Co-parenting is a challenge for most separated parents, especially if you and your former partner do not always see eye to eye. If your co-parent or someone else wants to make a decision about your child’s upbringing that you do not agree with, a Prohibited Steps Order can stop them.
At Crisp & Co, we provide bespoke family law advice to families across London and the rest of the UK.
We work tirelessly to help families find positive, long-term solutions to their problems. We understand that co-parents often have different goals and priorities that make decisions about children extremely difficult. For example, parents often want to relocate their children to other parts of the country or abroad to be closer to other family members. However, this sometimes means leaving the child’s other parent behind and reducing contact. In these types of situations, it can be challenging to decide what is in the best interests of the child and a third party perspective from a family judge is often what is needed to resolve the situation.
We can provide practical advice about obtaining a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent your child’s other parent or anyone else from making a particular decision about the child.
It is essential to talk to a specialist children law solicitor when thinking about applying for a Prohibited Steps Order. Court proceedings can be long and stressful, especially for children, so a professional can help you explore all other options before proceeding as well as handling the court application process for you.
Our Family Team are members of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Accreditation Scheme for our expertise in helping families achieve positive outcomes in complex matters. We can provide practical advice about whether applying for a Prohibited Steps Order is right for you.
What is a Prohibited Steps Order?
A Prohibited Steps Order is a court order that can prevent a person (usually someone with parental responsibility, such as one of the child’s parents) from making a decision about a child’s upbringing.
A Prohibited Steps Order can prevent a wide range of parental decisions, such as decisions to:
- Relocate a child within the UK or overseas
- Move a child to a different school
- Bring a child into contact with your former partner’s new partner or another particular person
- Change a child’s name
- Consent to a child undergoing a certain medical procedure or treatment
It is typically separated parents who share the care of their children that seek Prohibited Steps Orders. Co-parenting after a relationship breakdown can be challenging even where the couple remain on good terms. Where parents disagree on a major decision about their child’s upbringing, a Prohibited Steps Order can bring the matter to a swift resolution.
In particular, such orders can be helpful where you need to take urgent action, for example, to prevent your child from being taken overseas. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it is possible to make an emergency Prohibited Steps Order application without notifying the other party. If you need help making an emergency application, get in touch as soon as possible for urgent advice.
Who can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order?
You can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order if you have parental responsibility – the rights and duties of raising a child. People with parental responsibility can include:
- The child’s parents (parental responsibility is not the same as legal parenthood)
- The child’s guardian
- Anyone who has been granted residence in relation to the child
For more information about what parental responsibility is, who has it, and how you can acquire it, visit our Parental Responsibility page.
If you do not have parental responsibility, you may still be able to get a Prohibited Steps order, but you must apply for permission from court first. For example, if you are the father but you were not married to the mother before you split up and your name is not on the child’s birth certificate.
Can grandparents get a Prohibited Steps Order?
Grandparents do not typically have parental responsibility unless they have been granted residence in relation to the child through a Child Arrangements Order.
If your grandchildren do not live with you under a Child Arrangements Order, you will first need permission from the court to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. We can provide practical advice if you are a grandparent and are worried about a decision that your grandchild’s parents want to make. For more general information, visit our Grandparents’ Rights page.
When can you not get a Prohibited Steps Order?
You cannot apply for a Prohibited Steps Order if the child is:
- Over 16 years old
- In the care of the local authority (social services)
How to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order
You must complete a specific court form and file it along with extra copies to serve on the other person. We can handle the entire application process on your behalf, ensuring that all court documentation is completed to the highest degree of accuracy so there are no risks of delays.
How does the court decide whether to make a Prohibited Steps Order?
The court will only make a decision that is in the best interests of the child. They will weigh up all the factors of the case, such as:
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The child’s wishes and feelings (in the context of their age and understanding of the matter)
- The impact of any change in circumstances on the child
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristics
- Whether the parents or any other relevant person can meet the child’s needs
- Whether the child is at risk of harm
- All the powers the court has in relation to decisions about children
This list of considerations is called the ‘welfare checklist’.
If possible, the courts will encourage you and the other party to reach an agreement without the need for a court order.
How do you get an emergency Prohibited Steps Order?
If you need to urgently stop someone from making a decision about a child, for example, a decision about medical treatment, we can help you apply for an emergency Prohibited Steps Order.
An Emergency Prohibited Steps Order may be granted if there is ‘strong evidence or an imminent threat’. In these circumstances, an Order can be granted without notifying the other person, although a court hearing will be listed for later on. We can provide fast advice and help you apply for an emergency Prohibited Steps Order.
How long does a Prohibited Steps Order last?
The Order will last for as long as the court says it should – usually a period of 6 or 12 months. Depending on the circumstances, the Order may last until a particular event, for example, until the child finishes their education.
A Prohibited Steps Order cannot last once the child turns 16 years old (or 18 years old if there are special circumstances).
How much does a Prohibited Steps Order cost?
There is a court fee for applying for a Prohibited Steps Order – currently this is £215.
There will also be the costs of your legal advice. We are upfront and transparent about our fees so you will have full control over how much you spend from the beginning of your matter. At your initial consultation we will provide you with an accurate quote. We will never go beyond this quote without talking to you first about what extra work is necessary.
Can a Prohibited Steps Order prevent a child from moving abroad?
If a parent takes a child outside of England and Wales without the permission of everyone with parental responsibility or the permission of the court, this could be child abduction.
As with other decisions about children, the court will consider what would be in the best interests of your child. If they decide international relocation would not be in the child’s best interests, they may make a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent them from being taken abroad.
Can a Prohibited Steps Order stop your children from meeting your ex’s new partner?
If it would not be in your child’s best interests to meet your former partner’s new partner, the court may make a Prohibited Steps Order.
It is important to think carefully about applying to court over a former partner’s choice to introduce your child to a new partner. If possible, we can help you negotiate a suitable outcome with your former partner, using alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or collaborative law where appropriate.
If this does not work or there are other concerns, such as issues of domestic violence, we can provide clear, practical advice about applying to court.
Prohibited Steps Orders and domestic violence
Prohibited Steps Orders can help protect children who are at risk of domestic violence and/or where it is not appropriate for co-parents to negotiate effectively because of domestic abuse concerns.
For example, a Prohibited Steps Order could prevent a parent from taking their child from school or nursey without consent. Without the Order, the school or nursery would not be able to say no if the abusive parent tried to take their children away.