Prohibited Steps Order Explained

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Chris Fairhurst

Partner, Family Law and Divorce Solicitor

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A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is a type of Court Order used by one parent to stop another parent from making certain decisions about their child’s upbringing.

A Prohibited Steps Order could prevent:

  • The parent from moving a child from their school/nursery
  • The child meeting another person (e.g. your ex-partner's new partner)
  • The parent from moving a child outside of the UK
  • Changing of a child’s last name
  • The parent moving a child from their home or local area
  • A parent allowing a child to undergo risky medical treatment

Prohibited Steps Orders have a large impact on the way in which a parent can exercise their Parental Responsibility, and for that reason they are not made lightly. A Prohibited Steps Order normally lasts until the child turns 16, but can be for a set amount of time, or until the child is 18 in limited circumstances.

Although a Prohibited Steps Order is used for a specific reason, it is different to a Specific Issue Order – a Prohibited Steps Order is used to prevent a parent from taking actions involving a child, rather than giving them permission to do so.

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

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When Can a Prohibited Steps Order be Used?

There are many reasons why a parent might apply for a Prohibited Steps Order, but the Court will only grant a Prohibited Steps Order if a resolution cannot be made with a Child Arrangement Order.

Before you take matters to Court it is important that you try and resolve the issues with your ex-partner, either directly, with support from a Family Lawyer or through mediation. You may need to show  that you have attended a meeting with a mediator before applying for a Court Order, although there are exceptions to this, for example if there has been domestic abuse involved.

The Court will only grant a Prohibited Steps Order if it feels it is in the child’s best interests.

Preventing the Other Parent from Moving your Child Away

It is not unusual  for separated parents to want to move to another town, city or even country.  New job prospects, a new partner, or returning to live closer to other family members are some common reasons why parents might move away.

If you have taken your dispute to Court, the Court will explore why the parent is planning on moving the child as well as the arrangements for the move and beyond, to assess if this is in the child’s best interests. The Court assesses this by carefully applying all the factors set out in what is known as the Welfare Checklist.

If your ex-partner can satisfy the Court that the move will improve your child’s quality of life then the Court may decide in their favour.

The Court considers  that a child has a right to have a relationship with both parents if it is safe to do so. , In most cases, a child will benefit from having meaningful contact with both parents and shared parenting is the most common end goal in Court Proceedings. So if the move prevents you from seeing your child or impacts their relationship with you in some way, this will be taken into consideration.

The Court may also ask a CAFCASS Advisor to provide a written recommendation about whether the move is right for the child, or to act as the child’s voice in the Court. The child’s thoughts and feelings may be considered by the Court before they make a final decision. A Family and Children Law Solicitor can advise you further on the process, whether you are the parent wishing to relocate or the one being left behind.

Preventing your Child from Seeing a Specific Person

If your ex-partner has a new partner and you don’t want your child to see them, you will need to convince the Court that it is in the child’s best interest not to see that person.

The Court will always question why the Prohibited Steps Order has been requested and may only grant a Prohibited Steps Order if it feels the child’s welfare may be affected otherwise. For example, if the new partner has a history of abusive behaviour or drug use.

If you do believe that your child having contact with this person could be a risk to their welfare, then we can help. Our Family and Children Law Solicitors can advise you on your individual case and the best steps you can take for your child.

Applying for a Prohibited Steps Order

Our family law team can help you apply to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order, or you can apply yourself. If you feel able to make the application and represent yourself in Court, we don’t always need to take the reins entirely, and can advise you in the background.

It is possible to make an urgent application for a Prohibited Steps Order, where the other parent is not given notice, but only in exceptional circumstances. Our team will listen to your story and can explain to you if there is a way for you to secure urgent safeguards from the Court.

How to Apply for a Prohibited Steps Order

If you want to apply yourself, you will need to download a C100 form from the website.

The website provides guidance on how to fill in C100 forms, but if you feel unsure about how to present your case, then advice from a Family and Children Law Solicitor can give your application the best chance of succeeding.

You need to send the original signed C100 form plus three copies to the Court to approve.

If you don’t already have Parental Responsibility for the child, for example if you aren’t named as the father on the birth certificate, you can still apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. We can advise you on the information that you’ll need for this.

The Application Process Overview

Obtaining a Prohibited Steps Order involves a legal process, and it is crucial to understand the steps and requirements involved. Typically, the process includes:

1. Consultation with a Solicitor

Before pursuing a PSO, it's advisable to consult with a family law solicitor who specialises in arrangements for children  and family court matters. They can provide expert guidance and assess whether your case meets the criteria for a PSO.

2. Pre-Application Mediation

Parents are required to attend at a Mediation service to see if mediation is appropriate in their case. . This step aims to encourage amicable resolutions and reduce the strain on the legal system.

3. Court Application

If mediation doesn't lead to a resolution or isn’t appropriate, the next step is to submit a formal application to the family court for a Prohibited Steps Order. This application outlines the details of the order you are seeking, the reasons for it, and any evidence supporting your case.

4. Court Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing to consider the application. Both parties will present their arguments, and the judge will decide based on the child's best interests.

5. Making of the PSO

If the judge decides that a Prohibited Steps Order is necessary, the order will be issued, and it will specify what actions are prohibited and for what duration.

Can a Prohibited Steps Order be Overturned?

If you think a Prohibited Steps Order has been made for the wrong reasons then you might wish to appeal the Court’s decision or apply to discharge/cancel the order. Appeals can only be made in limited circumstances and take time.

If circumstances change, and a Prohibited Steps Order is no longer needed, then the order can be discharged if all parties agree, or if the Court considers it to be in the best interests of the child.

The Court will likely approve the changes to a Prohibited Steps Order, unless the original Prohibited Steps Order had a provision (a clause) outlining that changes couldn’t be made, even with consent.

Before Going to Court

If you feel able to, it’s important that you try and come to an agreement with your ex-partner about your child before you apply to Court.

If you cannot agree, the next step is to get advice about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, try mediation or prepare a Parenting Plan.

Within court proceedings the court may direct or recommend that you should attend the Planning Together for Children course through CAFCASS

Compliance with a Prohibited Steps Order

Once a PSO is in place, all parties involved must keep to what the order says. If a party breaches the order, they may face legal consequences, including fines, community service, or even imprisonment. It is essential to understand the legal obligations associated with the order and comply with them diligently.

Get in touch with Simpson Millar for advice around Prohibited Steps Orders

Applying for a Court Order can be expensive and take time, for both you and your child, but we understand that in some cases this may be a parent’s only option. Legal aid may be available to apply for a Prohibited Steps order in some circumstances. Our specialist Family and Children Law Solicitors are experts in dealing with Children Court Orders and can help you with your case.

We are accredited by the Law Society for Family Law and Children Law, and will work with you to reach the best outcome for you and your child.


GOV.UK. (2023). Types of court order: Looking after children when you divorce. [Online]. Available at: [].

In Court. (2023). Prohibited Steps Orders Explained. [Online]. Available at: [].

Chris Fairhurst Profile Picture

Chris Fairhurst

Partner, Family Law and Divorce Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Chris is a Partner and Family Law Solicitor based in Northwest England, with more than 25 years’ experience in this area of law.

His areas of expertise include, but not limited to, dealing with complex financial arrangements in separation and divorce and relationship breakdowns for clients in England, Wales and living overseas often involving high value cases including multiple assets often involving pension funds of several million pounds.

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