What Is A Specific Issue Order?
Either parent of the child can make an application to the Court to determine a Specific Issue concerning the child. It can be on any matter related to Parental Responsibility. For example:
- Which school the child should attend
- Whether the child should receive medical treatment
- How religion should be included in the child’s upbringing
- Whether the parent with care can take the child to live abroad
What Is A Prohibited Steps Order?
Either parent can make an application to the court to prevent the other parent taking action, Prohibited Steps, concerned with Parental Responsibility for the child. For example:
- Prevent the child associating with someone who has an adverse influence
- Prevent medical treatment
- Prevent the child being permanently removed from the country
Permanent Removal of the Child to Live Abroad
If a parent with care wishes to emigrate their application for leave to remove the child from the Jurisdiction is likely to be met with strong opposition from the non-resident parent, for obvious reasons. Contact between the child and the non-resident parent is bound to be reduced in these circumstances with the consequent impact on the development of the relationship between child and parent.
The Court’s Consideration
- The child’s welfare is the overriding consideration and the court will seek to make an order which it considers is in the child’s best interests
- Are the resident parent’s relocation plans practicable and reasonable?
- Has the relocation proposal a genuine motive? Not a means to remove the child from the other parent’s
- What impact would refusal have on the resident parent and consequently the child?
It is presumed that the child’s happiness is greatly influenced by the happiness of his/her principal carer. Making a parent stay in a country he/she no longer wants to live in could cause unhappiness, isolation and depression that could be damaging to the child. Therefore, leave to remove is likely to be granted if the considerations above are complied with.
The same matters are taken into account in all Family Court Applications concerning children. This is called The Welfare Checklist and includes the following:
- The wishes and feelings of the child, in light of the child’s age and understanding.
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
- The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics the court considers relevant
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- How capable each of the child’s parent’s (and any other relevant person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant) is of meeting the child’s needs
- The range of powers available to the court.
Family Court Procedure
Applications for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order commence before a District Judge and a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services Officer). They were previously known as Court Welfare Officers and are qualified Social Workers. The purpose of this meeting is to attempt to reach agreement between the parents. They will meet first with the CAFCASS officer, provided they agree. If there are allegations of domestic violence this is often not possible.
Family Court Hearing
If agreement cannot be reached the parents and their solicitors and the CAFCASS officer go before the District Judge for Directions for Trial. Normally the parents file statements with the Family Court, and a CAFCASS officer is appointed (not necessarily the same one, the appointment is allocated subsequent to the hearing by a CAFCASS manager). The CAFCASS officer will prepare a report with his/her recommendations after interviewing the parents and seeing the child with each of the parents if possible.
If the matter proceeds to a Final Hearing the parents and the CAFCASS officer will give evidence in Court and will be cross-examined on it. Frequently, matters will settle prior to the Final Hearing in line with the CAFCASS Officer’s recommendations. It is rare for a Judge to make a Court Order contrary to the CAFCASS Officer’s Report, but if he/she does he/she needs to give his/her reasons for doing so. Further information can be found on the CAFCASS website.
Expert Legal Advice
Each case is individual and the above is a simplified outline of what can be an extremely complex procedure. We can supply sympathetic and robust Legal Advice to help you achieve the best outcome for you and your child.