What Happens If My Ex-partner Ignores An Order Made By The Family Court?

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At the end of family court proceedings, a final order will be made by the court. This order may reflect agreement reached between the parties, known as a “consent order”, or it may reflect a decision made by the court. The court encourages parties to agree a consent order between them if possible. A key reason for this is that it is considered more likely that they will adhere to an order which they have agreed, rather than one which has been made against their wishes.

Unfortunately, in some cases, parties breach the terms of an order. If this happens, the first question to ask yourself is how significant the breach is. For example, late collection of a child for contact should generally be possible to resolve without court involvement. In such situations, or sometimes in the case of more significant breach, it may be possible to resolve the issue through communication. However, where the breach is more serious and cannot be resolved through communication, legal advice is likely to be necessary. It may be that lawyer involvement will be sufficient to move the matter forward. But if this is unsuccessful, an application can be made back to the court for enforcement.

What is enforcement in family law proceedings?

It is possible to apply to enforce a Family Court order by making a new application back to the Family Court. The powers of the court in this situation will vary depending on various factors including whether your case is about children or division of financial assets. There are a range of mechanisms available under Part 33 of the Family Procedure Rules. Powers available to the court in enforcement cases concerning children include variation of the order, a fine or an unpaid work requirement. Powers available to the court in enforcement cases concerning family finance include taking payment directly from earnings or freezing and seizing a bank account. Enforcement is also available where undertakings have been breached. It is possible to commit a non-compliant spouse to prison, although this happens extremely rarely.

Enforcement where assets are abroad

There will be further complications if enforcement relates to financial assets abroad. It is easier to enforce in some foreign jurisdictions than others. You may also need to take steps to preserve assets before they are frittered away. Movement of money for the purpose of defeating a claim for a financial remedy or its enforcement can be undone by the court. These procedures can be costly and therefore must be considered in the context of the assets in the case. It is crucial to seek specialist legal advice on any issues in this area.

Here to Help

If you need advice on any family matter, please get in touch with Tracey Dargan, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.