We answered some of the most common questions concerning Prohibitive Step Orders. We hope this little guidance article is of assistance to anyone thinking they need to prevent their ex from specific actions.
What is a Prohibitive Steps Order?
It is one of three orders you can apply to the Family Court for on a form C100. The other two are a Child Arrangements Order and a Specific Issues Order.
What do I need a Prohibitive Steps Order (PSO) for?
You will need a PSO to prohibit your ex from certain activities with your child/ren without your permission, against your will or if you believe they will be and are harmful to your child(ren). For example they could be:
- to stop the parent from moving a child from their current school/nursery
- to stop the child coming into contact with another person (e.g. your ex-partner's new partner - if there is a good reason)
- to prevent the parent from moving a child outside of the UK
- prevent the parent from changing of a child’s last name
- stop the parent moving a child from their home, local area or friends
- to prevent a parent from allowing a child to undergo risky medical treatment
- to stop any action that will obstruct your parenting opportunities
What does a PSO do?
It prevents your ex taking one or all of the actions above until the court has decided if this action is in your child’s best interests. The court can apply penalties to the order for breaching it, such as fines, or keeping passports in safe keeping until the matter is properly concluded.
How will the court decide if a PSO is in my child’s best interests?
The court will take a number of issues into account.
The nature of the relationship you have with your child.
The opinions of the child.
The advantages for the child of the new location e.g. school, ex’s employment at the new locale, new partner, changed lifestyle, loss of childhood friendships etc.
What happens in an emergency?
The order can also be applied for on an emergency basis. This will be appropriate if you suspect your ex will take action, or move away unexpectedly to frustrate you or the court from preventing it until parenting arrangements have been made. However, for an urgent application to be successful, there must be strong evidence or an imminent threat and you must have evidence. In these circumstances, the application is made ‘without notice’. This means that ex 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 parent with the child will be required to attend once they have been served with the application and emergency order made.
Can I ask for the passports to be impounded?
If there is a genuine threat that the parent will leave the country with the children, the court can ask for the police to collect the passports or they can issue a “ports alert”. You will need to make the police aware that you believe this to be the case when you ask for the passports to be impounded. If your ex is of a different nationality, you should also make the court aware that he/she may have applied for a second passport from their home country. Make sure you have all your evidence with you when you attend court.
What happens if my child is already abroad?
That depends if your ex is a British National or not, has gone to a Hague country or not, or you have an existing Child Arrangements Order or not. There is a useful Government website to help you decide your next steps here:
Who will hear my case?
Where the laws in other countries are involved, the application will need to be made to senior judges so you will need to enquire at your local court which is the appropriate court to deliver your application to. There is always a court open for this kind of urgent case hearing somewhere in the UK even on weekends and bank holidays. If you are reporting an emergency case to the police, they will be able to tell you which court to apply to.
What happens after I have my PSO?
If you have a Child Arrangements Order already and the activity disrupts the contact arrangements in the order, then the other parent will be stopped from proceeding and need to apply to court for a change to the CAO to allow them to continue the banned actions. If you have no Child Arrangements Order you should apply for one at the same time as a PSO (both on form C100).
How long does a PSO last?
It can last until your children are 16 years old, or 18 in special circumstances although courts can make it a set amount of time or until a CAO is completed.
A useful guide to PSOs and abduction is available from Child Law Advice at: https://childlawadvice.org.uk/information-pages/abduction/
We hope you found this guidance article helpful. Parents should seek help as early as possible if they think their ex might take the children abroad by considering an urgent Prohibitive Steps Order. If you have any questions concerning your current situation and how to proceed next, please do not hesitate to call our helpline 0300 0300 363, which is supported by our volunteers Monday to Friday 6pm-10pm and/or attend one of our local/online meetings.
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