Although a prohibited steps order is often utilised to stop a parent from taking a child abroad, it can be used for a wide range of different reasons.
Under the Children Act 1989 a Prohibited Steps Order is “an order that no step which could be taken by a parent in meeting their parental responsibility for a child, and is of a kind specified in the order, shall be taken by any person without the consent of the court”.
A Prohibited Steps Order fundamentally imposes a restriction against another parent preventing them from carrying out a particular act such as:
1. Removing a child from the UK;
2. Relocating with the child within the UK;
3. Changing a child’s surname;
4. Changing a child’s school, and
5. Issues arising in respect of medical treatment of a child.
It is important to note when considering an application for a Prohibited Steps Order, the child’s welfare will be the Courts paramount consideration and it will have regard to the welfare checklist (Children Act 1989, s 1(3). When considering the welfare checklist, the Court must be satisfied that it would be in the child’s interest have a Prohibited Steps Order in place.
As well as stopping a parent from taking their child abroad, prohibited steps orders are frequently used to stop a parent from doing something with their child, such as attending events or taking part in certain activities.
However, a prohibited steps order can actually be made against anyone. Having parental responsibility is not a prerequisite. What’s more, a prohibited steps order may even be used on someone who is not party to the proceedings.
Depending on the urgency, you can make a self-supporting application with or without notice against the other parent. An order can be made during the course of any ongoing family proceedings where the question arises with respect to the welfare of any child. Or in conjunction with another order in Children Act proceedings.
Certain people can apply to the court for a prohibited steps order without needing permission from the court, first. This includes guardians, the person who is named on the child arrangements order as the person who the child is living with, parents and step parents with parental responsibility.
Others will have to seek permission from the courts to apply for the prohibited steps order, before making the application.
Anyone with Parental Responsibility can make the application. Furthermore, any person named on an existing Child Arrangements Order as having Parental Responsibility can also make an application. Anyone else, will need the Courts permission to make an application.
A prohibited steps order could stop someone (usually a parent) from doing various things, such as:
A prohibited steps order may be made during any family proceedings involving the child or as a separate application to the court.
The welfare of the child is always the court’s top priority when making its decision about whether or not to make a prohibited steps order. When making their decision, the Judge will be guided by various issues, such as the wishes of the child and any harm suffered by the child.
A Prohibited Steps Order can contain guidelines as to how the Order is to be carried out. It can also impose the conditions that must be complied with by any parent or non-parent who has Parental Responsibility. The Court can also specify how long the order is to last for. The Court also has to power to add various clauses to the order as they find appropriate.
Either until the child is 16 years old or, more rarely, until the child reaches 18 years old.
Alternatively, a prohibited steps order can last for a specific amount of time (which is specified on the order).
There are various restrictions when it comes to prohibited steps orders. For example:
It may be possible to make an urgent application to the court for a prohibited steps order, without informing the other party.
As always, it is important to seek legal advice for your individual circumstances.
Court should always be the last resort for any family related matters. It is now a prerequisite that all parties must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before taking Court action. The MIAM sessions would be conducted by a trained mediator who has an impartial opinion and tries to encourage the parties to reach an amicable decision.
It must be highlighted that you do not have to attend a MIAM if your Prohibited Steps Order Application is to be made without notice (you can claim an exemption via your application). Furthermore, if there has been a history of domestic violence or child protection issues, it is likely that the MIAM will not be suitable for the parties and the mediator will sign to say they consider it unsuitable.
Austin Kemp Solicitors are specialists in this area of law. We recommend you contact us to arrange a consultation to discuss the prospects of the case and whether you are making the correct application.
In order to start the Court process the other parent may want to or has already made threats to remove the child from the UK, indicated that they wish to relocate the child within the UK, wants to change a child’s surname or you have concern relating to issues arising in respect of medical treatment of a child. If this is the case, you will need to carry out the following steps:
(1.) Prepare a C100 application verified by a statement of truth by Applicant (the person making the application). In all cases where harm to the child is alleged, the Applicant must file a form setting out the allegations of harm.
(2.) If it is a with or without notice application the Applicant will need to file the application with the Family Court (ideally where the child resides) attaching a Court fee of £215. If you are on a low income you may wish to complete a Fees Remission Form (also known as an EX160 Form) to claim a fee exemption or reduction in the Court fee.
(3.) The next step would be to wait for the Court to list the matter for a return hearing (if without notice application) or a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA). If an urgent Order is made, it will need to be served personally upon the other parent.
(4.) Before the FHDRA, the Court shall appoint the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) who shall speak to the parties individually about the application. After speaking with the parties, CAFCASS will prepare a safeguarding letter. This essentially means providing recommendations to the Court. An example would be whether or not a finding of fact hearing is required to determine the allegation of harm and/or whether CAFCASS are required to prepare a Section 7 Report to explore issues further or whether any experts are required.
(5.) The FHDRA should take place between 5 to 6 weeks from the date of issuing the application. This hearing is essentially used to take stock of the case and to investigate the ongoing issues. This will give the parties the opportunity to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be achieved, the Court will list the matter for a Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA).
(6.) At the DRA hearing, the Court narrows down the issues and considers any Reports filed by CAFCASS or any other experts. The DRA can be used as a final hearing as the Court have the liberty to make final orders. If the case is inconclusive, the Court can list the matter to be heard at a Final Hearing where the parties to the proceedings are required to file statements and be cross-examined.
1. In order to make a Prohibited Steps Order application, the child must be under the age of 16.
2. No Order can continue beyond the age of 18.
3. An Order may be made to have effect of a specified period.
4. A Prohibited Steps Order cannot be made in respect of a child who is in the care of the Local Authority.
5. A Prohibited Steps Order can only be made in relation to an aspect of parental responsibility. It is an order in the form of an injunction to prevent something from happening.
6. An application for Prohibited Steps Order cannot be made as a way to achieving a result that could be achieved by a Child Arrangements Order.
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