Family court orders are legally binding, making it an offence to breach one. If you are found to have broken a court order, there may be serious consequences depending on the situation.
The court has wide discretion in how it chooses to deal with broken court orders. Sanctions can include anything from attending a counselling session, to serving time in jail. However, the punishment may be mitigated if the offending party has a reasonable excuse.
How court orders are breached in family law
The family court has jurisdiction to grant several different types of court orders related to areas like child custody, financial agreements, and parental arrangements. Orders may be implemented based on the mutual agreement of the parties involved, or to resolve a deadlock between parties who cannot agree to terms.
The terms set out in a family court order are determined by the individual circumstances of the case. If any of those terms are not adhered to, there are usually repercussions for those who breach. For example, you may be subject to a parenting order that permits your former spouse to spend certain days with your child. If you refuse to allow that access, you may be found to have breached the order.
Common family law consequences of a breach
There are many ways the family court can deal with the breach of a court order. The type of order can also determine the approach taken. Typically, if it is a first offence, the court will opt for a lesser sanction. However, if there are multiple breaches, or the court believes a party is simply ignoring the order, there may be a more serious penalty.
Do you need a family lawyer when a Parenting order is breached?
If a parenting order is not obeyed, the court can:
- Require the offending person to attend a program operated by an approved counselling service to admonish them to act in their child’s best interests;
- Change the terms of the order to help the aggrieved party recoup time lost with their child, or make amends for other arrangements.
Multiple breaches may result in:
- Repaying expenses caused by the breach;
- Community work
- A fine or jail term of up to a year.
Financial orders and agreements in family law
Financial arrangements cover issues such as spousal maintenance and ownership of property and other assets. You can give these arrangements the force of law a few different ways:
- Entering into a financial agreement;
- Seeking a consent order from the court if you agree on the terms;
- Applying for a financial order from the court if you cannot come to an agreement.
It is worth trying to resolve the issue through mediation first to try and work through why one party is not complying. You may be able to reformulate your arrangements to better suit everyone without getting the courts involved. If this isn’t possible, you can seek an enforcement order.
Enforcement orders allow you to recover money in a few ways:
Through an enforcement warrant issued by the court, a nominated enforcement officer can seize and sell property belonging to the payer to cover what is owed to you.
Third party debt notice
If a third party is indebted to the payer, the court can issue a notice requiring that third party to pay the money owed to you instead.
Sequestration of property
The court may place the payer’s property temporarily under the control of a sequestrator who can collect revenue such as rent or business profits, and turn that money over to you to cover what is owed.
The court can make an order appointing a receiver, who is empowered to receive the payer’s income or proceeds from a property. The receiver can then cover the payer’s debt to you.
If you are seeking to enforce an order, or have been found in violation of an order, you must seek legal advice immediately. Contact Life Law Solutions to make sure your rights under family law are protected. We offer specialist mediation services that can seek to find a resolution between parties and avoid a potentially unsatisfactory outcome in court.