Info & Advice

What are examples of Prohibited Steps Order and how easy is it to get one?

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Prohibited Steps Orders are put in place to prevent a parent making a decision about a certain aspect of a child’s upbringing. This article sets out a non-exhaustive list of examples of when it might be appropriate to obtain one and the ease within which this can be done.

Examples of reasons for obtaining a Prohibited Steps Order

As stated above, essentially, anything related to the upbringing of a child is capable of being the subject of a Prohibited Steps application. This includes:

  • Preventing your ex from changing your child’s name
  • Decisions relating to their education, such as preventing them from going to a particular school or being home-schooled
  • Preventing the child from having particular medical treatment, changing a GP, or having an operation
  • Preventing the child from receiving or stopping religious or non-religious instruction or education
  • Taking the child out of the country or moving out of the area
  • Preventing the child from engaging in political activities
  • Preventing someone from having contact with a child

Who can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order?

The following individuals have an automatic right to apply for a prohibited steps order in relation to a child:

  • Any parent, guardian, or special guardian of a child
  • Anyone who is named in a child arrangements order which is in force in relation to that child and says the child is to live with them
  • Anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child who is the subject of the application

How easy is it to get a Prohibited Steps Order?

As stated above, a prohibited steps order can be made by anyone holding parental responsibility for the child in question. However, if you do not hold parental responsibility, you may still be able to obtain a prohibited steps order, but you must first apply for permission from the court to do so.

The application is made on a form C100, submitting this to the court and paying the applicable fee to begin proceedings.

Very often, prohibited steps applications are considered in an emergency, such as preventing a child from being removed from the country, and may be made without notice. This is where the respondent parent is not initially aware of the proceedings or indeed invited to the first hearing. Whether the case could be considered an emergency largely depends on the unique circumstances of your case. But to do so, you must prove to the court there is a real need for an emergency hearing because the proposed change in the child’s circumstances will have a serious, detrimental effect on their welfare. If you cannot do so, then a hearing will be listed in the usual way.

If you are applying to the court for a prohibited steps order in the usual way, there is a first requirement to consider mediation in an attempt to settle the issue before applying. Therefore, you must attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), unless an exemption applies.

The court will list the case for an initial hearing, which is usually around 5 – 6 weeks after making the application. A judge will be present, and a member of CAFCASS who will carry out safeguarding checks and may be asked to prepare a report. If the parties cannot reach an agreement at the initial hearing, the court will make directions for next steps depending on what is necessary in each case.

Why might a prohibited steps order not be granted?

It is important to note that the court may not make a prohibited steps order if the same outcome can be achieved by an alternative order such as a child arrangements or specific issue order. The court is also unlikely to make the order if it clearly goes against a child’s wishes, that is, unless it is required to protect their welfare. In order to give your prohibited steps application the best prospect of success, it should be clear, specific, and not used frivolously.

How long does a prohibited steps order last?

The court will generally impose a duration they believe serves the best interests of the child in question. Its length will ultimately depend on both the circumstances of the case and the issue at hand, but in short, a prohibited steps order will last as long as the court stipulates. This can either be for a defined period, ranging from several months to many years, or until a specific event, such as until the child leaves full-time education.

In addition, a prohibited steps order will typically only remain in force until a further order is made. It is not possible for such an order to remain in place following a child’s 18th birthday because, in the eyes of the law, they are considered to be an adult. Most commonly, a prohibited steps order will usually only last until a child is 16.

What happens if a prohibited steps order is breached?

Failure to comply with a prohibited steps order will be viewed as a contempt of court. This means that if one party breaches the terms of the order, the other may apply to court to enforce it. This may result in a fine, or in extreme or repeated breaches, a term of imprisonment. Although it should be stressed, this is rare.

A penal notice can also be attached to a prohibited steps order, so that if it is not complied with, the police can take action. Again, this is rare in practice.

Can a Prohibited Steps Order be overturned?

It can be overturned; however, the court will not do so if removing the order may negatively affect the child and their welfare. A prohibited steps order may be lifted if both parties reach an agreement that it should be. In these circumstances, the person who initially made the application can ask the court to remove it. As with anything child related, the court will consider whether doing so would be in the child’s best interests.

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