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Enforcing court orders

Even with a court order in place, your ex-partner may just ignore it or follow it some but not all of the time. When he does not follow the order, it is called breaching the order. This is his way of demonstrating to you that he is still in charge.

It can be very frustrating to you and your children. If he fails to show up to spend time with them, the kids may be disappointed. You may have made plans to see friends or to work, and now your plans have to be set aside.

A detailed order: The best way to ensure this does not happen is to try to get a court order that spells out any ongoing arrangements in detail, with consequences if the order is not followed. It is helpful to have a police enforcement clause in your order, although not all police will become involved even when there is such a clause.

Make lots of copies: Make a number of copies of your order. Keep one at your home, carry one with you, leave one in the glove box of your car and give one to anyone who might be involved if your ex-partner breaches the order. It is much easier for the police to intervene if they can see the order.

Keep a record of breaches: Keep track of every time your ex-partner does not follow the order, even if it seems small at the time. You can use a small calendar to do this, and just make a short note on the relevant date stating what happened (or what did not happen). For example:

“Tom 30 minutes late to pick up kids.”

“Tom not at Sally’s soccer match.”

“Tom took two months processing benefit claim.”

When you keep track of every breach, you may see a pattern over time, which will be helpful if you have to return to court. Keep this calendar somewhere private.

Communicating with your former partner about breaches

If it is safe and you feel confident enough, communicate with your partner about his breaches. For example, if he has not sent the money for your child’s school photos that he agreed to, you could say:

“Tom, I know money is tight for both of us. I paid for the school photos so there would be enough for both of us and all the grandparents, but I really need you to send me your share of the costs. Can you send it with the kids when they come back from your place the next time? Thanks a lot.”

If your order says that each of you is to provide the children with clothing when they are at your home, but clothes that the kids wear to his place never come back, you could say:

“Tom, I know the kids should be able to manage this on their own, but they seem to leave clothes from my place at your house most weekends, and we are running low on clothes here. Can you please make sure they come back from your house on Sunday with all the clothes they brought with them? Thanks.”

If your order has a police enforcement clause in it, call the police when there has been a serious breach. They may be able to assist in enforcing the order, but even if they cannot, your call creates a record that may be useful in the future.

Let your lawyer know when your ex-partner has breached the order, so they can also keep a record.

If there are frequent breaches, especially related to your ex-partner’s time with the children, you may need to go to court to ask the judge to change the existing order to reflect his behaviour. Remember, though, that if you return to court seeking changes to your order, your partner can use the opportunity to allege that you have not been following the order and to try to make his own changes. You should discuss this with your lawyer and obtain legal advice before making a decision.