The Harsh Consequences of Breaching Court Orders

18 MAR 2020


The Federal Circuit Court case of Ralton v Ralton was heard back in 2016, but its message still rings true today, being that serious breaches of court orders can have grave consequences.

This case involved parenting issues in relation to two children. In 2010, at hearing, the court ordered the children to live with the mother and spend time with the father.

A few years down the track in August 2014, the father's time with the children ceased. It was recommenced and ceased again in October 2014, only to commence again later in 2014. The father then filed an application with the court as the mother had been repeatedly breaching the orders by disallowing time. When the application was served on the mother on 3 December 2014, the father's time ceased again.

In February 2015, orders were made that the father’s time was to resume. As per the orders, time did resume, only to be later ceased once again in June/July 2015, contrary to the orders. As the pattern went, time recommenced and was ceased again in September 2015.

In November 2015, further orders were made for time to resume. However, for the second year in a row, the father was unable to see the children on Christmas Day.

In early 2016, one of the children ran away from the mother's household to the father's household. The parents were unable to improve their attitudes and their relationship with the other. While it is unfortunate, it is unsurprising that this case had to be decided by a Judge.

The Judge formed the view that the mother was completely opposed to the children spending any time with the father, as shown by the constant stopping and starting of time. The Judge went on to say that this was creating a very unhealthy environment and the mother was not at all insightful as to the impact of her poor relationship with the father on the children. There was a significant concern that if the children remained in their mother's care, they would not have a meaningful relationship with their father.

The father presented as genuine in his desire to make the parenting arrangements work and the Judge appreciated his willingness to engage professionals to assist him and the children. The Judge held the view that ordering the children to live with father would still allow them to have a meaningful relationship with their mother. As a result, the current orders were drastically changed. Sole parental responsibility was given to the father and the children were ordered to live with the father and spend time with the mother.

The mother appealed the decision in 2017 and was ultimately unsuccessful.

This case is a clear example of how repeated and serious breaches of court orders can cause a Judge to significantly change the arrangements that are in place, if doing so is in the best interest of the children.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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The recent merge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) in September 2021, exists as one entry point for parenting disputes to be dealt with by the Court. With the implementation of parenting orders by this Court, if a party breaches such orders penalties follow.
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