Enforcement of a child arrangements order

Frequently, the enforcement of a child arrangements order (CAO), providing for a child to spend time with a non-resident parent, is always challenging if the parents with day-to-day care of the child is adamant that contact will not proceed, in breach of the child arrangements order. Under the Family Law Act 1986, the court has general powers of enforcement, although in practice, these are rarely used. Where the court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a person has failed to comply with a CAO, it has a wide range of powers, including:

  • Referring the parties to a separated parenting information programme (SPIP) or mediation.
  • Variation of the CAO.
  • An enforcement order or suspended enforcement order under section 11J of the Children Act 1989 (CA 1989).
  • An order for compensation for financial loss under section 11O of the same Act.
  • Fines or committal to prison following Part 37 of the Family Procedure Rules.

For the court to be able to follow the enforcement of a CAO, a warning notice must appear on the face of the order. When the court makes or varies a CAO, it automatically attaches the notice warning of the consequences of failing to comply with the order, when the sealed CAO is sent to the parties.

The court will not make an enforcement order if it is satisfied that a the resident parent had a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the provision of a child arrangements order. The burden of proof lies on the person claiming to have had a reasonable excuse, with the standard of proof being the balance of probabilities.

If you want to discuss the enforcement of a child arrangements order with one of our expert solicitors, contact us on 01234 889777 to take advantage of our free initial consultation service. Serving Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters.


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