Mum forced to do community service for breaking child court order

Last modified on Tuesday 4 July 2023

mum hugs kid

The mum has told how she was faced with 'no choice' but to breach her Child Arrangements Order because of the cost of driving her kids to her ex's house, but has now been punished

A mum says she's been left 'mortified' after she was made to do community service for breaching a child contact court order.

The mum of 3 has been ordered to complete 50 hours of unpaid work, after she repeatedly failed to drop the children off for contact with their dad – a breach of their Child Arrangements Order (CAO).

The 2 children she shares with her ex – now aged 13 and 11 – live with her and spend weekends with their dad, as agreed in the order at the family court.

The conditions were laid out in a court order after the woman had moved 4 hours away from her ex when they separated.

The order states the parents share the travel, by doing 1 of the journeys each. However, after saying she can't afford to do the journeys, the mum has been penalised with community service, following being reported to the courts by her ex.

'I can't afford to pay for my ex's contact'

'I've been given 50 hours community service because I can’t afford to pay for my ex's contact,' she said.

'I have told Court that I do not have the funds to pay for the train journey as it is too expensive during holidays, and I cannot do the drives anymore due to medical conditions and have no one else to help.

'I originally agreed to the order based him paying maintenance, so I could use this for the journeys. However, he now only pays £29 a month, for 2 children, which is nowhere near enough to cover the journeys and it's not even guaranteed I get the payment every month.

'He is on benefits and claims to be a carer for his wife and her children. Neither of them work, he and his wife smoke and he has just had a baby.'

'A really tight budget'

The mum, who is currently on maternity leave, says she is on a 'really tight budget', and is struggling to pay for food, petrol, heating and clothing.

She shared her story in the Netmums forum, looking for help and advice from others who might have been in a similar situation.

'Every month I am overdrawn, I have no spare money to pay for train journeys,' she added.

'I’ve continued to tell court I cannot afford to facilitate his contact when I am struggling. My partner has 4 children, plus our new baby to look after and has to cover the shortfall for my 2 children as well because their own father won’t provide for them.'

'I have more outgoings than coming in'

The mum claims the court has 'criticised' her for starting a new family, but says her ex is 'never criticised' for his failure to pay child maintenance.

She added: 'How can I get the court to understand that the children’s basic everyday needs have to come first?

'I have nowhere to cut cost, as I already have more outgoings then [money] coming in.

'I’ve told the court over and over that I cannot follow the order, it was put in place under conditions that haven’t been met and it needs changing.

'I have told him he can have the children every holiday, if he just does both journeys, but he continues to refuse, preferring to see me in court.' 

'I'm mortified I've been given community service'

'I’m mortified that I have now been given community service and the order has been left in place,' she continued. 'Even though the children told Cafcass [the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service] they don’t want to visit for a full week and I have proven I can’t afford it. 

'I am not stopping him having the children and I have asked for the order to be changed. Why am I being punished when I have not stopped him having children?'

'No one is listening to me'

The mum wanted to stress she has not prevented her ex seeing their children but has asked he does both lifts.

'I just want him to take on that one responsibility,' she said.

'But I'm banging my head against a brick wall and no one is listening to me.

'I don't think I'm being unreasonable as 1 parent asking the other parent to help with one aspect of their lives when he contributes nothing else!

'He could be seeing them, as much as he wants, but instead has just continues to take me to court, when I cannot increase my part time wage at the moment and all my finances go on raising my children.'

Drawing  of a family of four, split in two

Advice from other parents

While some readers in the Forum offering advice were sympathetic with the mum, many pointed out it was her responsibility to follow the contact order and get the children to their dad because she was the 1 who moved away.

One said: 'The problem is that you made the move without considering the kids contact with their father.

'I understand it was to be closer to your support network so it's easier for you, but the court doesn't care about that.

'All they care about is the children and the removal of contact is harmful for them.'

'You moved the kids away'

Another added: 'The reason you’ve been given community service is because you moved the kids 4 hours away from their father.

'As you made that decision, the travel does come down to you. As you’re not travelling it can lead to community service as a failure on your end.

'I moved countries with my children. And I have to pay travel 7 hours away for when they visit their father as it was my choice to move. It then falls down to me to provide travel.'

'I get that it's unaffordable'

'I completely get that it is unaffordable. Especially with the cost of living,' the parent continued. 'Would you consider moving closer? As it looks that maybe the only option other than travelling all the time.'

A third simply said: 'Periodically in life we have to feed from the banquet of the consequences of our decisions.'

However others were more supportive.

Life isn't black and white

One said: 'I feel that some on here are actually being really unsympathetic to this situation here and acting as if life is black and white.

'What system thinks it's acceptable for 1 parent to only contribute under £30 per month for the upkeep of 2 children.

'She has a job, she is on maternity leave, father is clearly not working to pay that amount of money per month.

'Why isn't anyone mentioning the fact he should step up get a decent job and pay his way?'

What do you think? Join the debate in the our Forum.

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

A ‘child arrangements order’ decides:

  • where your child lives
  • when your child spends time with each parent
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example

‘Child arrangements orders’ replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. Parents with these orders do not need to re-apply.

What happens if I breach a Child Arrangement Order?

If you do not do what the child arrangements order says you may be made to do unpaid work or pay financial compensation.

You may also be held to be in contempt of Court and imprisoned or fined.

Get the full details of what could happen if you breach a Child Arrangements Order.

Related content

Child Maintenance Service (CMS) get more powers

Chat: Help with child arrangements

What to do when contact with your ex breaks down

Netmums Newsletters

Yes, please! I want the best parenting news around

*By signing up you accept Netmums' Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.