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Prohibited Steps and Specific Issue Applications

The best for your children We encourage parents to place their children's needs at the heart of the process


We recognise that sometimes parents are unable to agree arrangements which arise in relation to a child’s upbringing and wellbeing. Where no agreement can be reached, such matters may be brought to the attention of the Court.

We have extensive experience in advising clients on the merits of Court Applications and we are responsive to each client’s needs throughout that process.

Prohibited Steps Orders

A Prohibited Steps Order is an order of the Court which places a restriction on the exercise of ‘Parental Responsibility’. Parental Responsibility is defined as the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities of a parent towards their child. In the absence of an agreement, a parent is essentially prevented from doing an act in relation to their child without permission from the Court. This commonly arises when, for example, a parent wishes to relocate with the child and there is no Child Arrangements Order in force.

Examples of the types of Prohibited Steps Orders that can be made are:

  • An order preventing removal of a child from a particular area to live either in another part of England & Wales or moving abroad;
  • An order preventing a course of medical treatment; and
  • An order preventing a parent from changing the child’s name.

Specific Issue Orders

A Specific Issue Order is an order to deal with a specific question or matter which has arisen in relation to the upbringing of a child.

This could relate to a number of issues and examples of the types of Specific Issues Orders that can be made are:

  • An order to determine whether a child should attend a particular school;
  • An order for a particular course of medical treatment;
  • An order to change a child’s name;
  • An order giving permission to take a child abroad on holiday;
  • An order relating to a child’s religious upbringing; and
  • An order for the return of a child so contact can take place with the other parent

Where parents are unable to reach an agreement on these matters, either parent may make an application to Court. As with all cases involving children, the child’s welfare is the Court’s paramount consideration. Further, the law provides that the Court must be satisfied that making an order is better for the child than making no order at all.

Questions that clients commonly ask us about Prohibited Steps and Specific Issues Orders include:

  • What is Parental Responsibility? Parental Responsibility is defined as ‘all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority that, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property.’ This includes: the right to provide a home for a child, the duty to maintain a child financially, a right to be involved in decisions relating to medical treatment and schooling and the right to take the child abroad.
  • Who has Parental Responsibility? Broadly speaking:
  1. The child’s mother automatically has Parental Responsibility when the child is born.
  2. The child’s father automatically has Parental Responsibility if he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth.
  3. An un-married father can acquire Parental Responsibility if he later marries the child’s mother, if he enters into a Parental Responsibility Agreement, if he is named on the child’s birth certificate (after 1 December 2003) or if he is appointed as a Guardian of the child.
  4. A father may also obtain a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court. Where a Child Arrangements Order is made in favour of a father, it may also be appropriate to make a Parental Responsibility Order.

There are a number of other situations in which someone may acquire Parental Responsibility but which are not detailed here.

  • Can I obtain a Prohibited Steps or Specific Issues Order urgently? In certain circumstances, an urgent Order from the Court can be obtained without giving notice to the other party. These will only be made in exceptional circumstances and your case must be based on strong, sound evidence.