Once you have the Court Order – what happens if that Court Order isn’t abided by? I have written numerous articles in relation to how to obtain a Children Act Court Order through the Courts and the different types of Court Orders available.
You should always try having a discussion with your child’s parent and attempt mediation first.
In the event that mediation does not work, you may have no other option but to refer back to the Court and make an application for enforcement. You will need to show the Court that there has been a breach of the Court Order and that there was no reasonable excuse for that breach.
Whilst some may feel that it is relatively straightforward to show the Court that there has been a breach, it is not necessarily straight forward following on from the recent Government guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has been confusion since the guidelines were released – do you still have contact with your child, even if they are self-isolating with the other parent, and do you allow your child contact with the other parent? It is clear that parents are going to have many concerns.
The Government guidelines made it clear that any Court Order regarding the arrangements of a child should continue and be complied with unless there were any safety concerns, such as risks to the health to the parent or the child, the inability to travel (lack of public transport) etc.
Now that the restrictions have continued to ease, contact that could not take place before is able to take place (save for some that may not be able to travel, or there still may be health concerns, for example). Even if contact still cannot take place in person, the option of Skype and telephone contact remains.
As mentioned above, the Court will need to be in agreement that there was a reasonable excuse for the breach of the Court Order. This questions whether Covid-19 is, in fact, a reasonable excuse.
In reality, it depends on each family’s circumstances as to whether the child or either parent will be put at risk. If one parent decides to suspend contact due to the Covid-19 pandemic, then the Court will look at whether that parent acted reasonably and sensibly in light of the Government guidelines which were (and are) in place. Does this justify the breach of the Court Order?
The Court will also look into whether one parent has used the Government guidelines to place an unfair advantage over the other parent.
Each family will be looked at differently, however, it is important that, as the restrictions are easing, it will be difficult for any parent to use the Government guidelines as an excuse to stop abiding by a Court Order.
The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal advice on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor before you embark on any course of action.
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