What are Family Law Contraventions and Breach of Orders
There is little that is more frustrating than receiving Final Court Orders about child support or parenting arrangements, only to have the other parent contravene or disobey the final Orders, causing a breach of orders. There was the case, a father was jailed for six months for contravening family court orders to return a boy from the Middle East to his mother in Australia. In that case, the penalty was employed as a coercive measure designed to compel the father to cause the return of the child, rather than a punitive one.
Our solicitors are often asked by our clients in this situation: “What can I do about my ex’s breach of Court Orders?”
Put simply, the answer is yes.
Complying with Parenting Orders
When the Court Orders are made, both parties are required by law to follow them. This means the parties must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Order is adhered to and put into effect. Children must also comply with the Orders.
If a party does not comply with the Court Orders, they are then deemed to have contravened the Orders, and harsh penalties may be applicable.
Sometimes, a form of contravention can be unintentional and occur because one party doesn’t fully understand what the Orders mean. It is therefore critical that all parties to Court Orders fully read and comprehend the contents and meaning of the Orders.
In certain situations, there may be other valid reasons as to why a parent contravenes an Order. For example, if a parent was unable to transport a child to the changeover location because of floodwaters or other mitigating circumstances outside of their control.
Having said this, if a party lacks a reasonable excuse, and the breach is willful, persistent or serious, the other party can then make an application to the Court.
Serious penalties for Contravening Family Court Orders
In the event that your application to the Court is successful and the Judge makes a finding that the other party has contravened the Parenting Orders without a valid and reasonable excuse, then there are a number of ways the Court can proceed.
Depending on the situation and the type and seriousness of the contravention, a Judge may make orders to –
- The original Order is changed.
- One or both parents attend a parenting program after separation.
- Compensation is allowed for time lost with a child, for example by ordering that a party has “makeup time” with the child.
- The contravening parent enters into a bond.
- The contravening parent pays some or all of the legal costs.
- The contravening parent pays an amount for the reasonable expenses lost as a result of their contravention.
- The contravening parent participates in community service work.
- The contravening parent pays a fine, or
- The contravening parent serves a jail sentence.
Seek Help from an Experienced Family Lawyer
We will help you. If you are on the receiving end of this type of breach and thinking about applying to the Court to assist with the other party not following Orders, we recommend you speak to an experienced family lawyer first. It’s also important to decide early on what you wish to achieve. For example, if you would like to have the existing Orders amended, then a contravention application is not your only option. In fact, depending on what you want to have changed, this may not be the best course of action to take.
You may first be required to attempt to resolve the situation by alternative dispute resolution (known as ADR). To check, read section 60I here or visit the Government family court website.
In the event you simply want the other party to “adhere to the Orders”, you are well-advised to speak with an experienced family lawyer. They can explain your particular options and even help you to choose the best course of action. They can also represent you at Court if needed.
If the other parent has already made an Application for Contravention of Orders and you have been named as the Respondent, then it is critical to obtain advice from an experienced family lawyer immediately to discuss the best strategy.
Article Source: What are Family Law Contraventions and Breach of Orders