Different types of Court Orders for Children

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Coming to an agreement with your former partner about your children when your relationship ends can be really difficult. You’ll have to decide where the children live, how they will be raised and who they should have contact with.

Obviously, it’s best for everyone involved to work through these issues without going to Court. If you are struggling to agree you could consider mediation, but that’s not suitable in all situations. Sometimes reaching an agreement is just not possible and your only option then is to let a Court decide.

There are different types of Court Orders regarding children and they all apply to different situations. If you want to issue an application with the Court, you probably won’t know which application and Court Order to apply for.

Any application to start Court Proceedings and obtain a Court Order will need to be issued by the Family Court.

It’s important to note that if the Family Court makes any Court Orders, these are legally binding and must be complied with. Before you start the Court process, you should seriously consider the implications of making an application to the Court.

For initial advice get in touch with our Family and Child Law Solicitors.

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Three Main Types of Court Order

There are three main types of Court Orders concerning children. These are Child Arrangement Order, Prohibited Steps Order and Specific Issue Order. There are others, but these are the most common ones we see.

1. Child Arrangement Order

A Child Arrangement Order will confirm whom the child will live with and it’s usually made along with a Child Arrangement Order confirming whom the child will spend time with and the frequency of this contact.

The Court has the ability to order that a child lives with multiple persons under a shared Child Arrangement Order. The Court can also determine how the child will spend time with the relevant person. For example, if the contact with the child needs to be supervised by another person or if the contact is to be direct (face-to-face contact), or indirect (contact where they and child do not physically meet, such as telephone calls).

The Court Order will normally contain a lot of detail. This is to minimise the chance of any potential future conflicts between the parties which could result in the matter being returned to Court. As a result, it’s worth considering specific details early on, such as who will collect and return the child from contact and where the child shall be returned after contact.

2. Prohibited Steps Order

If a Prohibited Steps Order is issued by the Court, this prevents the other person from doing something in relation to the child. There are many possible reasons to file a Prohibited Steps Order application but some of the most common are:

  • To prevent the other person from going abroad or moving away from the area with the children
  • Stopping medical treatment of a child
  • Preventing the change of surname of a child.

A Prohibited Steps Order is therefore filed when one person does not give express permission for the other person to do something in relation to the child, but fears that it may be done anyway.

If a Prohibited Steps Order is granted, a Court Order will normally provide directions in relation to carrying out the Court Order, imposing specific conditions on the person who had the Order granted in their favour and confirming the time periods of the Court directions. Often evidence will be required by the Court. This could be evidence of return tickets from a holiday abroad to show that there is an intention to return to the UK.

3. Specific Issue Order

A Specific Issue Order is made about a specific issue that cannot be agreed. If a Specific Issue Order is issued by the Court, this will give the person making the application permission to do something without the other person’s consent. Common examples include:

  • Going abroad either for a holiday or to permanently relocate
  • Changing a child’s surname
  • Decisions relating to schooling
  • Decisions about the medical treatment of a child

A Specific Issue Order is similar to a Prohibitive Steps Order, but the main difference between them are that a Specific Issue Order application is seeking permission to do something but a Prohibited Steps Order application attempts to stop the other person doing the thing in question.

A Specific Issue Order can be made when people with Parental Responsibility are not in agreement or if the issue has not yet been raised but you believe going to Court immediately is the best option. Specific Issue Orders will normally contain the same details as mentioned above for a Prohibited Steps Order.

Other Court Orders

The Court can also make a Special Guardianship Order. This will grant the person in possession of this Order Parental Responsibility for the child. This will normally last until the child is 18.

Financial provisions can also be ordered by the Court. As a general rule, if parents can’t agree child maintenance it will be calculated by the Child Maintenance Service. However, there are certain circumstance when the Court can make an Order. An example is who will pay for the child’s school fees.

The Orders listed above is not an exhaustive list of all of the types of Orders that the Court can make. Other Orders can be made in other circumstances but are less common. For example, the Court can make an Order granting Parental Responsibility of a child if this is a more appropriate order.

Before Going to Court

It’s important that you get specialist legal advice from a Family and Child Law Solicitor before making any Court application. You need to be sure that you are making the most suitable application and that you are providing all of the relevant information.

It’s vital that the application is correct so that it is dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible. The Court will return any application if any crucial information is missing, or if the incorrect form is filed.

It’s worth noting that Court Orders relating to children may also be granted in Public Law proceedings. These are proceedings involve the Local Authority who are requesting the Court to make an Order in respect of the relevant child.

For expert legal help with making a Court Order relating to your child, or if you want to defend one, contact one of our Family and Child Law Solicitors as soon as possible.

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