Non-Compliance with Federal Circuit and Family Court Orders

The Family court can make a non-compliance order, also known as family court order breach. It is a serious infraction with legal ramifications. It happens when one of the parties to a lawsuit disobeys a court order, which is called a contravention.

What is non-compliance with Family Court orders?

A party failing to comply with the conditions of a court order is in breach, and classified as non-compliance. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) issues orders, such as parenting orders and financial orders, both of which are legally binding on the parties involved. 

What is a Parenting order?

A parenting order is a legal document that specifies the particular arrangements for a child’s care, custody, and obligations that is issued by a family court. These orders, which are a component of family law procedures, are intended to give parents and other carers a clear framework that specifies the bounds of their roles and interactions with the child. Parenting orders have legal force and effect, and all parties concerned must abide by its provisions. Violating or breaching a parenting order without a reasonable excuse can lead to legal consequences, as defined by family law statutes.

Parenting orders typically address various aspects of the child’s life, including:

  1. Allocation of Parental Responsibility: This outlines the parties’ respective allocation of parenting obligations, including who will be in charge of making important choices about the child’s upbringing, education, health, and overall welfare.
  2. Primary Carer and Residence: The order designates the primary carer, determining with whom the child will primarily reside. It also specifies how the non-residential parent and other important parties will be contacted or allowed to visit.
  3. Time Spent with Each Parent: The amount of time the child will spend with each parent.
  4. Conditions for Communication: Any specific conditions regarding communication between the child and the non-residential parent, such as phone calls or other forms of contact.
  5. Other Matters Concerning the Child’s Care, Development, and Welfare: Parenting orders may address additional matters relevant to the child’s well-being, education, extracurricular activities, and any other aspects essential for their growth and development.

What is a financial order?

A financial order, in the context of family law, addresses the division of financial assets, liabilities, and other monetary matters between parties involved in a family law dispute. These orders are an integral part of family law proceedings and are designed to establish a fair and equitable distribution of financial resources, particularly in the context of separation, divorce, or other family-related legal issues.

Financial orders can cover various aspects, including:

  1. Division of Assets and Liabilities: Financial orders specify how the parties will split the assets and liabilities accumulated during their partnership or marriage. Properties, bank accounts, investments, debts, and other financial holdings could be included in this.
  2. Spousal Maintenance: If there is a large discrepancy in income or financial resources, the order may stipulate whether one spouse must support the other financially.
  3. Child Support Payments: While parenting orders primarily address the arrangements for children, financial orders may also include provisions for child support payments, ensuring that both parents contribute financially to the child’s well-being.
  4. Superannuation (Pension) Division: Financial orders may, in some situations, deal with the distribution of pension or superannuation benefits accrued during the partnership.
  5. Other Financial Matters: Depending on the circumstances of the case, financial orders can address additional financial considerations such as business interests, inheritances, or any other relevant financial factors.

What are the consequences of non-compliance of Family Court orders?

Failure to comply will result in severe penalties if the court determines the breach occurred without a reasonable excuse. Parties can breach orders intentionally or by preventing others from complying. As outlined in the Family Law Act (1975), consequences of non-compliance with Family Court orders may include penalties such as cost coverage, compensation for lost time, fines, and, in serious breaches, potential imprisonment. 

However, reasonable excuses, as outlined in section 70NAE of the Family Law Act (1975), may exempt a party from legal consequences. 

“Reasonable excuses” acceptable to the family courts are listed under section 70NAE of the Family Law Act (1975). These include:

Under section 70NAE of the Family Law Act (1975), the family courts recognize certain “reasonable excuses,” encompassing situations where:

  1. The individual genuinely failed to comprehend the court order and its associated responsibilities.
  2. The individual breaching the order held a belief that non-compliance was necessary to safeguard the health and safety of a child or the involved parties.
  3. The breach, or contravention, ceased as soon as it was no longer necessary to ensure the safety of the child or the person in question.

Should the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) determine that an order was contravened without a reasonable excuse, it has the authority to impose penalties. Non-compliance with family court orders carries substantial repercussions, as delineated in the Family Law Act (1975) (section 70NFB), which include:

  1. An order compelling the party responsible for the breach to cover all costs incurred by the other party.
  2. An order compensating the party for the time they were deprived of spending with the child.
  3. Imposition of a fine on the non-complying party.
  4. In cases involving a serious breach of the order, potential imprisonment for a duration of up to 12 months.

What can you do if your former partner has breached a Family Court Order?

In the event of a breach of a court order, the affected party, commonly referred to as the aggrieved party, is required to initiate a course of action. This involves filing a contravention application, accompanied by a sworn or affirmed affidavit. This legal recourse serves as a formal means to address the breach and seek appropriate remedies.

It is noteworthy that the aggrieved party, in some instances, may not seek punitive measures against the non-compliant party but may instead desire a restoration of the original court order arrangements. In such cases, an additional application, termed an “Enforcement” application, must be filed. This legal step signifies the aggrieved party’s intention to reinstate the initial court order terms without necessarily seeking punishment or penalties for the non-compliant party.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Non-Compliance Severity: Family court order non-compliance, or the breach of family court orders, constitutes a serious violation with legal ramifications. Failure to comply with family court orders, without a reasonable excuse, warrants severe penalties, including cost coverage, compensation for lost time, fines, and potential imprisonment for serious breaches.
  2. Binding Nature of Orders: Both parenting and financial orders issued by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) are legally binding, compelling parties to adhere to stipulated terms.
  3. Reasonable Excuses: Section 70NAE of the Family Law Act (1975) outlines acceptable “reasonable excuses,” such as genuine failure to understand the order, belief in safeguarding health, and ensuring breaches are limited to necessary safety periods.
  4. Legal Recourse for Breaches: Aggrieved parties facing breaches can file a contravention application with a sworn or affirmed affidavit. Optionally, an “Enforcement” application signals a desire to reinstate original court order terms without seeking punitive measures.

In navigating the complexities of family court orders, it is crucial to recognize the gravity of non-compliance and the legal repercussions that follow. If you find yourself dealing with a breach of a family court order, consult with a legal professional to understand your rights and options. Here at Quill Legal, we are with you every step of the way. Be sure to get in touch with one of our family lawyers for a free initial consultation.

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