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Breach of Parenting Orders, what can you do

Breach of Parenting Orders without reasonable excuse (less serious contravention)

In this blog we continue looking at what steps can be taken for breach of parenting orders or contraventions of parenting orders and, specifically, the range of powers which the court has to punish a parent for initial and ongoing breach of parenting orders.

Section 70NEA of the Family law Act 1975 (Cth) (Act) empowers the Court to make a range of orders against a party if:

  • there has been a contravention or breach of parenting orders, and
  • the respondent has not established a reasonable excuse, and
  • it is the first established contravention of the parenting order, or
  • although it is not the first established contravention, the court is satisfied that it is appropriate to apply this subdivision.

If the court is satisfied that the respondent has behaved in a manner that shows a serious disregard for his or her obligations under the primary order, the court can deal with such a contravention or breach of parenting orders under separate provisions of the Act which deal with more serious contraventions (*to be discussed in our next blog)

Section 70NEB of the Act sets out an array of possible orders the court can make in these circumstances namely, one or more of the following:

  • attendance at a post-separation parenting program
  • compensatory parenting order
  • adjournment of proceedings pending an application to vary a primary order
  • that the party who contravened the order enter into a bond
  • compensation of expenses
  • costs against the respondent, and
  • costs against the applicant.

Attendance at a post-separation parenting program

This can be made not only against the respondent, but also against another specified person, if:

  • the specified person brought the proceedings before the court in relation to the current breach of parenting orders or is otherwise a party to the proceedings, and
  • the court is satisfied that it is appropriate to direct the order to the specified person because of the connection between the current contravention and the carrying out by the person of his or her parental responsibilities in relation to the child to whom the primary order relates.

Compensatory parenting order

Compensatory parenting orders were discussed in our previous blog post here 

Adjournment of proceedings pending application to vary primary order

In proceedings concerning breach of parenting orders, the court can always make a further parenting order varying a primary order. The court is empowered to adjourn the proceedings to allow either or both of the parties to the primary order to prepare the relevant evidence in respect of such proceedings.

In considering whether to adjourn the proceedings, the court must consider:

  • whether the primary order was made by consent
  • whether either or both of the parties to the proceedings that gave rise to the primary order were legally represented
  • the length of time between the making of the primary order and the circumstances that gave rise to the contravention, and
  • any other matters that the court deems relevant.

Order the person who contravened order to enter into a bond

A bond can be for a period of up to two years and may include conditions (without limitation) such as requiring the party to attend upon a family consultant; to attend family counselling  or to be of good behaviour. The Court may also require a party to attend anger management or drug/alcohol counselling as part of a bond, where appropriate.

Order for compensation of expenses

This order can be made in circumstances where, as a result of a contravention, the applicant spends less time with the child, and has incurred out-of-pocket expenses.

The expenses incurred must be reasonable and must be related to the contravention (eg an airline ticket purchased and wasted as a result of a child not being made available for time with the other party under a parenting order).

 Costs against respondent

The court is empowered to order the party who has contravened the order to pay some or all of the costs of the other party or parties.

Costs against applicant

This power allows the court to order that the person who brought the contravention proceedings pay some or all of the costs of the other party or parties. The court can exercise the power only if it makes no other orders in relation to the current contravention.

The court must consider ordering costs against the applicant. The justification for this provision is presumably that, where a court makes no order in relation to a breach of parenting orders,  notwithstanding that there has been a breach or contravention without reasonable excuse, the applicant may have been over-zealous or otherwise unreasonable in bringing the application, and it is appropriate for the court to consider making a costs order against the applicant.

If you need assistance concerning a contravention or breach of a parenting order, contact our Brisbane family lawyers and family lawyers Northside at LGM Family Law for advice particular to your circumstances and move forward with us to resolve your matter.