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What is a Prohibited Steps Order?

Occasionally, a dispute might arise between you and your Child’s other parent in regards to how you each wish to exercise parental responsibility towards your child.

This can arise in a number of instances, for example, they may wish to:

–       Take the child abroad. This could be short term, for a holiday or a more permanent measure, which would have a significant impact upon your relationship with the child.

–       Change the child’s school or GP which may not be agreeable to you.

–       Change the child’s name

–       Have other people involved in your child’s life who you do not agree with due to concerns regarding your child’s safety.

–       Consent to your child undergoing a certain type of medical treatment which you do not agree with.

Both parents working together to co-parent a child following a separation can be challenging.

Disagreements in respect of the other parent’s exercise of parental responsibility towards the child can often be more challenging to overcome. You each have your own views as to how the proposed action would or would not be in the best interests of the child, so it may be tricky to find common ground.

In this instance, we can assist you in applying for a Prohibited Steps Order from the Court which would limit their exercise of parental responsibility in the manner proposed.

Prohibited Steps Order applications can be tricky to progress independently, and it is often a long and quite stressful process. It is important that you seek legal advice from a children law specialist to determine whether the Application is the right option for you.

Who is able to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order?

You are able to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order if you:

–       Are a parent of the child

–       Are a guardian of the child

–       Hold a Live with Child Arrangements Order.

What is a Prohibited Steps Order?

A Prohibited Steps Order, (occasionally referred to as PSO) is an Order made by the Court which prevents a person with parental responsibility, exercising this and making certain decisions concerning the child. 

The Prohibited Steps Order Application is considered by the Court, who assess the matter as an independent third party, in light of what is in your child’s best interests.

They are usually in relation to a specific activity the other parent wishes to carry out.

Can a Prohibited Steps Order prevent relocation abroad?

If your child’s parent wishes to take the child abroad permanently, they must obtain your prior, written consent to the relocation. Without doing so would likely be regarded as child abduction.

An application for a Prohibited Steps Order should be made to the Court if you do not consent to the relocation.

The Court will decide if moving your child is in their best interests. If it’s not, the Court will make an order preventing your child from going abroad.

Can a Prohibited Steps Order prevent internal relocation?

Your child’s parent may wish to relocate to another part of the UK. This could potentially have an impact upon your contact arrangements with the child, perhaps reducing how often you have contact with them.

An application for a Prohibited Steps Order should be made to the Court in respect of this activity if you do not agree to the internal relocation.

The Court will then consider whether the proposed internal relocation is in your child’s best interests, and if found not to be, then a Prohibited Steps Order should be made, preventing the internal relocation.

Can a Prohibited Steps Order prevent my ex-partner involving their new partner in my child’s life?

It is crucial to determine any worries you may have regarding your former partner’s new significant other and their role in your child’s life. If your concerns are related to your child’s well-being, such as instances of domestic abuse, the Court might have the ability to issue a Prohibited Steps Order to prohibit your ex-partner’s new partner from meeting or having any association with your child.

Your child’s welfare is the paramount consideration of the Court.

How soon should I apply to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order?

The timeliness of submitting an application to the Court relies on the specific matter being dealt with. In certain situations, it might be feasible to settle the issue harmoniously via alternative conflict resolution methods, like mediation, thereby sidestepping the burdensome and expensive nature of protracted court hearings.

We can assist you in determining whether this is appropriate in your matter.

In other instances, for example where your ex-partner wishes for your child to undergo certain medical procedures which will happen quite soon, it may likely be appropriate for an urgent Prohibited Steps Order Application to be made.

What is an Emergency Prohibited Steps Order?

You may need to urgently prevent your ex-partner from exercising their parental responsibility and pursuing a specific course of action for your child that you do not agree with.

This could include medical treatment, a sudden relocation abroad or perhaps, you become aware that they plan to relocate imminently to a different part of the UK/abroad. In such instance, you could apply for an Emergency Prohibited Steps Order.

The circumstances in which Emergency Prohibited Steps Orders are granted are usually limited to where there is strong evidence of imminent threat.

It may also be possible for the Order to be granted ex-parte, which means that the Order is made without your ex-partner being aware of the initial hearing or Order, however the matter would then usually be re-heard at a later date.

Although the matter will be listed for a further Hearing later down the line, this would have the effect of initially stopping the course of action they were seeking to pursue, until the full case can be considered by a Judge.

How can I apply?

The Application for a Prohibited Steps order is made under section 8 of the Children Act 1989.

You must attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) prior to commencing the Application. If the application is for an Emergency Prohibited Steps Order, there is no requirement to attend a MIAM.

The MIAM Certificate must be filed with the Court alongside a completed C100 form and the Court fee.

The Application must specify what type of Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 is being applied for. This can be:

–       A Child Arrangements Order,

–       A Prohibited Steps Order, and/or

–       A Specific Issue Order

Each of the types of Order deal with different issues, and alongside the Prohibited Steps Order, you may also wish to applying for a Child Arrangements Order and a Specific Issue Order, depending on the issues in your matter.

The Court fee remains the same if you apply for 1 type of Order, or all 3, within the same application.

We can assist you in determining which, if any, applications should be made and in preparing the Application.

What is the difference between a Child Arrangements Order and a Prohibited Steps Order?

A Child Arrangements Order determines who your child resides with, and when they have contact with the other parent. It can also specify what the contact arrangements should be, including any additional telephone calls or holiday arrangements.

A Prohibited Steps Order prevents the other parent from making specific decisions in respect of your child’s life.

It may be the case that you require both types of Court Order.For instance, let’s say your former partner wants to move to a different area in the United Kingdom without your consent. In this situation, you can obtain a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent your ex-partner from relocating with your child. Moreover, you might also want to establish a formalised Order that governs future contact between you and your child. This would involve applying for a Child Arrangements Order.

What is the difference between a Specific Issue Order and Prohibited Steps Order?

A Prohibited Steps Order prohibits your ex-partner from making certain decisions in relation to your child.

A Specific Issue Order is used, as the name implies, to resolve a specific issue in respect of your child’s upbringing where you and your ex-partner are unable to reach an Agreement. They provide the Applicant parent with the right to make a specific decision in respect of the child’s life. These can be used in a wide range of matters.

For example; in respect of the issue where one partner wishes to relocate abroad with the child, your ex-partner may consider making a Specific Issue Application to the Court as to whether they should be allowed to re-locate.

If you would not consent to the relocation, you would consider making an Application to the Court to prohibit them from re-locating.

In addition to making an Application for a Prohibited Steps Order, in the instance of your ex-partner seeking to relocate, you may also wish to reduce the risk of them breaching the Order by making a Specific Issue Order in respect of which parent retains the child’s passport.

What is the Process of a Prohibited Steps Order application?

Once your application has been received by the Court and issued, the matter will be referred by the Court to CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services), who will carry out some initial safeguarding checks and speak with you and your ex-partner in respect of your respective concerns.

The matter will then be listed for a Hearing for the Judge/Magistrates to consider your application and provide directions. It is usually the case whereby one hearing is required but depending on the nature of the application it could be two or three.

At the Final Hearing the Court will determine the most appropriate outcome in line with your child’s best interests.

How does the Court determine whether to make the Order?

There are a number of considerations that the Court take into account when assessing what outcome would be in your child’s best interests.

This is known as the ‘Welfare Checklist’ which is found in section 1 of the Children Act 1989 and includes:

1- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (in the light of their age and understanding)

2- Their physical, emotional and educational needs

3- the likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances

4- Their age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristics

5- Harm or any risk of harm

6- Capability of each parent, or other relevant person, in meeting the child’s needs

7- The Powers available to the Court in relation to decisions to be made regarding the child.

Are there any instances the Court would not grant a Prohibited Steps Order?

The Application must be carefully prepared in light of your child’s best interests. We can assist you with this.

Ultimately, unless the matter can be agreed between you both, the final decision is made by the Court.

If the Court determine that preventing your ex-partner from exercising their parental responsibility in the manner you seek would not be in your child’s best interests, then the Application will not be granted.

Once your child has reached the age of 16, the Court will not grant a prohibited steps order.

How long will a Prohibited Steps Order last?

The Court will specify how long the Order is to remain in place.

This can be for a specified period such as 6/12 months, or until a specified event, such as the Child completing secondary education.

Can the Prohibited Steps Order be amended or lifted once made?

If you no longer wish for your ex-partner to be bound by the terms of the Prohibited Steps Order, you may wish to resolve this between you by way of alternative dispute resolution.

If you require the Order to be formally varied and removed, then a further application to the Court will be required by way of a specific issue order.

What happens if the other parent breaches the Prohibited Steps Order made?

If your ex-partner does not comply with the terms of the Order and continues to act in a manner they have been prohibited from doing, then this will be a breach of the Order.

Court Orders are legally binding and to breach these may lead to a range of consequences for your ex-partner ranging from fines, to imprisonment.

The breach could be very serious, for instance, relocating abroad despite the Prohibited Steps Order preventing your ex-partner from doing so, and they may have committed the criminal offence of child abduction.

How can a Prohibited Steps Order be enforced?

If the Prohibited Steps Order is breached, you should consider making an Enforcement Order to the Court.

This must be done by completing Form C79 and paying the relevant court fee.

Upon the Court receiving the application, they will set a date for an initial Hearing where a Judge will consider the breach and determine whether there has been justifiable reason for this occurring.

If no such reason is found, then action will be taken to enforce the Order. This could include you being repaid if you have suffered any financial loss, unpaid work to be completed by the Respondent, fines, or for more serious breaches, a prison sentence.

What if I now need to exercise my Parental Responsibility in the way the other parent is prohibited from?

Whilst there is not a Prohibited Steps Order in place against you, you may feel there is nothing from stopping you from making the same decision your ex-partner wished to do in relation to the child, for example, changing their school.

If your ex-partner is not agreeable to you doing so, you should consider making a specific issue order application to the Court.

If you act without your ex-partner’s consent, you may find that they make an Application to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent you from doing so.

Prohibited Steps Orders can be a difficult area of child arrangements and family law. At Laker Legal, we have a great deal of specialised experience and knowledge in such matters and can assist you throughout.

Please contact us so we can discuss this with you.

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