What happens if someone doesn't comply with a parenting order?

Date: Apr 20, 2015

If a parenting order has been made in relation to child custody arrangements after a separation, it is important that all parties comply with the provisions of the agreement.

A parent, or any related party to the agreement, must comply with the obligations that accompany the parenting order. Everyone must take positive actions and this obligation includes taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the order is put into effect.

If a party files an application to the courts alleging another person is not complying with the order, the courts can penalise them for their non-compliant actions. The courts will consider all the facts of the case and decide whether the alleged contravention is established or not.

Parties that are accused of breaking the parenting order can claim they had a reasonable excuse to do so. A reasonable excuse which may satisfy the courts includes if the person did not understand the obligations imposed by the order, or the person reasonably believed that the actions constituting the breach were necessary to protect the health and safety of another person.

Should the courts find that the parenting order was breached without a reasonable excuse, it may choose to impose a penalty. Depending on the situation and the type and seriousness of the contravention, the courts have a number of common penalties they can impose.

The courts may choose to change the primary parenting order or instruct the parties to attend a post separation parenting program. Compensation for time lost with a child as a result of the breach is also a possibility.

For serious or recidivous breaches of a parenting order, the courts may impose compulsory community service, a fine or even a sentence of imprisonment. 

The courts may make a location order if someone in breach of a parenting order cannot be found. This order will require other people or organisations such as government departments to give the courts any information they have about where that person or the child may be located. 

Being in breach of a parenting order by failing to return the child as required might mean the courts issue a recovery order. This order is made to law enforcement to find and recover the child. The order may also allow a search of any vehicles and premises where the child may be found.

If you have further questions about child custody agreements, or whether someone is not complying with parenting orders, contact a family lawyer.