Thursday, February 21, 2013

Family Law Clinic: Can police enforce a contact order?


Unfortunately, it is not at all unusual for the police to become involved in contact disputes, especially where there are problems when the children are (or are supposed to be) handed over from one parent to the other. However, can they force the parent with whom the children live to hand them over to the parent in whose favour a contact order has been made?

The simple answer is that the police will not want to get involved in this way. Their primary concern will be that the children are safe, and if they are happy that they are, they will not normally intervene, even if it appears that a court order is being breached (obviously, they would intervene if a crime has been committed).

If a contact order has been breached, then the parent in whose favour it was made will have to return to the court to enforce it. There are a number of ways that courts can enforce contact orders, and a specialist family lawyer will be able to advise upon the best course of action to take.

12 comments:

  1. This is another example of how children are failed by the system. When I was a Family Support Worker in Cafcass we were asked to supervise contacts and handovers when there were threats and high conflict disputes between parents. It was a role for social work, to get in there and try to work directly with parents.

    It gave us clear evidence about the nature of the disputes and their impact on children which we could then report back to courts. Now that meant we got it in the neck sometimes from parents, but it was a real vehicle and opportunity for meaningful change...now another hole in a very shabby looking sweater has appeared.

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    1. If you're suggesting that the police should get involved, I'm not sure that I agree with you.

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  2. Neither do I. But it is high time for judges to start from a presumption that a parent teaching a child that it is all right not to obey the court's order is unfit for the role of parent . . . that might lead some mothers, and it usually is mothers, to decide that they could after all allow little Johnny to see Daddy as directed without the sky falling in.

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  3. John,

    I know the police will not want to get involved (although I have known them to do so when a parent has refused to return a child) but what is the answer to the question posed? Regardless of their inclination to do so, do the police have authority to take any action to enforce a contact order?

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    1. The police can take any action they think appropriate to ensure the safety of a child, but enforcing civil court orders is not their job. Certainly, they would be likely to come in for heavy criticism if they were to do it routinely - it is for the court to decide whether an order has been breached, whether that breach was justified and what is the best next step, having regard to the welfare of the child.

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  4. I agree that the police should not get involved but some IMMEDIATE system is needed- for example if the mother breaches a contact order and turns a father away from her doorstep, while their children are waiting for their Dad to show up and think he's just not come - does he then have to wait the six months that it takes in court and the thousands of pounds in lawyer's costs? That is unreasonable to both him and his children and the only person winning is the vindictive mother- who should really feel the full force of the law. Sadly there is no law for malice in this way.

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  5. My partner is in the middle of this right now. With limited income he cannot keep taking his ex back to court. There are no safety concerns for the child, he has put the mothers wishes first and she still doesn't comply. This is not fair for his son, growing up with a mother who knows nothing will happen to her if she breaches the contact order. The emotional cost on both of us is massive but what must it be like for a child who is probably not told what is happening... This is not fair just or reasonable

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    1. Spoke with the police today as to what would happen of I turned up at my ex wifes house with court order in hand on specified day to collect my children and contact was refused as is currently being threatened, was basically told if I demanded to see them I was at risk of being arrested, best course of action is to go to court......C79 + £215 + court date to be set = missed time with kids/ridiculous system. Once in court there are no guarantees or support

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  6. I have a resedince order, and my ex partner, refuses to give me back the kids,even though children services, have advised her to do so, involved the police, but it is a civil matter. Have now got to go to court, apply for c79 and wait for court date, ironic i have resedince, but still cant see my kids, but if i refuse my ex contact,, i can be prosecuted..

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    1. You can't be prosecuted for refusing contact - it is not a criminal offence.

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  7. My ex has an order for overnight stay once at the weekend ... twice in the past 3 weeks he has gone out and left her to stay at his sisters overnight for the first incident and I havnt a clue where she stayed last night when he was meant to be with her ! Am I in my rights to deny access to get new terms sorted in court .. I dont want her to not see him, but he has the opportunity and doesnt even have him with her ?!

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    1. I'm sorry, but I can't give advice on specific cases. You can find a specilist family lawyer near you here - they may be able to offer you a free initial interview.

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