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Prohibited steps orders - overviewGeneral principles
A prohibited steps order (PSO) may be made under the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989), s 8. It is an order that provides that no step that could be taken by a parent in meeting their parental responsibility for a child, and that is of a kind specified in the order, shall be taken by any person without the consent of the court. A PSO is concerned with a single specific issue and imposes a restriction, for example, prohibiting a parent from changing a child's surname.
The child's welfare will be the court's paramount consideration and it will have regard to the statutory checklist. The court will also have to be satisfied that it would be better for the child to make an order than not.
ChA 1989 specifies certain applicants who may apply without leave (permission) for a PSO, including :
any guardian or special guardian
a step-parent who has been granted parental responsibility
If the applicant is the child, the court must be satisfied that they have sufficient understanding to make the proposed application.
Any applicant, other than those who are entitled to apply, requires leave (permission) and the court will take into account the factors prescribed in ChA 1989 when deciding whether to grant it.
Proceedings may be issued in the family proceedings court, the county court or the High Court.
The applicant must file a Form C100 and, where there is an allegation of abuse, violence or harm a C1A. The applicant must serve the respondent with the prescribed forms and file a certificate of service. A directions appointment, which may be a first hearing dispute resolution appointment, will be listed by the court.
If leave (permission) is required, Form C2 is filed, setting out the reasons for the application with a draft of the application in respect of which leave (permission) is sought.
Restrictions on making a prohibited steps order
ChA 1989 sets out circumstances in which the court should not make such an order, including:
to achieve a result that could be achieved by making a residence or contact order
with respect to any child who is in the care of the local authority
an order that is to have effect after the child has reached the age of 16, unless it is satisfied that the circumstances are exceptional
The effect of prohibited steps orders
A PSO can only be made in relation to an aspect of parental responsibility. It is an order in the form of an injunction to prevent something from happening.
Enforcement of prohibited steps orders
PSOs that have been made in the magistrates' court are enforceable under the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 by way of a fine or committal. Orders made in the High Court or county court are enforceable by proceedings for contempt of court. The court will consider whether another s 8 order is required. In certain cases the remedies available under the Family Law Act 1986 may be appropriate to enforce a PSO, especially an order that a child may not be removed from the United Kingdom where there are concerns that, in breach of the order, the child will be removed. In such a case, consider applying for an order requiring the surrender of any UK passport issued to the child or containing particulars of the child. It may be appropriate to file objections with the passport agency to the granting of a passport to a child. Where there is a real risk that the child may be removed form the United Kingdom, consider requesting an all ports warning. For child abduction, see Emergency procedures.
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