Prohibited steps and specific issue orders

The nature of the orders and their practical application

Prohibited steps orders (PSOs) and Specific issue orders (SIOs) are two types of orders available to regulate and resolve disputes between parents of a child or others with Parental Responsibility (PR) in relation to his or her upbringing.

Since the parties have PR they have a say in making decisions regarding the upbringing of the child. Further, the important decisions cannot be made by a person alone and the parties have to consult each other in order to reach an agreement. However, situations where no solution is suitable to both parties often arise. The orders arise following such disputes between both parents and/or persons with parental responsibility about a specific matter regarding the child in issue.

The use of the orders in practice

Whenever such issues arise, the courts can resolve the matter through either types of orders.  In reality problems are often seen for example because there is a dispute over the child’s religion, school, extracurricular activities, surname etc.  

In practice, the majority of prohibited steps orders regard issues concerning the change of the child’s surname. In relation to that change, the law provides that where a residence order or a care order is in place the surname cannot be changed without the written consent of every person having PR or the leave of the court. Therefore, following a disagreement between the parties, the courts approval is often sought.

Further areas of disputes commonly regulated by PSO include orders prohibiting contact with a specific person or a ruling for the child not to undergo certain medical procedure. 

In relation to SIOs, an area that has caused difficulties to the courts is the possible requirement for a parent to reside at a specific address. The judicial consideration provides that such requirement could often be seen as interfering unjustifiably with the ordinary rights of the resident parent. Further, the imposition of conditions on a residence order restricting the primary carer’s right to choose his or her place of residence should be seen as exceptional and is only used in such circumstances.

The effect of the orders

A PSO effectively prevents a parent with parental responsibility or a third party from taking any step which is specified in the body of the order without the prior consent of the court.

On the other hand a SIO allows the court to intervene into private relationships and resolve disputes in favour of particular course of action. Therefore, SIOs allow for something to be done, while PSOs are used to prohibit a specific course of action.

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For more information on:

  • The application process and the courts
  • The content of the order
  • Duration of the order