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'My ex-partner won't let me see my child despite there being a Court Order - What can I do?

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What can I do?

A Child Arrangements Orders can be useful when used to regulate arrangements in relation to a child, where parents cannot agree. It can order where the child lives, which can be with one or both parents (including both an equal split, or a variation of set days), or with which parent the child spends time with. This can provide stability for parents, as well as the child, and this approach can prevent disputes between parents to help ensure that the child’s welfare remains the paramount consideration of the Court.

However, if one parent regularly breaches the terms of the Order and you find yourself in a position where your former partner is not following the terms of the Child Arrangements Order, you may be able to make an application to the Court to vary or enforce the Order.

In order for something to be considered a ‘breach’ of the Child Arrangements Order, the Court will need to be convinced ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that there has been non-compliance of the Order which is substantial. The Court will also need to be satisfied that your ex-partner did not have a ‘reasonable excuse’ as to why they failed to comply with the Order. If your ex-partner seeks to raise this excuse, they will have to prove this on the ‘balance of probabilities’ and if the Court is satisfied that they had a reasonable excuse, they may decline to make an Order.

If it can be proven to the Court, ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, that your ex-partner has failed to comply with the terms of a Child Arrangements Order, the Court has a wide-range of powers available to them, which include:

  • Varying the Child Arrangements Order;
  • Ordering an Enforcement Order against your ex-partner (which can require your ex-partner to complete unpaid work);
  • An Order for your ex-partner to pay compensation (financial loss Order);
  • Ordering your ex-partner to attend a SPIP (Separated Parents Information Programme) or ordering both parties to attend mediation;
  • Ordering your ex-partner to pay a fine;
  • and, in the most serious of cases, imposing a prison sentence on your ex-partner.

The Court will always consider the welfare of the child(ren) to be the most important and must be satisfied that the Order is necessary to ensure compliance and that the likely effect on your ex- partner is proportionate to the seriousness of the breach.

It is possible to apply to the Court for a specific Order, where your ex-partner must pay compensation for financial loss. This is covered by Section 11O of the Children Act 1989 and is where they have failed to comply with the Child Arrangements Order and, as a result of the breach, you have suffered financial loss. This is most commonly seen where a parent refuses to make a child available the other parent has suffered a financial loss such as travel costs or a holiday they couldn’t take the child on. The Court will calculate the amount of compensation they are to pay, but it will not be a larger amount than the actual amount you lost, and they will take into account your ex-partner’s financial situation when deciding the amount. If the Court make this order, you can enforce this financial loss Order as a civil debt and take recovery action against your ex-partner.

At Johnson Astills, we can help advise you as to what your next steps should be if you feel that you need help with varying or enforcing an existing Child Arrangements Order. Please do not hesitate to get in contact by either calling us on  0116 255 4855 or completing an online enquiry form here.