Enforcement apps don’t work

Enforcement applications don’t work.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news and all. Because it’s a pretty grim statement isn’t it? Enforcement applications quite simply don’t work.

The ex won’t talk to you. They won’t respond to emails, texts, letters or anything else. They didn’t turn up to mediation. Or maybe they have – and they have advised you that you’ll never see your kids again and if you don’t like it you’ll have to go to court.

Which makes it nice and simple. Hey ho! It’s off to court you go.

You’ve paid your £215. You’ve possibly paid a solicitor. Or your friendly McKenzie Friend. You’ve taken the day off work, possibly driven a long distance to a hearing. Where you have convinced a court to make an order for contact. Something. Anything.

And then after all that the ex decides to break the order.

But that’s OK. Sorta. OK, OK, it’s another £155 but hey…the ex will get a rocket when you put that enforcement application in won’t he/she? Eh? Eh? Contact will resume, order will be restored and it’ll be all good.

Nope.

Statistically you have around a 1.5% chance of your enforcement application succeeding. For the non mathematicians among you that’s around a 1 in 66 chance. Chances are you’re going to be on of the 65. So sorry…

You’re stuck with an order that cost you £215. For that price you’d get around 200 rolls of Andrex and they’d be more absorbent than the 2-3 pieces of A4 you have.

Enforcement doesn’t work.

What more typically happens is that your application morphs (or is hijacked if you want to be uncharitable) into a variation by your ex. It’s a truth universally acknowledged by court staff. Here’s a list of what happens:

  1. You get a court order.
  2. The ex breaks it.
  3. You apply for enforcement.
  4. The ex says he/she broke the order because it wasn’t working.
  5. The court varies the order (quite often with a reduction of contact).

If I were a horrible cynic as opposed to the optimistic, philanthropic soul that I clearly am I’d say something like `Well – if you are a resident parent who is hostile to contact and don’t want to pay the fee yourself all you need do is break the order and then get a variation to reduce the level of contact closer to what it is you want (i.e. none)’.

But I won’t. Because that’d be monstrous wouldn’t it now?

So are we clear?

Enforcement applications don’t work so isn’t worth making them is it?

Nope. You absolutely should go for enforcement.

Whaaaa?’ I hear you say. `What’s the point. You’ve said that it’ll cost me money for an application that almost certainly won’t work and I’ll likely end up with an order that provides less contact than I had before haven’t you??? Make your mind up!’

It’s a fair point.

Enforcement applications are still worth making.

There are very good reasons why you should make an application for enforcement if the order is materially broken.

  1. If you have no or reduced contact you likely have nothing to lose (apart from the application fee, time, effort and stress of course). Your options are to suck it up or do something.
  2. If you do nothing you’ll likely be told down the line that you were obviously A-OK with it. Because if you weren’t you would have made an application wouldn’t you? The ex will be able to argue that it was an agreed change of arrangements because you’ve come to an amicable agreement.
  3. If you do so you’re making it clear you don’t agree with what has happened and you are building a narrative that court orders are broken. And that the existing arrangement needs changing. Possibly a change in residence because the current resident parent can’t be trusted to support contact?

In short it’s absolutely worth making an applications for enforcement. But do it in the knowledge that you’re doing it as part of a long term strategy to get the order that is in the best interests of your child. In the short term you’ve got to be prepared to keep banging your head against a brick wall or just giving up.

What’s it to be punk?

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4 of the biggest myths in the Family Court

As sure as night follows day, the same misunderstandings about how the Family Courts work will be stated, restated, restated again and for good measure retweeted/shared/argued about.

Disregard this sort of thing and you’re not going to help yourself.

The sad thing is that many of them make things harder for people going through the whole process. It makes them do things that don’t help anyone (including their kids) or themselves, pitches them into conflicts that quite frankly aren’t worth happening and generally case trouble. Even if you know these but if the other party doesn’t it will often lead them to act in a way that seems irrational and counterproductive.

There are far more than 4 myths that do this (and I would put money on the fact I’ll be adding more of them as time progresses) but here are some of the `best’.

So here goes…

No.1 – If you have a residence order you can phone the police to get the kids back if your ex refuses to return them.

No. It. Won’t. Phone your local station and say this. Try it. Forget for a moment that this sort of dispute and the police only deal with criminal matters – not civil ones (bit of a spoiler really…).

You: Hello police? I’ve got a residence order and my ex won’t give me the kids back! Can you go round there and take them off him/her?

PC999: Do you have any welfare concerns?

You: Not really, it’s just that I’m the resident parent and he/she is breaking a court order! They should be with me! I’m the main parent!

PC999: OK…not much we can do I am afraid. You need to speak to your solicitor to take the matter back to court. Tell you what…we’ll go round there and advise him/her to hand them over and do a welfare check but that’s all we can do really.

That’s if the police follow the rules, mind. I do know of a couple of cases where officers have removed children without an Emergency Protection Order or without sufficient welfare concerns….and they have found themselves having a very serious chat with the Inspector about how removing kids from parents with PR without good reason tends to go down very badly.

So the moral of this story kids? Don’t think a residence order will stop your ex taking the kids.

No. 2 – An enforcement application will get your ex to abide with an order.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here – because going back to court is kind of the only option you have if your ex decides he/she is going to ignore the damn thing. Statistically you have less than a 1 in 50 chance of an enforcement application succeeding.

What normally happens is you will make an enforcement application…and your ex will  justify breaking the order by saying it isn’t working. What he/she should do of course is talk to you about agreeing a change to arrangements or making his/her own application for a variation. But seeing as that’d cost him/her £215 it’s much chearper and easier just to say I’m changing things. If you don’t like it – tough’ compelling the non resident parent to either say a) `Yes OK’ or b) Filling in the c79 and paying the fee himself/herself.

Followed by your ex seeking to hijack your application and turning it into a variation matter. This happens in a depressingly high number of situations this is what happens. Should you decide to apply for a penal notice don’t think one will be ordered either. You are more likely to be accused of trying to punish your ex.

No. 3 – If you get married your new partner automatically gets PR.

Nope nope nope. Doesn’t work like that. A stepparent has no legal relationship with a stepchild. None at all. If they want PR they’ll either have to get the agreement of everyone who has PR already. Or a court order.

That’s it.

No. 4 – When it comes to financial matters in divorce you get out what you put in.

Again…no. Not true. Consider the following assets and liabilities:

  • The large family estate consisting of a portfolio of properties in the UK that William the Conqueror gave to a distant ancestor of yours.
  • An eye watering credit card bill incurred by your ex as a result of the luxury cruise he/she had to take to get over your separation, comforted only by the new partner he/she left you for.
  • The money earned by your business that you’ve slaved for while your ex has sat on velvet cushions and ate chocolates.

It doesn’t matter where the money came from. Or where it went. Or who earned it. Or who spent it. All assets and liabilities go into the marital `pot’ and are divided up according to need. Remember though – money follows the children. Their needs come first.

It’s also worth remembering that as we’re talking about the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (and not the Children Act 1989) behaviour isn’t a factor in most cases. So attempting to tarnish your ex’s character seldom makes any difference.

Take the time to learn the basics here. It’ll likely save you a lot of heartache and also give you some perspective on your own situation.

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