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A Guide to Prohibited Steps Orders

The breakup of a family can be a time of heightened emotions and in some cases, it may be necessary for the family court to enforce legal structures to prevent problems in relation to child arrangements.

One example of this is a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO), which is sometimes used in acrimonious cases where the welfare of the separated couple’s child may be at risk.

Stowe Family Law Paralegal, Becka Headley explores what they are, how they work, and how best to navigate them.

What is a Prohibited Steps Order?

A Prohibited Steps Order is a legally binding order that prohibits someone from exercising some elements of their parental responsibility. Where a Prohibited Steps Order has been put in place, the person against whom the order has been made must have the court’s permission before doing something set out in the order that would usually be done by a parent.

They are usually used in cases where parents have separated, although the order does not have to be made against a parent, just someone with parental responsibility.

Who can apply for a PSO?

The following people have an automatic right to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order in relation to a child:

  • Any parent, guardian or special guardian of the child
  • Anyone who is named in a Child Arrangements Order which is in force in respect to that child, which states that the child is to live with them
  • Anyone else who holds parental responsibility for the child.

Any other party who wishes to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order will firstly need to apply for permission from the court before doing so.

How can I apply for a PSO?

You can make an application to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order by completing Form C100 and submitting this to the Family Court local to where the child lives. There is a fee of £255 for submitting this application to the court. Your application will then be issued by the court and listed for a hearing to consider application.

If you do not have automatic permission to apply for the Prohibited Steps Order, you will firstly need to make an application for permission. This can be done on Form C100 also, with a cost of £255, to the Family Court local to where the child lives. A hearing may be required for the court to determine if permission is granted. If and when the court grant you permission to apply for the order, you can then proceed to apply for the Prohibited Steps Order as above.

It is possible to apply for an Emergency PSO. These are often made in a ‘without notice’ hearing, where the other party is not aware of the application. There does need to be evidence that an emergency order is needed and that the welfare of the child is at risk.

What can a Prohibited Steps Order cover?

Prohibited Steps Orders can cover a wide range of prohibited actions, which prevents someone from carrying out an action which they would usually be allowed to do as a parent. For example:

  • Changing or removing the child from school
  • Changing the child’s surname
  • Changing the child’s GP
  • Consenting to the child undergoing a medical treatment
  • Relocating a child within the UK or overseas
  • Prohibiting the child from seeing a specific person

The time for which the Prohibited Steps Order lasts can vary from case to case. It will usually remain in force until further notice, although it will automatically end on the child’s 18th birthday.  The court will impose a duration which they feel is in the best interests of the child, which can range from one month to several years.

Can a Prohibited Steps Order be overturned or lifted?

A Prohibited Steps Order can be over-turned; however the court will not do so if removing the order may negatively effect the child. The court’s first priority is the wellbeing of the child.

A Prohibited Steps Order can be lifted if the parties reach an agreement that it should be. In these circumstances, the person who initially made the application for the Prohibited Steps Order can request that the court lift the order. Before lifting the order, the court will consider whether this is in the child’s best interests.

What happens if a Prohibited Steps Order is breached?

A Prohibited Steps Order is a legally binding and enforceable court order. Therefore, if a person breaks the order, they will be in contempt of court. This offence is punishable by imprisonment, fines and/or unpaid work.

If breach of the order is found to be justified as it was in the best interests of the child, the court may reduce the penalty for the breach, or there may be no penalty at all.

Useful Links

What the family court expects from parents

Can my ex stop me moving away with the children?

My ex and I can’t agree on our child’s school

Supporting children through divorce: Listen on Spotify


The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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