If you have been unable to reach an agreement at mediation, or if mediation is unsuitable, there are a range of court orders available and our family team can advise on how to apply for the following court orders:
- Child Arrangements Order
- Specific Issue Order
- Prohibited Steps Order
Child Arrangement Order
A Child Arrangement Order (CAO) decides the arrangements for with whom a child is to live with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with.
If you are unable to reach an agreement about the arrangements for your child, then you may wish to apply for a Child Arrangements Order.
This type of order is made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
Child Arrangement Orders are sometimes required following a divorce or separation if parents are unable to agree on the arrangements for the children.
The court may make an order to confirm where a child lives or to confirm contact arrangements. The court may order the following:
- Name one person with whom a child is to live
- Name two persons who live in different households as persons with whom a child is to live
- Direct and indirect contact
- Supervised contact
The arrangements for children are not considered as part of an application for a divorce. A Child Arrangement Order is separate from an application for divorce.
It is important that you receive advice from a family law specialist to help you fill out necessary forms and respond to court letters. Your family solicitor can also advise on the likely outcome of your application for a Child Arrangement Order.
Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
A Child Arrangement Order can be applied for without permission from the court if you fit certain criteria. To apply for a Child Arrangement Order you must fit one of the conditions below:
- A parent, guardian, or special guardian of the child
- An individual who already has Parental Responsibility
- An individual who already has a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order – live with in respect of the child
- A stepparent who has parental responsibility for a child by virtue of an order or agreement
- Any spouse or civil partner if the child is part of that family
- An individual who the child has lived with for more than three years
If you do not meet the conditions above but would still like to apply for a Child Arrangement Order, it is possible to obtain permission from the courts. For example, grandparents or aunties/uncles may need to obtain permission if they do not meet the requirements above.
Read more about Grandparents Rights.
Specific Issue Order
A Specific Issue Order (SIO) is an order that determines a specific dispute that has arisen or may arise in connection with exercising parental responsibility for a child. This type of order is made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
It can be used to resolve issues about a child’s upbringing such as where a child should go to school, whether they should have a particular form of medical treatment and whether a child can relocate to a different area.
Prohibited Steps Order
A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is a court order which prevents either parent from taking certain steps when exercising their parental responsibility for a child without the court’s permission. This type of order is usually made to prevent a person from taking steps such as changing a child's school, changing a child's name, and relocating a child to another part of the country or abroad.
In specific circumstances, it can be possible to make urgent applications to the court and without notice being provided to the other party.
Parents, step-parents with parental responsibility, special guardians and anyone who is named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live may apply to the court for a Specific Issue or Prohibited Steps Order without requiring the court's permission to do so.
Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service
When anyone makes an application to the court in respect of children the Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service (Cafcass) will be involved at an early stage. Cafcass work with children and young people in Family Court cases to make sure that the voices of children are heard, and decisions are made in their best interest. The court may appoint a Cafcass officer to prepare a full report making recommendations for the child concerned.
Parental Responsibility Order
A Parental Responsibility Order is a court order which an unmarried father can apply for to obtain legal parental rights to make life-decisions on behalf of their children. This is made under the Children Act 1989.
This is only necessary when the mother refuses to allow the unmarried father to be registered on the birth certificate or refuses to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
You may already have Parental Responsibility. Read our guide to Parental Responsibility to find out who automatically has it and what you need to do to obtain it.
How does the court decide what should happen?
The welfare of the child is of paramount importance to the court. In exercising its discretion, the court will have regard to:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child;
- His/her physical, emotional and educational needs;
- The likely effect on him/her of any change in those circumstances;
- His/her age, sex, background, and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
- Any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- How capable each of his/her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs; and
- The range of powers available to the Court.
These court orders aim to protect the interest of the children involved in the matter. They differ in purpose however they can all be used to protect your family rights. Read our guide below to find out what they are and who can apply for them.
Our specialist solicitors can support and advise you as to your practical and legal options, tailored to your circumstances, as we know that every family is different.
If you would like to talk to us, in confidence, about how we can help, please call us on 0161 941 4000, or contact us online.