Guideline 15 – contravention and enforcement of court orders and contempt of court

Guideline 15 – contravention and enforcement of court orders and contempt of court

Applicants for legal assistance who are found by a court within the last 12 months to have contravened a Federal Circuit Court or Family Court of Australia order without reasonable excuse will not be eligible for a grant of legal assistance under this guideline or will have their grant of legal assistance terminated.

15.1 – assistance for contravention and enforcement of court orders

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) may make a grant of legal assistance to an applicant for, or respondent to, a contravention or enforcement application where there is alleged to have been a 'substantial breach' of a parenting order such as a 'lives with' or 'time spent' order and where the matter meets the 'priority matter' guideline in '2.1.1 – litigation following early intervention and dispute resolution grant' in Guideline 2 – litigation.

An example of a 'substantial breach' is where 'time spent' has not occurred due to the breach of a court order by the other party on more than one occasion (that is, a pattern of breaches has been established) and where the last alleged breach has occurred within 12 months of the court application being made.

Contravention or enforcement proceedings are to be instituted without undue delay following the last breach.

An example of a breach that is not considered substantial is one party being late for changeover.

VLA may grant assistance for interlocutory contravention proceedings as well as for those occurring after final orders have been made.

Where the matter meets this guideline, VLA will consider the matter for an early intervention and dispute resolution grant.

Limitations and conditions

Usually, a grant of assistance for an enforcement order will be:

  • limited to $2000 (but see further below)
  • granted by VLA only on condition that the person seeking assistance seeks a costs order against the respondent to the court application.

However, if the respondent is also receiving a grant of legal assistance, then VLA will not impose the condition about costs.

15.2 – contempt of court

VLA may make a grant of legal assistance to an applicant for assistance in relation to a family law or child support matter (other than a property matter) for contempt of court.

Where the applicant is a respondent to court proceedings, in determining whether to grant assistance, VLA may have regard to the severity of any penalty which may be imposed.

A contravention, enforcement or contempt proceeding is a ‘new matter’

VLA will treat contravention, enforcement or contempt proceedings as a separate matter for the purposes of the family law costs management methodology.

The costs cap for a grant of legal assistance for enforcement proceedings is $2000. See Guideline 17 – family law costs management for information about cost caps and the family law costs management methodology.