Specific Issue and Prohibitive Steps Order

A specific issue order usually relates to a child’s welfare and can be brought forward to the court by either parent. Specific issues always relate in some way to parental responsibility, for example:

  • If the resident parent wishes to take the child to live abroad and the non-resident parent disagrees
  • When parents cannot agree about which school the child should attend
  • Whether a child should receive certain kinds of medical treatment – usually an issue with Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Whether a child should be brought up in a particular religious tradition

A prohibitive steps order is even less used than a specific issue order and is usually brought by one parent to prevent the second parent from doing something, usually in relation to a child of the marriage. Prohibitive steps orders may be used for, but are not limited to the following:

  • To prevent the other parent taking the child for a particular kind of medical treatment
  • To stop the other parent from permanently removing the child from the country in which they are living.
  • To prevent the child from associating with such people as the other parent deems in appropriate
  • In rate cases a prohibitive steps order may be used to prevent the non-resident parent from coming anywhere near the resident parent and or the child.

If the resident parent wishes to permanently remove a child or children abroad, or if the estranged parent originally comes from another country the other parent may apply for a prohibitive steps order. Taking a child to live abroad would at least limit contact between the child and the non-resident parent and in many cases stop it altogether. Taking a child to another country, away from its other parent will seriously affect the child’s relationship with that parent and could affect their long term development.

When a court is asked to make a prohibitive steps order, the paramount consideration must be the welfare of the child. The court will also question whether the resident parent’s decision to relocate is reasonable and practical. The court will also look at the motive behind relocation and question whether it is designed to prevent the other parent from having regular contact with the child. The final thing that the court must consider is whether forcing the resident parent to remain in the country when they wish to move, would seriously affect that person and thereby have a corresponding effect on the child. If the child is of a certain age then the court will take his or her wishes into consideration before making such an order.

Applications for either of the above orders have to be heard before a district judge, the solicitors and the CAFCAS officer (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Services Order). The purpose of this first meeting is to try and get the parents to come to some agreement over the issues involved. If however, the relationship was violent, this agreement meeting may not be possible and the issue will probably go on to a court hearing.