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What is a Specific Issue Order and What is a Prohibited Steps Order?

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

When couples part ways, they most often have disagreements about the upbringing of the children and find it difficult to come on the same page on certain issues involving their children. Unless there’s an order in place, there’s no law providing that both parties have got parental responsibility or prevent one parent from being involved in decisions relating to the child.

Specific Issue Order in Family Law
Specific Issue Order in Family Law

In the English family law, when two parents cannot find an amicable solution on their own, either parent can apply for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order to let the court decide what’s best in their child’s interests. Both orders are used to available under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 to settle the child arrangement disputes that occur when couples are separated.

In this article, we’ll discuss many you need to know about Specific Issue Order and a Prohibited Steps Order, including how they work, and the legalities involved while seeking them. Let get started! Oh, just one more point, this is just what it says, an article, this is not legal advice and should not be treated as legal advice. If you need assistance with the Complex children matter please contact us and read more about complex child law by clicking here.

What is a Specific Issue Order?

Specific Issue Order is an order issued by the court to resolve a disagreement between parents on any particular issue related to parental responsibility. This order is significant when it comes to empowering one of the parents to make discissions without consulting the other.

A parent with a Specific Issue Order can be made to decide the following without consulting the other parent:

  • What school will the child attend

  • Medical treatments the child will receive

  • Level of access and contact the child will have with the estranged parent

  • The religion or belief system child will be raised in

  • Other specific issues the court is asked to adjudicate on

What is a Prohibited Steps Order?

Prohibited Steps Order is a form of an injunction placed by the court to restrict the exercise of “Parental Responsibility”. It is used by one parent to stop the other parent from making certain decisions about the child’s upbringing in the absence of an agreement.

A Prohibited Steps Order helps to prevent many things including but not limited to

  • The change of a child’s name

  • The parent from moving the child outside of the UK

  • The parent from relocating a child from the local area.

  • The child from seeing a specific person (e.g., your ex-partner’s new partner).

  • The parent from allowing the child to undergo risky medical treatment.

What is the difference between Specific Issue Order and a Prohibited Steps Order?

Specific Issue order is applied when a parent or individual with parental responsibility is allowed to make an independent decision for a child on a specific issue, while Prohibited Steps Order is used to prevent a parent or those with parental responsibility from taking a certain action involving the child.

How long do the Specific Issue Order and Prohibited Steps Orders Last?

Both orders can last until the child turns 16. They can also be set for a specific period of time, or in limited circumstances until the child reaches 18 years of age. Generally, the court makes orders for a specific period of time.

Who Can Apply for Specific Issue Orders?

Not everyone can apply for these orders as there are children involved. Only those who have parental responsibility are eligible to apply for this order including:

· The Parent or guardian who’s been looking after the child.

· A step-parent or anyone with parental responsibility towards the child.

· Anyone authorized under the “Child Arrangement Order” to live with the child.

· If anyone else wants to make an application for a specific issue order or prohibited steps order, they will require the court’s permission first.

· The child in question must be under 16 as the orders are only valid until the child turns 16.

What is the Procedure to Apply for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order?

Before making an application for Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order it's mandatory to attend a preliminary “Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless an exemption applies. It is a short meeting conducted in the presence of a trained mediator that provides important information about mediation. The mediator meets with both parties to assess whether the mediation should be conducted or not.

Should I try Mediation?

Yes, when parents cannot agree over their child’s upbringing, they are referred to a Mediation Service in which a trained negotiator assists them to resolve the disputes harmoniously. The agreement reached through the Mediation is then approved by the court and turned into a court order.

Why is mediation required?

The Mediation aims to minimize the conflict and resolve the disagreement rather than taking it to the court. It is better if parents can come to an agreement about child issues or other issues with help of a professional rather than leaving the decision on a judge.

Is mediation required if there is domestic abuse?

No, in circumstances where domestic violence has been involved and application must be made urgently. Your lawyer can let you know whether your case is an exemption for MIAM or not? Id you need help on this matter you can contact us . Further information on how to fill a C100 Specific Issue form can be found here.

How to Apply for Specific Issue Order

The court procedure for applying for both Specific Issue Order and Prohibited Steps Order is the same as follows:

  • Once the Mediation is completed, you’ll need to file an application on a specific court Form C100 to confirm that you have successfully undergone the process. The application includes all the details of the adults and children in the case and the kind of order you are applying for and why.

  • If you don’t have parental responsibility, then you’ll be required to file a Form C2 to get permission to apply for the Children Act 1989.

  • Next, you’ll need to send the original signed copy of the C100 form plus three copies to the court for approval.

  • If your application is urgent, you can make an application without informing the other parent, but in most cases, other parents and relevant adults are informed about the application.

  • On receiving the application, the court will then set a time and place for the first appointment and you’ll be summoned to the court to meet the pertinent litigation parties in the presence of a judge, a representative from Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (CAFCAS).

What Happens at the Family Court?

In the first hearing known as the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA), both parents go before a magistrate or a district judge who investigates the major issues looks into the possibility of settlement and gives instructions about how the trial will proceed. The court might appoint a Cafcass officer to interview parents to prepare a report for the final hearing. If possible, the Cafcass officer will meet the child with each of the parents separately. In some cases, the court might order to legally represent the child in the proceedings.

If the issue remains unresolved, the court will hold a final hearing where the judge will hear the evidence from the parties involved, the Cafcass officer, and other experts to make a binding verdict.

The judge must provide valid reasons on which the judgment is based and if there’s an error of law in the decision, the order can be challenged through judicial review.

What are the Guidelines Followed by the Court?

The Children Act 1989 provides a list of guidelines for judges that must be followed while deciding on a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order. The major concern is child welfare including:

  • Feelings and Wishes of the Child

  • Child’s emotional, physical, and educational needs

  • Likely effect of the court’s decision on the child

  • The ability of the parents to fulfill the child’s needs

  • Child’s sex, age, background, and any other characteristic relevant to court’s verdict

  • Any risk of suffering harm or harm already suffered


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