Direct Mediation Services

Enforcing a court order for family court

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When an order is made in the family courts in England and Wales about financial, child care or contact arrangements, the parents usually comply with what the court has ordered.

But what if one, or both parents, ignores the terms of the order? How can the family court’s order be enforced against the person not complying?

This article will explain what you can do if the other party is not doing what they have agreed, or what the court has ordered them to do.

What can the courts do if my ex is breaking the terms of the family court order?

The courts, of course, expect people to comply with what they are told to do in a court order and if someone ignores the terms of an order without very good justification, they can be found in contempt of court. This could result in a fine, community order, or in the most extreme and serious cases, prison.

However, if your ex is not complying with what the court ordered, it is usually much better to correct the situation directly with them, rather than asking the court to enforce the family court order. Mediation can help you have these conversations with your ex and reach a result that you can both live with and, most importantly, will be in your children’s best interests, if the disagreement is around contact arrangements.


What can I do if my ex is not paying maintenance as ordered?

If your ex is not paying the maintenance they were ordered to pay, or does not pay it on time, it can quickly have a serious financial impact on the person who relies on that maintenance to live – and on the children who the maintenance is intended to provide for.

It is often very difficult for separated couples to discuss these problems directly between themselves, and mediation can be the quickest route to find out what the problem is and how it can be fixed.

There could be a valid reason why your ex is not making payments – for example, they might have changed, or even lost, their job. Mediation can help you have an objective and non-confrontational discussion with your ex to explain the reasons why the maintenance is not being paid as expected, and help you negotiate an agreement to get things back on track without having the need for enforcing the costs order in the court.

If mediation does not provide a satisfactory outcome, or if your ex will not take part in this voluntary process, your only remaining option might be to take the matter back to court for them to decide. Depending on the circumstances, the court might order your ex to bring the payments up to date by a specified time, or they might order that the money is paid to you direct from their wages, if the court decides they can afford to pay but are refusing to. Or the court might decide that your ex’s financial situation has changed significantly and order a different amount of maintenance from now on.

What if my ex is not keeping to contact arrangements?

Again, mediation might be the best option to get contact arrangements back on track without involving the courts. After all, it will be in your child’s best interests if contact with their other parent can continue on an amicable basis.

If the breaches are minor, even if persistent and regular, and more an annoyance rather than having a serious impact on your child, an outcome you might aim for through mediation might be to explain to your ex-partner the impact their actions have on the children and try to find out the reasons why they find it difficult to comply exactly with the court order. It might be that a small change to the agreed times, or days of contact, will help to resolve matters.

If all else fails, and the breaches have a more serious on your child and your ex continues to break the terms of the court order, the last resort would be to apply for a family court enforcement order.

You are likely to need a solicitor’s help to make the application to court and present your case to the judge. The court will always consider the child’s welfare and what is in their best interests when deciding how to enforce, or modify, the order. This can be a stressful, lengthy and costly process, depending on how much the parties disagree and argue over and what reports the court decides it needs to help it come to a decision. It is usually not possible to get Legal Aid for family court matters.


It can be extremely frustrating and annoying – not to mention disrespectful to the court – when one party does not comply with a family court order. Mediation should usually be your first choice to try and get the arrangements working as they should again. It is usually in everyone’s best interests, particularly the children, if these problems can be resolved without costly, lengthy and emotionally draining court proceedings. If the party who is not fully complying with the court order can be brought back into line through a non-confrontational mediation process, it can prevent the stress caused to your children with them feeling caught in the middle of parents fighting over them.

Talk to one of our friendly and experienced team on 0113 468 9593 to find out how we can help you.

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Direct Mediation Services

Direct Mediation Services is a trading name of The Intelligent Solutions Group Ltd. The company is registered in England and Wales. Company number 7760633. VAT number 334 1841 12. Our company’s registered address is 5 Carla Beck House, Carla Beck Lane, Carleton, Skipton, BD23 3BQ.



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