Specific Issue and Prohibited Steps orders are becoming increasingly important in child arrangements matters for a number of reasons. Both in crises where parents are not only disagreeing about where a child is to live and with whom they spend time with, but also to assist keeping the status quo throughout cases that are lengthy until a final decision is made by the court or standalone applications.
In practice I am finding these orders to be just as much applied for as Child Arrangements Order so it is becoming increasingly important for parties to be aware of them.
Specific Issue Orders
Section 8 of The Children Act introduces and defines what a Specific Issue Order is. In essence it is an order that directs that something must happen.
These orders are a good mechanism of resolving disputes around various issues for example, whether a child should receive a specific medical treatment, decisions about where the child is to attend school, whether a child can be taken abroad by a parent and also to ensure the child is made available for contact which is useful in cases where one party has a history of suspending contact.
Prohibited Steps Orders
Also provided for by Section 8, Prohibited Steps Orders allow the court to forbid a party from taking a certain action until further order.
These orders are useful when a party wishes to prevent certain things from taking place such as changing a child’s name, changing a child’s school, taking them abroad, moving home with one party or from suspending contact. As you can see some of the same issues can be dealt with by both orders, which is applied for will depend on the history of the matter and the reason for the application. There are some instances where both a specific issue order and prohibited steps order are made for the same issue to allow all bases to be covered.
Who can these orders be made against
Section 11 (7) outlines the conditions that must be fulfilled when applying to the court for such orders. They can only be made against a person who is a parent or who has parental responsibility, they also can be made against a person with whom the child is living with, spending time with, or otherwise in contact with if they do not have PR or are a parent, providing they are named on the order as one of those. It is therefore important to check whether a party fulfils these conditions before making an application to the court.
If you have any further enquiries regarding Specific Issue and Prohibited Steps orders, please feel free to contact our Family Team.