Child Law: Enforcing Contact Orders
The Children and Adoption Act 2006 sought to address this by introducing a new sanction of unpaid work also known as community service although the other powers would remain available. However, there are concerns that despite these powers being available, they have been rarely used.
In 2012 the Coalition government considered further sanctions such as the withdrawal of passports and driving licences but in 2013 it decided against introducing further sanctions following the consultation.
The University of Exeter has published the first ever empirical study of enforcement since the changes were brought in funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
The study found that relatively few contact cases return to court seeking enforcement, about 1,400 each year with the majority been made by the non-resident father. It is perceived that the majority of cases are due to implacably hostile mothers deliberately flouting contact orders but the study found that the most common cases involve parents whose conflicts with each other prevented them from making a contact order work reliably in practice.
The research found that adequate punitive sanctions are in place to enforce contact orders. However, a punitive approach was rarely used with the Courts favouring co-parenting support, i.e. focusing on helping parents address the conflict or pure settlement, i.e. simply setting out a new and revised timetable for contact.
In respect of the new sanction of unpaid work, the research found that the Court made very limited use of this primarily as few cases required a punitive approach. The research found that Courts made greater use of unpaid work as a threat rather than a sanction.
We will need to wait and see whether this trend continues or whether punitive action is taken more often. Often parents want punitive action to be taken but the Court must at all times consider the welfare of the child.
If you are experiencing problems with a contact order it is important to take advice as to the appropriate steps to take. If you are the resident parent and the non-resident parent has a contact order which you feel is no longer working, it is important to take advice as to the steps that you should take.
James Maguire & Co is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters including child maintenance.
We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.
We advise clients in the Wilmslow area and also to the surrounding areas of Alderley Edge, Bramhall, Hale, Altrincham, Manchester and the North West. We are also able to act for clients nationally and internationally subject to the jurisdiction of England and Wales. For advice please contact James Maguire by telephone +44 (0) 1625 529456 or by email james.maguire@family-law.