and certainly the cheapest option at this stage.
If that proves difficult, instruct us to write them a letter. AT LGFL, we can write letters on your behalf expressing your concerns and suggesting a solution. Written in a clear, non-antagonist tone, our ‘official’ letters can take the heat and emotion out of the situation, and help you both focus on what’s really at stake; your children’s happiness. Our letters are particularly effective in making child care arrangements for school holidays well in advance, so everyone is clear who lives where, when, and pre-booked family holidays don’t clash.
Try to resolve problems before going to court
Sadly, some parents will still need to go to court if their other partner won’t talk or respond to a written letter. One of the very good reasons for trying to resolve the matter before court is that the court will want to see that you have tried to resolve it before yourselves. If the court rules that a breach has been made, they can impose a community service order of up to 200 hours, impose a fine, order one parent to pay the other financial compensation (say, for a cancelled holiday), and even impose a short prison sentence.
Child arrangement order breach myth-busting
Q. I’ve been made redundant and can’t pay child support at the moment. My ex is saying I cannot see the children until I pay. Is this right?
A. No. Any changes to a child arrangement order must be agreed by both parties or ordered by the court. In this case, a letter from us stating your case may alleviate the issue, and stop your ex going to court to resolve this. An inability to pay maintenance does not preclude you from being able to see your children.
Q. I have a new partner and my ex says that the kids should not meet them, and to keep their visits separate. Can they insist on this?
A. This matter is open for discussion between you and your ex as to how you might introduce a new partner in a way most suitable for your children. However, in court, it’s more straightforward. The court will not impose a restriction unless your new partner can be shown to be a risk to the children, for example if they have a conviction for violence or for sex offences. The court will expect you to prioritise the children and a staged introduction to a new partner is usually best.
Q. My ex has signed my son up for drama classes on one of my regular contact evenings, so he arrives an hour later than on the order. Is the ex in breach?
A. Technically, yes, BUT (and it’s a big but), did your son want to join the group? Does he enjoy it? The court will always consider the needs of the children as the most important. So if it’s something your son wants to do and enjoys, the best course of action would be to talk to your ex and arrange another night where your son can come for the fully allotted time. Alternatively, you can take and collect them from the activity and be fully involved in this aspect of your child’s life.
Q. My question isn’t here!
A. Call us to book a free 30-minute consultation (if you live in a 50 mile radius from our offices in Eversley, Hampshire), and we’ll talk through your specific circumstances and requirements.