What Are the Consequences If You Breach a Family Court Order?

A court order is often the very last resort for resolving issues. When a court makes a family court order, it is binding for all parties – regardless of whether it is on an interim or finalised basis. Should one party breach or contravene the order, this is considered a serious offence, unless they have a reasonable excuse for not complying. If it is proven that they did not comply with the order, they may face some serious legal consequences. Here’s exactly what happens when you breach a family court order.


What is a Family Court Order?

Generally speaking, a court order can include a decision or judgement made by a judicial officer. When it comes to family law, two key orders include a parenting order and a financial order.

A parenting order is a set of orders regarding parenting arrangements for a child. It may deal with who the child will live with, how much time will be spent with each parent, how the parent will communicate with the child, and any other aspect of care and welfare of the child.

A financial order is a set of orders regarding the division of property and decisions surrounding spousal or de facto maintenance. It may deal with how much money must be paid to another person by a certain time, and the transferring or selling or property.

Whatever is described in the family court order must be followed by both parties.


How May You Breach a Family Order?

So, how can a family court order be breached? A person may breach an order if:

  • They deliberately failed to comply with the order
  • They made no reasonable attempts to comply with it
  • They prevented or helped prevent someone else from complying with it.


What to Do If Someone Breaches an Order?

The person who contravenes a family order can only be penalised if the other person associated with order files a Contravention Application for non-compliance. The party accusing their partner of breaching a family court order must provide the following documents in court:

The supporting affidavit signed by an authorised witness must include details of how the other party has allegedly not followed the court orders. Section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 also states that it is essential for both parties to make a genuine effort to resolve the issue through family dispute resolution before making an application to the court. You may seek an exception from providing a family dispute resolution certificate if your matter is urgent, the case involves family violence or child abuse, or the risk of family violence or child abuse.


A Reasonable Excuse for Non-Compliance

If the party accused of non-compliance has a reasonable excuse for not complying with a family court order, they may not face any legal consequences. Section 70NAE of the Family Law Act 1975 outlines reasonable excuses the court will accept:

  • The person did not understand the obligations imposed by the order;
  • The person believed on reasonable grounds that their actions causing the contravention were necessary to protect the health and safety of a person or child;
  • The contravention did not last longer than was necessary to protect the health and safety of the person who either contravened the order, or the child.


What Are the Penalties?

If the court determines that a person has breached a family court order, then that person may face the following consequences outlined in Section 70NFB of the Family Law Act 1975:

  • A sentence of imprisonment on the person in accordance with section 70NFG;
  • A fine of not more than 60 penalty units;
  • A further parenting order that compensates a person for time the other person did not spend with the child;
  • An order requiring the person to enter into a bond in accordance with section 70NFE;
  • An order requiring the person who committed the contravention to pay all of the costs of another party.


Has a Family Court Order Been Breached? Contact Emerson Family Law

If you believe a family court order has been breached, it is best to seek legal advice regarding both the court and application process. Our experienced family lawyers can assist with all family and relationship matters from separation and divorce, to child support and and parenting orders.