Parenting orders that are entered after two parents separate or divorce usually define the rights and obligations of each parent with regard to their children. They often specify where the children will live and the frequency and nature of contact that the other parent will have with them.
Unfortunately, parents do not always obey a parenting order. This article will help you understand what you can do when that happens.
When a parent disobeys a parenting order, courts refer to that disobedience as a “contravention” of the order. A typical contravention of a parenting order occurs when a parent who has been given time with a child fails to return the child to the other parent at a scheduled time.
To establish a contravention, the parent requesting a contravention order must prove that the other parent:
If the contravention is minor — if a parent is late bringing a child back to the other parent — it is best to work out the problem informally without involving the court or other authorities. If the contravention is related to a dispute about the meaning of the parenting order, it is best to seek legal advice, to make an attempt to arrive at a mutual understanding of the order’s intent, or to ask the court to amend (or vary) the order to make it more clear.
If circumstances have changed and a new parenting order is needed, you should try to come to an agreement about its terms. You can use a family dispute resolution practitioner as a mediator to help you reach an agreement.
In some cases, there might be little that a court can do. For instance, if a parent has been given time with a child but refuses to contact the child, it is unlikely that the court will force the parent to see the child.
If one parent’s contravention causes serious harm to the other parent (such as depriving the parent of time with the child) and results from a stubborn refusal to do what the order requires, the wronged parent can apply for a contravention order. You can obtain an Application form from a Family Law Court or you can ask a lawyer to help you prepare one.
A Family Law Court can choose from a number of different remedies if it decides that a contravention occurred. It can order:
The court might also decide to amend or modify the parenting order if that would be in the child’s best interests.