Family Court Parenting Order: What Happens If You Don’t Comply

Family court order children background

Under the Family Law Act 1975, when a parenting order is made, the parties bound by the order must comply with the terms of it. Occasionally, parties refuse to do so and continue to do what they like with respect to their children.

In the event someone does not comply with a parenting order, usually the first step is to attend family dispute resolution. This is a service designed to resolve disputes without the need to go to court.

What is meant by a contravention?

A contravention, or a breach, refers to the action that does not comply with the parenting order. It might be that someone: 

  • Intentionally fails to comply
  • Makes no reasonable attempt to comply
  • Intentionally prevents or aids a bound party from complying with an order

What do I do if a parenting order is breached?

The court can decide to penalise a person who has contravened an order. If dispute resolution proves unsuccessful, you may need to apply to the court to allege the contravention and ask the court to deal with the matter.

The court has a wide range of powers in this regard and can make orders for:

  • Make-up time
  • Punitive damages (such as good behaviour bonds)
  • Costs orders
  • Location and recovery orders

Location order and recovery order

If the person who is in breach cannot be found, the court can order other people and organisations (including government organisations) to give information about where that person and the child may be located.

In a situation where someone breaches an order by failing to return a child as required, the court can then make a recovery order and the child must be returned.

How can I make an application to the court?

You can apply to the court by filing a contravention application. Note: In most circumstances, before you file the application you will need to obtain a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner, following an attempt at family dispute resolution (as discussed above).

The court can then choose what action to take with respect to the breach of the orders. But, first, the court will have to decide whether or not the alleged contravention did indeed occur, if it occurred because the party had reasonable excuse, as well as the seriousness of the breach.

If you have any questions about what to do, a lawyer can help you to understand your legal rights and responsibilities, and explain how the law applies to your case. Our expert team will be more than happy to assist you, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The above is not intended as legal advice. You should obtain legal advice in relation to your own specific circumstances.

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