Prohibited Steps Order
What is a Prohibited Steps Order?
A Prohibited Steps Order is granted by a family court to prevent a parent from making certain decisions about a child’s upbringing. This also will bar that parent from taking the child abroad or somewhere in the UK where it does not live. With the Order in place, the person wishing to remove the child would need the permission of the other parent. Breaching a Prohibited Steps Order is a criminal offence. This is known as kidnapping. This charge has a maximum sentence of 20 years. Prohibited Steps Orders can be used to:
- stop a parent from allowing the child to associate with a particular person;
- prevent a parent from changing the child’s surname;
- to prevent a parent from taking a child out of the country;
- prevent a UK relocation of a child by one parent; and
- in connection with the medical treatment of a child.
What is an Emergency Prohibited Steps Order?
In order for an urgent application to be successful, there must be strong evidence or an imminent threat. In these circumstances, the application is made ‘without notice’. This means that the other parent would not be aware that the Order is being made and nor would they be present at the hearing. If an Order is granted on this basis, the court will list a further ‘return’ hearing when the respondent will be required to attend. Once they have been served with the application and the Emergency Prohibited Steps Order has been made.
Who Can Apply for a Prohibited Steps Order?
The child’s parents, the step-parents with parental responsibility, guardians, special guardians and anyone who is named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live. These people may apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order without requiring the court’s permission to do so. Anyone else though, including the child him/herself, will need the court’s permission to make an application.
What Happens if a Child is Taken Abroad on Holiday?
It can be a worry that when an ex-partner takes a child or children abroad on holiday, they may not be planning to return with them. This actually happens rarely, but when it does, the 45 countries in agreement with the UK will help in the recovery of a child from that country. If the other parent only plans to take the child somewhere within the UK, but they do not have permission from you or from the court. Then this could put them in breach of the requirements in the Prohibited Steps Order. So, if the parent taking the child away breaks the rules in the Order, they could face a custodial sentence.
The Court’s Role in Obtaining Prohibited Steps Orders
If it is not possible to reach an amicable agreement about your child’s welfare, you can apply to the court for an Order. It is now a requirement that before you make an application for a Prohibited Steps Order, you must attend a family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). If both parties are agreeable then you can attend a MIAM together; if, however, that is not suitable, then separate meetings will be held. You may not need to attend a MIAM if an application must be made urgently, if there are child protection concerns or issues of domestic violence.
How The Court Decides
The Children Act 1989 provides a list of considerations for the Judge:
- the wishes and feelings of the child concerned;
- A child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
- the likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision;
- A child’s age, sex and background;
- any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering;
- capability of the child’s parents (or other relevant people) in meeting the child’s needs, and
- the powers available to the court.
In certain circumstances you may qualify for Legal Aid – please see our page on Legal Aid. Ashmans Solicitors has an expert Family Law Team who can advise you about making an application for a Prohibited Steps Order – or give advice if an application for a Prohibited Steps Order has been made against you. Contact Ashmans Solicitors now for a free, no-obligation enquiry – all enquiries are welcome.
Related : Forced Marriage Protection Orders