Judicial Enforcement of Child Arrangements Orders. MoJ figures

Estimated reading time: 2 min

We would like to start with three quotes

The family court has powers to address a breach if someone has been wilfully obstructive.


Sir Oliver Heald, Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, 25th April 2017


Too often at present, once things start going wrong, it takes too long – too often far too long – to get in front of a judge who is in a position to take potentially decisive action. Judicial case management where the case is allocated to a single judge affords real opportunities to combat this problem, particularly if the parties are able to communicate with the judge, and the judge with the parties, by fax or e-mail. Other things being equal, swift, efficient, enforcement of existing court orders is surely called for at the first sign of trouble.


Mr Justice Munby, 2003 (now Sir James Munby and Head of the Family Division)


The court system for dealing with contact disputes has serious faults….In particular, the court process is stressful for both parents and children, it is expensive for those who are not publicly funded; it is slow and adversarial. It tends to entrench parental attitudes rather than encouraging them to change. It is ill adapted to dealing with the difficult human dilemmas involved, notably when it comes to the enforcement of its orders.

Wall LJ, 2003

Following a recent post on Child Arrangements Orders and Enforcement Voice of the Child has been looking at some of the figures around Judicial enforcement of such orders. Specifically, we were interested to get some empirical data which we will outline in the following paragraphs showing the relationship between applications for enforcement (of Child Arrangements Orders) and orders made.

The Voice of the Child has been looking at the quarterly statistics published in an excel spreadsheet by the Ministry of Justice available here.

The spreadsheet outlined the following figures with regards to enforcement applications in private law cases for the years 2011 through 2016 (plus the figures for the first quarter 2017). It also gave the number of enforcement orders that were made in the same years.

It is important to note that it is possible that an application may have been made in a different year to that which an order was granted (so there is likely to be a small discrepancy in the data when comparing applications in a certain year with orders).


Private Law Enforcement (Children Act) applications by year (plus Q1 2017)
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Q1 2017
2,078 2,385 3,173 3,984 4,547 6,070 1,699

Source: Ministry of Justice, UK

Orders made in the same year are as follows:

Private Law Enforcement (Children Act) orders made by year (plus Q1 2017)
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Q1 2017
45 53 62 69 70 67 14

Source: Ministry of Justice, UK

We’ve produced a table using the above figures to make it clearer to our readers what the incidence of orders granted vs applications made expressed as a % success.

% of Private Law (Children Act) Enforcement applications resulting in an order for enforcement in the Family courts in England and Wales, annually 2011 – 2016 & Q1 2017
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Q1 2017
2.17% 2.22% 1.95% 1.73% 1.54% 1.10% 0.82%

Source: The Voice of the Child

MP’s need to be made aware of the problems with Family Court Enforcement. Having an order does not mean that it will be followed, or, that you will be able to have it enforced.

It goes without saying that each of the applications in the above figures would have involved differing facts the figures do suggest that the incidence of successful enforcement applications is very low indeed. Either, the applications are all being made without merit (and the applicant’s are throwing their own money away on spurious claims of order breaches) or, perhaps,  the Judges in the Family Courts don’t like enforcing their own orders.

We would be interested to hear what Sir Oliver Heald’s successor, Dominic Raab MP has to say on the MoJ figures when talking about the powers of the Family Courts’ to enforce orders made in the children’s best interest.

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