A Consent Order (or Court Order) is a legally enforceable document and, as a result, you should abide by it at all times. If you do not, you may be held to be in breach or contravention of an order and you may have to attend court where you may face serious consequences.
While there are limited circumstances wherein a contravention of an Order can be excused, you must be able to establish that either there was a ‘reasonable excuse’ for doing so, or be able to prove that yours or the child’s safety was at risk.
In this post, we will outline what happens if you don’t obey a Consent or Court Order, what is deemed as a ‘reasonable excuse’ for failing to comply with a Court Order and what the possible punishments are.
What happens if I don’t obey or comply with a consent order?
If you fail to prove that you had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for contravening the Order, it is open to the other parent to make an application against you, which will be heard in court. The judge who made the original orders or decided your matter originally will hear the case.
Generally speaking, judges tend to take a rather dim view of these cases. This is because orders are made after calculated and informed decisions are taken about what is best for the child.
What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for contravening an order?
The Family Law Act 1975 does not give a precise definition of what constitutes a reasonable excuse, but it does give guidelines for what may be deemed as a reasonable excuse. There are that:
- The person who contravened the order did not understand the obligations created by the Order; OR
- There are reasonable grounds to suggest that contravening the order was necessary to protect either the parent, the child or both parties. In order for this to apply, the period of contravention must not have been longer than the necessary period required to protect the health and safety of those involved.
What are the consequences if my excuse is not deemed to be reasonable?
The consequences of not complying with a Court Order can be found on the back of the order.
In order for you to be punished for contravening the order, another person must file a Contravention Application that alleges that you disobeyed the order.
A judge will then decide if a contravention was made, how serious this contravention was and what the appropriate punishment for this contravention is. A court has the power to:
- Order you to attend a post-separation parenting program;
- Compensate the other parent for the lost time;
- Order you to enter into a bond;
- Ask you to pay the legal costs of the other party or pay compensation to the other party for reasonable expenses lost;
- Require you to perform community service;
- Order you to pay a fine; and/or
- Order that you be imprisoned.
In addition to these personal punishments, the court may also discharge or suspend the Consent Order or adjourn the case, allowing a person to alter the parenting order by applying for a further order.
The punishment the judge decides will depend on the severity of the contravention and your past record.