Once court proceedings have come to an end and a final order has been obtained, parties should be clear what the court has ordered. For example, in financial cases one party might be ordered to pay money to the other party or ordered to transfer property to them, and in private children cases the court might order a child to live with one party or set out the arrangements for them spending time with the parties. Whatever the issue, it is expected that the parties will comply with the terms set out in a final order. Unfortunately there will be occasions when one party fails to do so. If that happens, it may be necessary to enforce all or part of the order.
When it comes to the enforcement of financial orders, a further application to the court will need to be made. The application may specify a method of enforcement or leave the method of enforcement up to the court to decide. This is known as a general enforcement order application.
If an application is made for enforcement, the court will list a hearing. The party who has not complied with the order will need to attend court and they will be warned that if they do not comply with the order they will be in contempt of court and may risk being sent to prison. The court may decide to make any enforcement order it considers appropriate.
There are various methods of enforcement. These include:
- Attachment of earnings
- Charging order
- Third party debt order
- Judgment summons
- Means of payment order
- Order for sale
- Stop orders
- A judge signing documents on behalf of the defaulting party to enable the transfer of property to take place
The court could make an order for costs against the party who has failed to comply with the order. Interest can also be payable on money owed to a party. It is usually owed from the date the money was due to be paid. However it is important to note that interest will not be payable on payments of under £5000 in the Family Court.
If the court makes a final order stating a child must live with one parent or party and the other parent or party fails to comply with this order, the court can make a search and recovery order which authorises an officer of the court to take the child and deliver them to the other party. The police may also need to be involved if the court has concerns about the welfare of safety of a child.
If a child arrangements order has not been complied with and needs to be enforced, the court will consider the circumstances of the case and the reasons for non-compliance. If the court decides there is no reasonable reason why a party has failed to comply with the Child Arrangements order, the court has various, wide-ranging options available to it. These include:
- Making a referral for the parties to attend Planning Together for Children or mediation
- Varying the Child Arrangements order
- Making a Contact Enforcement or Suspended Enforcement order
- Making an order for compensation for financial loss
- A fine
- imposing unpaid work, known as community service
It is also possible for the party who has failed to comply with the order to be sent to prison for contempt of court, but this is usually considered to be a last resort due to the concern that this may have a negative impact on the child or children involved.
If you require any further information about enforcement of orders, please contact the family team.