The Role of Prohibited Steps Orders in High Conflict Co-Parenting

The Role of Prohibited Steps Orders in High Conflict Co-Parenting

Co-parenting is a term that’s often used by the media, typically in relation to high-profile couples with children who have subsequently separated. It doesn’t only apply to those with celebrity status however– any parent who shares a child with a former partner will co-parent to some degree.

While many couples are able to successfully co-parent following a separation, it isn’t always possible. This is often true in the immediate aftermath of a separation or divorce when emotions are running high and hurt and anger are hard to put aside.

When co-parenting without conflict, both parents will be able to work together to make joint decisions in the best interests of their child or children. This could mean agreeing on overseas holidays and which school the child attends.

Where there is a high degree of conflict and parents can’t agree, it may be necessary to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO).

How does a Prohibited Steps Order work?

Where some orders or injunctions will compel one person to do something, a Prohibited Steps Order has the opposite impact. They are intended to prevent someone with parental responsibility from taking a certain action or decision regarding their child.

An adult with parental responsibility or a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to the courts. Unless there are special circumstances (such as in cases involving domestic abuse), a mediation meeting will be held before a court hearing.

If mediation is unsuccessful and the co-parents still can’t reach an agreement on a matter regarding their child, a hearing will be held. The court’s role is to uphold the best interests of the child when determining what should happen next.

A PSO is granted to prevent a specific action or decision being made. For example, it may prevent one parent seeking to move further afield to relocate the child or to stop a child being taken out of the country on a temporary or permanent basis. If the PSO is granted, the parent will not legally be permitted to take their intended action against the wishes of their co-parent.

What are the reasons for a Prohibited Steps Order?

Parents in high-confliction relationships may apply for a Prohibited Steps Order for many reasons. Common reasons for seeking a PSO between high-conflict co-parents include:

  • To prevent one parent from relocating with the child to a new area.
  • To prevent the other parent from leaving the country with the child.
  • To stop a child being removed from school.
  • To stop a child being enrolled in a particular school.
  • To prevent a certain medical treatment.
  • To stop the child having contact with someone one parent considers dangerous or harmful.
  • To prevent the child being raised in a specific religion.
  • To prevent the child’s name being changed.
How long do they last for?

The duration of the Prohibited Steps Orders will be determined by the family court. The primary consideration in issuing a PSO is the best interests of the child, therefore the timeframe for the PSO will vary from case to case and could last from as little as six months up to a period of several years.

Regardless of the circumstances which led to the Prohibited Steps Order being granted, it can not remain in place beyond the 18th birthday of the child in question. That’s because at the age of 18, a child becomes an adult in the eyes of the law.

A PSO can be discharged when it is no longer necessary.

What happens after a PSO?

A Prohibited Steps Order will apply for a specific duration, as determined by the courts. When the PSO is discharged, or the child reaches adulthood, the terms of the PSO will no longer apply.

A Prohibited Steps Order is a legally binding order which co-parents must adhere to. Failure to comply with the PSO could result in legal action including arrest or even imprisonment.

If it isn’t possible to amicably co-parent with a former partner, a Prohibited Steps Order may be the only remedy you feel you have to prevent a decision or action being taken regarding your child that you do not consent to. If that is the case, it’s important to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible in order to ensure the best possible outcome for yourself and your child.

Contact us to speak to one of our experienced family solicitors and find out more about your next steps.

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