what can i do when the other parent does not obey a parenting order?
Parents can apply for a contravention order when the other parent has breached the terms of a parenting order
Parenting orders govern important aspects of a parent’s relationship with a child. For example, a parenting order might specify the days and times that the child will spend time with each parent.
Sometimes parents disobey those orders. For example, a parenting order might allow a parent to have the child on Saturday night and to return the child to the other parent by noon on Sunday. If the parent refuses to return the child, the parent is disobeying (or “breaching”) the parenting order.
Contravention of parenting orders
The law refers to the unexcused disobedience of a parenting order as a “contravention” of the order. A parent is said to have contravened a parenting order when the parent:
- deliberately refuses to comply with the order or makes no effort to comply with it; or
- deliberately prevents or tries to prevent another person who is bound by the order from complying with the order; and
- does not have a reasonable excuse for contravening the order.
A “reasonable excuse” usually means that the parent could not obey the order due to circumstances (such as the child’s illness or a delayed flight) that were beyond the parent’s control, provided that the parent obeyed the order as soon as it was possible to do so.
In some instances, the parent’s failure to understand the order (particularly when its terms are unclear or open to interpretation) will be a reasonable excuse for breaching the order.
Breaching a parenting order to protect a child from harm might also constitute a reasonable excuse. For example, refusing to surrender the child to a parent who is drunk and who intends to drive with the child in the car would be reasonable.
The fact that the child does not want to go with the other parent is not usually a reasonable excuse for breaching the order. Parents have an obligation to do everything they can to convince their children to follow the terms of a parenting order.
If a parent has breached a parenting order, the other parent can apply for a contravention order. At the hearing on that application, the court will consider the facts, including whether the breaching parent had a reasonable excuse.
After hearing evidence, the court might:
- give one parent more time with the child to compensate for the time that the parent missed;
- require the breaching parent to attend a parenting education program;
- place the breaching parent on a “good behaviour” bond for up to 2 years;
- impose a fine;
- imprison the breaching parent for up to 12 months; and/or
- order the breaching parent to pay the other party’s legal costs.
The court might instead decide to change (or “vary”) the parenting order to make it easier for the breaching parent to comply with it.
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.