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What happens if a former partner breaches contact order arrangements

Tags: contact arrangements, visitation
Content Types: Legal
Categories: After Separation

On the Parent Connection forum we regularly receive posts from users asking what they should do when their former partner breaches contact arrangement rules.

In some cases, users have found that the other parent won’t cooperate and is late or doesn’t show up.

But, of course, every case is different and the circumstances that lead a parent to breach contact arrangements changes from person to person.

Here, Charlotte Sherborne, an Associate at Hugh James solicitors who specialises in family law, explains what happens if a former partner breaches contact order arrangements:

‘One of the most difficult parts of separation for parents is agreeing on contact arrangements for the children.

If an amicable arrangement can’t be achieved, many parents can then choose to go through mediation, or as a last resort, issue Children Act proceedings to ask a court to decide what should happen. Sadly though, for some parents this is not the end of the story.

Having obtained a court order, many parents find their former partner breaches the order leaving them once again being denied contact with their children.

What can you do if a court order is breached?

‘If there are regular and intentional breaches of an order by a former partner then it may be necessary to bring the matter back to court and to bring enforcement proceedings. However this should be seen as a last resort as it only causes more friction and expense.

Depending on the case and the nature of the breaches involved, the court has the power to order community service, a fine, and in cases of the most serious and repeated breaches, a court can have the power to issue a prison sentence, although this is very rare indeed as often the parent breaching the order is also the children’s primary carer’.

So what is the best approach to take?

‘Try to sort things out amicably, get a proper understanding of your rights, manage your expectations and constantly review your child’s circumstances,’ advises Charlotte. ‘This will result in the least amount of conflict. It also gives you the flexibility and goodwill that is very hard to achieve if you go through the court process.’

Charlotte qualified as a solicitor in 2003. Throughout her career Charlotte has worked and practised law in London, most recently at the leading niche firm Family Law in Partnership LLP. She now works at Hugh James where she specialises in Family Law, Divorce and separation, Pre-nuptials and living together.

  This was of help to 50% of people  


  • Pc Jamie Flag

    Hi stephuk , that's a tough one not only for the adults but the child and yes its hard to order a parent to turn up. please post on the forum under a new thread as others may have ideas

    Tue 3, Mar 2015 at 10:27pm
  • User-anonymous StephUK Flag


    I got a slightly different issue... My new partners got an arrangement with her ex that he is supposed to see (take) the children every other Saturday 9am-6pm but tend to not turn up, cancel last minute or pretext it is too rainy so can only see them 2-5, etc... can we enforce his part of the arrangement or are we condemned not to be able to plan anything and see if/when he turns up???

    It seems that the access to children part of the agreement is more easily enforceable than the other...


    Mon 2, Mar 2015 at 8:11pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    To anonymous on 16th Feb. My heart goes out to you...that is a really tough situation in which to find yourself. Let's hope it is short term and that your lawyer will help you get a sensible and fair outcome. In the meantime I can imagine how hard it is to be stuck in the middle...I hope your partner understands and is supportive of you as you try to manage the situation in the best interests of your two children...tough as it is if you both manage to keep this as your priority and are supportive of one another you will get through it...albeit with a lot of pain on the way.

    Fri 20, Feb 2015 at 2:56pm
  • User-anonymous Joannelouise Flag

    Since my ex has stopped me from having contact with my son, he has now contacted me saying I can have visitation for just 1 day over the weekend but without my partner present. He has stated that my partner is violent and that my son has told him this. I know he's lying but as I'm unable to speak to my son, I cannot find out what has actually been said if anything at all. As we have joint custody, can my ex demand that my partner not be around? I have a 2 year old with my partner who I have been with 6 years. Therefore because of what my ex is saying, I will have to deprive my youngest from spending time with his father all the time I have my eldest, or my eldest doesn't spend time with his brother!!! Help.

    Mon 16, Feb 2015 at 1:55pm
  • Pc jaybee (moderator) Flag

    To: Anon on 14 Feb
    Sorry that your ex is making it difficult for you to see your child. Thank goodness you've got legal representation to help you through the court process. I would hope the question of mediation will come up again and maybe your ex will agree to take part this time.
    But sounds like, right now, you need support rather than advice (that's what your lawyer if for). How about putting something on the forum and maybe getting some feed back from other people in similar situations?
    Good luck anyway?

    Sat 14, Feb 2015 at 4:43pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    A court order was put in place for shared residency 6 years ago. For the last 6 weeks my ex has refused to let me have contact with my eldest son. He won't let me see him or answer the phone so I can talk to him. He states it is because my son said my partner hit me and he saw it. This is not true. My son had not said anything to me. I have sought legal advice and have to go back to court. My ex has offered me a visitation visit for 1 day as long as my partner of 6 years and father to my other child is not around. He has not done anything else and as the accusations about my partner are not true I do not see how he can make such demands. Can he do this? I have been to mediation but my ex refused to attend. He also changed my sons school without me knowing. I know he can't do this either but I'm getting desperate as I wait for court.

    Sat 14, Feb 2015 at 7:41am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Hi mothers forever, you must have gone through the court procedure the day after you posted here. I wonder what the outcome was and whether the way forward is any clearer. You say you are both fighting for full custody and you are probably aware that that is an unlikely outcome since a child's best interests are usually served by having a good relationship with both parents. Why would that not be the case for your child? Tough as it is, if you keep your child as the focus you are more likely to reach a decision you can both accommodate....or am I being too simplistic?

    Fri 6, Feb 2015 at 2:52pm
  • User-anonymous mothersforever Flag

    Hi NEED HELP ASAP broken family court order . ? Me and my partner are both after full custerdy and the courts placed a order that my 11 mounts child should stay with the father 5 days and I have him weekends until the next court hearing . Things went well at first but not my ex partner has been verblely abusive to me to the point I refused to return him as the court order says I should . He sent police out but they did nothing and now the courts have ordered I go to court tomorrow morning for breaking the order . I realize breaking the order was not a good idea but feel I could not take the abuse from him . Now I'm very worried what the courts will do I don't want to loose the weekends I have with my son . My ex has ALLSO asked for a prohibited steps order . What will happen ? Please help . Thank you

    Tue 3, Feb 2015 at 1:57pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Your situation is very difficult but not uncommon...why not post on the forum where you are likely to get more responses. My first thought about what you say is that if he is threatening to go back to court, he may agree to mediation...this would help you have conversations about how you might co parent without the awful build up of tension and fear. You are going to have to change and adapt in any case as the children grow older and their needs change. The following article (also mentioned above) might help you begin to think of changes that might benefit the children. A mediator will then help you both agree and implement the changes that make sense.

    Fri 30, Jan 2015 at 5:25pm
  • User-anonymous Sjt77 Flag

    My ex took me to court as he felt he didnt see the children. He works shifts and the pattern is not the same it changes week to week and is days/nights and late turns. The judge agreed with me and a court order written up. My ex has continuolsy wanted to change the order even though he was the one that took me to court (which backfired on him) we have followed the court order with him saying he wants extra, goes past the times he was given but still moans about it all the time. Now because he wanted an extra weekend which is my weekend I said we were busy it's my weekend I'm entitled to plan something as we had planned something he is threatening court action again as he says he doesn't see the children he feels he lacks seeing the children? He does see them all the time and he sees them whenever he has his shift off at weekends and then I arrange for children to see him in the week if he is off and speak to them regularly throughout the week. So when he is off he generally sees the children all the other times he is at work. He also has 4 weeks in the various school holidays to have the,.It is just when he doesn't get what he wants he starts bullying tactics and threatening with court so I change my mind and let him have extra when in theory I would miss out on spending time with my children. I want to know can he still threaten me with this bullying tactic of court again as it is he who breaches the court order not me and I can prove he has above and beyond what is written out of our good will and for the children. Please help I have no money left it cost £10000 for our divorce and luckily my mum helped with this and bought him out of the house but he still continues to introud into my life not for the children but for his own selfish reasons.

    Thu 29, Jan 2015 at 2:34pm
  • Pc Jamie Flag

    hi Maaa and Jeyham1. can I suggest you put your posts on the forum as more people will see them so you can get a response

    Mon 19, Jan 2015 at 7:39pm
  • User-anonymous Jayhem1 Flag

    Hi, I need advice what to do,I have just finished my 6 sessions at a contact centre (2 hours every 2 weeks),on this last occasion my daughter was clingy to mum and mum refused to leave due to my child(2 year old) being unsettled.On previous occasions mum had sneaked off whilst my daughter was occupied and after realising mum has gone my daughter soon settled.My concern now is that if my daughter knows mum won't leave she will now play up every time I'm due for my contact .Mum is adamant she will not leave until she is settled and she has said until settled she ain't leaving.The next time my court order states that I get 2 hours in the community unsupervised and I'm pretty certain that mum won't leave and it will be me stuck with mum clinging with my daughter for my whole duration of my contact.The court order states it is my time unsupervised,but I feel mum thinks she has the power to deny me from my time with my daughter.I understand kids do get upset with change and not wanting to leave their mother but they need to get used to it,and I have had the same problem when dropping my partners kids off to preschool ,there was tears at first and it was hard but they are used to it now!i don't know what to do if mum won't let me have my time with my daughter again next time,how can I form my bond with my child if mum won't adhere to the court order and refuses to leave?Any advice would be greatly appreciated,thanks

    Mon 19, Jan 2015 at 11:15am
  • User-anonymous Maaa Flag

    I have been through courts(a waste of time)now the contact has bee placed in community for 4 hours and before it supervised.I took my 2 year old daughter for the contact in community where the handing over point is a station.i felt like we can communicate and also felt like these court proceedings create more negative assumptions and barrier between a couple and the legal language is so heartbreaking.i believe the emotional side of life should be sorted out by a mediater.i also would like to ask my husband that whether can we still stay as husband and wife till the divorce is not finalised but, the court has ordered to use text only and should only be regarding contact.I am also scared that if I say anything like that ,he might not be having the same feelings and might show it to court. Actually I am doing all that for my daughter as my son has been brought up without a father and I want my daughter to feel the secure arms of her father. I also want him to understand no matter what he would be allowed for every other weekend and if we get together he will have access to his daughter at anytime. I don't want to live with him in his house as his children from previous marriage doesn't like me and I don't want to go back in their premises but,my partner is not able to think that his children are grown up its only who will suffer is our 2 year old.once we are divorced so I wouldn't be able to call him in my house or be with him more than a limit as my religion doesn't allows to do so.How can I convey my feelings to him?

    Sat 17, Jan 2015 at 7:46pm
  • Pc Bern Flag

    Hi jordyremzv, from what you say, this situation has arisen because you haven't got an agreement about how your daughter gets back to her mum's. presumably once this is sorted the contact can start again? It must be confusing for your daughter not seeing you. . I suggest t hat you give mediation a try if you can't work this out between you. It will be better than going back to court.
    Why don't you post on the Forum as you'll get more replies?

    Sun 9, Mar 2014 at 5:06pm
  • User-anonymous jordyremz Flag

    I need help!!! i have a court order in place that states my ex should make our daughter available for contact every other friday @ 5:30, 2 contact weekends running she has now refused contact. for 3 years whilst going through court, i would collect on a friday from their house and they would collect on a sunday from mine. since court has finished my ex has moved th goal posts, now she wants me to collect and drop off, i cant afford the fuel costs as i am student, but as i have tried to explain this to her she refused me contact as she thinks i am refusing to return our daughter. she has breached the courts order twice and police have said it isnt a police matter, i dont know where else to turn.

    Fri 7, Mar 2014 at 9:45pm
  • User-anonymous jordyremz Flag

    I need help!!! i have a court order in place that states my ex should make our daughter available for contact every other friday @ 5:30, 2 contact weekends running she has now refused contact. for 3 years whilst going through court, i would collect on a friday from their house and they would collect on a sunday from mine. since court has finished my ex has moved th goal posts, now she wants me to collect and drop off, i cant afford the fuel costs as i am student, but as i have tried to explain this to her she refused me contact as she thinks i am refusing to return our daughter. she has breached the courts order twice and police have said it isnt a police matter, i dont know where else to turn.

    Fri 7, Mar 2014 at 9:45pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    You sound so very worried. Is there any chance of him going to see a mediator with you? As the article above says you can apply to court to get the contact order changed. ..see You obviously have your daughters wellbeing as your priority...which is a very powerful argument in your favour.

    Fri 14, Feb 2014 at 3:52pm
  • User-anonymous beckytomp Flag

    I need some help. my daughter sees her father every other weekend. there is a court order in place and it says that he is to take my daughter to his parents, but he isn't he is taking her round strange womens houses and staying the night, he will not tell me where he is going with her and can get quite verbally abusive. we are also almost 100% certain that he is doing drugs, now whether or not he is doing them with my daughter about I cannot be certain. the court order has been in place for 4 yrs, and my daughter is almost 5 although she is going on 10. she has told me that she doesn't like going to these womens houses, ive tried talking to her father about this but he just shouts and threatens me. now my daughter is saying she doesn't want to go , ive also tried telling him this and all I get is " if she doesn't come with me your in breech of the court order, your gonna go to prison and im going to get custudy." he scares me but I do not want to force my daughter. help please what should I do

    Wed 12, Feb 2014 at 10:50am
  • Pc Bern Flag

    Why don't you post your details on the Forum? You'll get more feedback and support from the community.

    Mon 10, Feb 2014 at 10:33am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Sounds a nightmare. Are you saying that because of the times she's booked out, you won't be able to have the children in the summer holidays?

    Mon 10, Feb 2014 at 9:51am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Can someone please help!! My partner and i tried for 2 years to sort out contact with his children after lots of let down and cancelled dates she did the unthinkable and moved house and the children's schools without even letting him know, we had no other option but to hire a solicitor we attended mediation and things got better for 2 weeks but then she stopped contact without warning we attended more mediation with no resolve i had to have CRB checks done on myself which i had no problem with (Dad is a teacher so he already has one) after many days in court over 10 months the order was made for him to have the children alternate weekends, 1 week at Easter, 2 weeks in 6 weeks holidays ,1 week at Christmas, half February holidays and half October holidays, total of around 65 nights a year the order was only made in September 2013 and now she has booked holidays for the Easter and 6 weeks holidays so we will be loosing over 18 nights already before we even get to the October holidays, my partner has no problem with them taking holidays but she has only booked them on the weeks that are set out in the court order, we have asked her a week ago to to add on Friday nights to our weekends so she can make up the nights but she said no she has plans for the rest of the year, we have also asked her to attend mediation as to try and sort this out without dragging it back to court but she is refusing and her attitude today on collecting the children was there is nothing you can do about it, plus we have to endure all nasty things said to us by her and her mother and we just smile so the kids don't see anything is wrong , she tries to stop contact most weekends by faking illness of the children she told my partner his son had been rushed to hospital when he rang the hospital they knew nothing about it (she has done this around half a dozen times) things are just going from bad to worse and we are not sure what to do next. Any suggestions are welcome as we are at breaking point, its heartbreaking watching the children leave not know if we are ever going to see them again. please help

    Sun 9, Feb 2014 at 8:36pm
  • Pc jaybee (moderator) Flag

    Hi Smudge05,
    The quick answer to your question is that the court makes orders to try and make sure children have good, safe relationships with both parents. So, it's up to Mum and Dad to make them work if they want what's best for their kids. I think your question is a really good one to post on our Forum.(See list on left hand side of this page). Try putting a post on there as you may get more advice and ideas that way.

    Thu 23, Jan 2014 at 10:14am
  • User-anonymous Smudge05 Flag

    My ex took me to court, to control me, i was giving a lot of contact to my sons father but my Rex's took me to court, the judge order less contact to him , we are now on our 5 court hearing, due to my ex'a not being happy with the court order, my son crys when goes to his fathers and shout stay with mummy please, this is very heart breaking,
    My ex'a has missed 13 week day contact visits but still taking it back to course, he said I will be in trouble not him ,
    Please help as is the court order just for the mother or for both of us,

    Wed 22, Jan 2014 at 2:40pm
  • Dandelion_pic elli Flag

    Yes, you can return to mediation at any time, as long as both of you are willing

    Wed 18, Dec 2013 at 9:36am
  • Pc Bern Flag

    Going to mediation is an excellent idea. You clearly need to sort things out if the arrangements aren't working. It's fairly common for agreements to need reviewing regularly and if talking face to face is difficult a mediator can make sure the conversation stays calm and focused on your kids. This article might be interesting to you

    Thu 12, Dec 2013 at 5:18pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    My court order was done about 18 months ago. Things aren't working out and I have missed out on seeing my kids lots of times because she takes them away or is doing other things with them. I don't mind the kids doing other things but it's happening more and more. Can we go back to mediation again, even though it hasn't worked out, because we can't talk to each other face to face?

    Sat 7, Dec 2013 at 3:25pm