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The Law and You: Contravention of orders

Watts McCray Lawyers

You have orders or an agreement on an issue you’ve been facing with your partner, a relative or another party such as a neighbour.

You now believe you can breathe because the matter’s taken care of. This can be true in some circumstances, but not in all.

Just because you have orders or an agreement, it doesn’t automatically mean the matter is resolved. Indeed, it may just be the next chapter in the process of the breakdown of your relationship with the party involved.

So what can you do when one party breaches or contravenes orders or an agreement that you have in place? It depends on the scenario. Here are four common scenarios to consider:

I have a Family Violence Order, Personal Protection Order or Workplace Order in place but it’s been breached because the Respondent has contacted me. What do I do?

Contact the Police to report the breach. The Police have the power to charge the person who has breached the Order, if they deem there’s sufficient evidence to do so. It’s a criminal offence to breach a Family Violence Order, Personal Protection Order or Workplace Order so the Police take this seriously.

My ex-partner and I agreed to Undertakings in the Magistrates Court not to contact one another except in relation to our children. My ex-partner breached this by contacting me about something unrelated to our children. What do I do?

Undertakings are different to Family Violence Orders. While you can contact the Police to report the breach, the Police don’t have the same power to charge a person like they do when there’s an Order in place. Of course, if your ex-partner has conducted a criminal act, like assault, then the Police have the power to charge them.

If a respondent has breached Undertakings—the promise they’ve made to the Court, not to do something—then you have a strong case to apply to the Magistrates Court for a formal Family Violence Order against that person.

I have Parenting Orders made in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court and my ex-partner has breached them. What can I do?

This depends on what the breach is. If you’re the parent that has primary care of your children and your children have been withheld from you, you can seek an Order that they be urgently returned to your care. If you’re not the parent who has primary care of the children, you can file a contravention application at the Court. This application is technical. You might also file this application if telephone time with your children did not take place, or if there was another breach of an Order.

I have property Orders made in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court and my ex-partner has breached them. What can I do?

This depends on what the breach is. If one party has failed to pay you money, you can seek enforcement of the Order and costs for having to apply for enforcement. You can seek an Order that money owed to you be paid from the other party’s wages or that property owned by the party be sold so you can receive what is owed to you, along with any interest payable on the amount owed.

Contravention of orders is a complex area and the nuances of every case should be analysed so an outcome is achieved as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Going to Court may not always be the right option for you.

Catherine Coles

This column was prepared by Catherine Coles, who has been practising exclusively in family law since April 2011. Catherine is an accredited specialist in family law and has been recognised by Doyle’s Guide as one of the ACT’s leading Family Lawyers. Contact Catherine or another specialist in Family Law at Watts McCray Lawyers Canberra to talk about a contravention issue.

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Watts McCray Lawyers

Watts McCray is a leading firm of family and relationship lawyers. We have the largest number of accredited family law specialists in Australia and are backed by years of experience. Our lawyers have the skills to provide you with sound, practical advice about issues such as relationship changes and separation, property and financial matters, parenting arrangements after separation, child support and divorce. Watts McCray can also provide you with legal help if you want to resolve matters without having to go through Court. We can help with negotiation, mediation, collaboration and arbitration services as well as the traditional Court litigation process. We can also help with your estate planning and wills. Call us on (02) 6257 6347 for more information and for tailored services to meet your specific legal needs. More about the Author