What Happens When There is a Contravention of Parenting Orders?

When there are parenting orders in place, you have a legally enforceable agreement in place that must be followed by both parents. Contravention of parenting orders can result in a number of penalties, depending on the severity and type of contravention. We share more about what a contravention entails, and what happens when a contravention of parenting orders occurs.


What is a Contravention of Parenting orders?

While many ex-spouses believe they will be able to successfully parent post separation without conflict, this does not always happen.

On occasion, ex-spouses cannot come to an agreement about arrangements for their children, despite trying to set in place a parenting plan or engaging in dispute resolution.

In this instance, you can apply for a parenting order, giving the Federal Circuit and Family Courts the power to determine your parental responsibilities and children’s arrangements.  A parenting order is an order made by a court about your parental responsibilities and arrangements for your child/ren.

A contravention of a parenting order is a breach of that order. This breach occurs when:

  • a person who is bound by an order does not comply with the order intentionally;
  • a person who is bound by an order makes no reasonable attempt to comply with the order;
  • a person intentionally prevents compliance with an order by a person who is bound by it; or
  • a person aids or abets a contravention of an order by a person who is bound by it.

This might include where the parenting order stipulates that a child should spend time with a parent, but the other parent prevents them from being able to do so. An example of this would be when the father is due to have the child for the day, but when the father turns up to collect the child from where he or she resides with the mother, the mother has made other plans for the child and he is not able to spend time with them.

Another example of a contravention of parenting orders would be when the order outlines that both parents are to have parental responsibility for the child, but one of the parents has made a major decision for that child, such as enrolling them at a particular school, without consulting the other. In this instance, one parent has been prevented from fulfilling their responsibility.


Are There Any Defences Available for Contravention of a Parenting Order?

If there has been a contravention of a parenting order, “reasonable excuse” is the only defence available under the Family Law Act.

A reasonable excuse for breaching a court order would be that:

  • you didn’t understand that you were breaking the order at the time;
  • it was necessary to protect someone’s health or safety, and the length of the breach was not longer than was necessary.

It is important to note that a child not wanting to spend time with the other parent does not constitute a reasonable excuse. This would only be sufficient if by preventing the child from spending time with the other parent, they were protecting the child’s health or safety.

The courts will use their discretion in determining what constitutes a reasonable excuse in these instances based on the circumstances at hand.

Conversely, if the other parent does not want to spend time with the child, the courts will not force them to do so - even with a court order in place. In this instance, it is best to engage in dispute resolution or family counselling if you would like the other parent uphold their responsibilities.


What Happens if There is a Contravention of Parenting Orders?

If the court is able to establish that a contravention of parenting orders has occurred, by you or the other parent, it can order the offending parent to take part in an approved parenting program, or it may choose to change the existing order to compensate the other parent.

If you or the other parent continues to breach the order, the court may impose more severe penalties, such as paying for the other person’s legal costs or expenses incurred due to the breach, a fine, or imprisonment of up to 12 months.


Believe There has Been a Contravention of Parenting Orders and Need Assistance?

If you believe there has been a contravention of a parenting order, or you have been accused of breaching a parenting order, we advise seeking advice from family lawyer as soon as possible. At Pullos Lawyers, we have a wealth of experience helping families find positive solutions to sensitive legal issues, and can assist with making a contravention application, defending a contravention application, as well as applying to vary a parenting order. We specialise in a number of family law issues including divorce law, child support and co-parenting, and provide both in-court and out-of-court solutions. To speak to us, please contact our team at Pullos Lawyers at our Gold Coast office on (07) 5526 3646 or our Brisbane office on (07) 3144 1641.