When a parent breaches a parenting order they can file an Application for Contravention.
When a parenting order is made, each person who is affected or directed to do something by that order must follow it. If a party does not adhere to their obligations under a court order then a contravention of that order has occurred.
What is contravention of a parenting order?
A person may be deemed to have contravened a parenting order if they:
- breach a parenting order intentionally;
- do not make reasonable attempts to comply with a parenting order;
- actively prevent a party who is bound by a parenting order from complying with that order; or
- assist a party who is bound by a parenting order to commit a breach of that parenting order.
There may be instances where the Court may consider that a party has a “reasonable excuse” for contravening a parenting order.
The Family Law Act (s70NAC) considers that a “reasonable excuse” can include:
- a party failed to understand their obligations under the order;
- one party held the reasonable belief that it was necessary to contravene the parenting order to protect the health and safety of the child, the parent, or another person; and
- the act of contravention was not for the period longer than was necessary to protect the health and safety of the person.
What happens if a party contravenes a parenting order?
If the Court believes that there has been no reasonable excuse for the contravention of a parenting order provided then the Court may make additional orders requiring a person to:
- attend a post separation parenting program;
- provide makeup time with a child;
- compensate the other party for reasonable expenses incurred; and
- in some cases may permanently alter a parenting order.
In serious contravention cases a Court can also order a party to pay a fine, perform community service, be placed on a bond, or serve a time of imprisonment.
Legal advice about contravention of orders
If you are a party to parenting orders that you believe are not being followed or the other party is complaining that the orders are not being followed then we encourage you to seek legal advice as soon as possible. It is not recommended you file court documents or go to Court without getting legal advice about the following:
- whether there has been a contravention of the orders;
- whether there has been reasonable excuse for that contravention;
- what the Court may order in response;
- whether there is a way of addressing the complaint without the Application needing to be heard by a Judge.