Enforcing child arrangements orders
Enforcing child arrangements orders

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Enforcing child arrangements orders
  • General enforcement provisions
  • Enforcement of child arrangements orders
  • Activity directions and conditions
  • Warning notices
  • Enforcement orders
  • Financial compensation orders

General enforcement provisions

A child arrangements order (CAO) is an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

  1. with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and

  2. when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person

See Practice Notes: Child arrangements orders—residence and Child arrangements orders—contact.

Enforcing contact orders in particular has been notoriously difficult and often protracted, especially in cases of implacable hostility. Applications for committal for breach of an order have been seen as remedies of last resort in view of the impact they may have on the child. The court will consider whether the order can be amended in any way to make it workable. Consideration should be given to the involvement of a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) officer to assist in cases of ongoing difficulty.

In Re C, a case involving enforcement of contact and an order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989), Thorpe LJ said:

'Where a contact order is not operating smoothly, the court that made the order has a continuing responsibility to strive to make it work, and that responsibility is all the greater where a litigant in person is before the court and plainly frustrated by the obstruction.'

There are general powers of enforcement available