Prohibited Steps Order

Prohibited Steps Order
Prohibited Steps Order
Full Overview Of Prohibited Steps Order

At DLS Solicitors, we understand that family law can be challenging and sensitive, particularly when it involves the welfare of children. The Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is a crucial tool within this domain. This comprehensive overview explains the concept, applications, legal framework, and implications of PSOs in England. Our goal is to provide a thorough understanding of how PSOs operate, their importance, and how they can be effectively utilised in protecting children’s interests.

Definition and Purpose

A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is a type of court order in family law that stops one parent from making specific decisions about their child without the court’s permission. These decisions can involve various issues, such as taking the child out of the country or certain aspects of the child’s upbringing. The main purpose of a PSO is to safeguard the child’s well-being by preventing actions that could be harmful or not in their best interest.

The legal framework for Prohibited Steps Orders is established under the Children Act 1989, a cornerstone of child protection legislation in England. According to the Act, the court can issue a PSO to prevent a parent or guardian from exercising their parental responsibility in a way the court deems inappropriate or potentially harmful to the child.

When are Prohibited Steps Orders Used?

Common Scenarios

PSOs are employed in various scenarios where there is a significant concern about a child’s welfare. Common situations include:

  1. Preventing Removal from the Jurisdiction: One of the most frequent uses of a PSO is to prevent a parent from taking a child out of the country, particularly in cases where there is a fear of abduction or where the move is not in the child’s best interest.
  2. Medical Decisions: A PSO can prevent one parent from making unilateral medical decisions for the child without the other parent’s consent or the court’s approval.
  3. Schooling and Education: If there is a dispute about which school a child should attend, a PSO can prevent a parent from enrolling the child in a different school without mutual agreement.
  4. Changing the Child’s Name: A PSO can restrict a parent from changing the child’s surname without the other parent’s or the court’s consent.

Specific Examples

Case Study 1: Preventing International Relocation

In one instance, a mother sought to relocate with her child to another country following a divorce. The father, concerned about the impact on his relationship with the child and the child’s well-being, applied for a PSO to prevent the move. The court assessed the situation, considering the child’s best interests, and ultimately issued the PSO, ensuring the child remained in the country.

Case Study 2: Medical Treatment Dispute

In another case, parents disagreed on the medical treatment for their child, who needed urgent surgery. The father believed the surgery was necessary, while the mother opposed it, favouring alternative treatments. The father applied for a PSO to proceed with the surgery. After reviewing medical evidence and expert opinions, the court granted the PSO, allowing the surgery to proceed in the child’s best interest.

The Process of Obtaining a Prohibited Steps Order

Application Procedure

Applying for a PSO involves several steps:

  1. Filing the Application: The concerned parent must complete and file a C100 form (the standard application for a child arrangements order) with the Family Court. This form includes sections to apply for specific orders, including a PSO.
  2. Statement of Evidence: The applicant must provide a detailed statement outlining the reasons for seeking the PSO, including any supporting evidence demonstrating why the order is necessary for the child’s welfare.
  3. Notification and Response: The other parent (the respondent) is notified of the application and allowed to respond. They may contest the application by presenting their evidence and arguments.
  4. Court Hearing: Both parties can present their cases at a hearing. The court may also consider reports from social services, CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), or other relevant professionals.

Criteria for Granting a PSO

The court considers several factors before granting a PSO:

  1. Welfare of the Child: The child’s welfare is the paramount consideration. The court will assess whether the proposed step could harm the child’s physical or emotional well-being.
  2. Best Interests: The court evaluates what is in the child’s best interests, considering factors such as the child’s needs, the impact of the order, and the child’s own wishes and feelings (depending on their age and maturity).
  3. Parental Responsibility: The court examines whether both parents exercise parental responsibility and whether the proposed restriction is justified.

Implications of a Prohibited Steps Order

Impact on Parental Rights

A PSO can significantly impact parental rights and responsibilities. While it restricts one parent’s ability to make certain decisions unilaterally, it does not remove or diminish their parental responsibility entirely. Instead, it requires that certain actions be taken only with the court’s approval or mutual consent.

Enforcement and Consequences

Breaching a PSO is a serious matter. If a parent fails to comply with the terms of the order, the other parent can return to court to enforce the order. The court has various enforcement powers, including fines, community service, or, in extreme cases, imprisonment. Ensuring compliance with a PSO is crucial to maintaining the child’s welfare and upholding the court’s authority.

Duration and Variation

PSOs are usually time-limited and specific. They remain in force until the circumstances change, the court revokes the order, or a specified period lapses. If circumstances significantly change, either parent can apply to the court to vary or discharge the order. This flexibility ensures that the PSO remains relevant and appropriate to the child’s current situation.

Role of Solicitors

Engaging a solicitor is highly advisable when dealing with PSOs. At DLS Solicitors, we provide comprehensive legal support throughout the process, from initial consultation to representing clients in court. Our expertise ensures that applications are meticulously prepared, with strong evidence and arguments to support our clients’ positions.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Before applying for a PSO, parents are encouraged to consider mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Mediation involves a neutral third party helping parents reach an agreement amicably. ADR can be a less adversarial and more cost-effective way to resolve disputes, focusing on the child’s best interests without court intervention.

Support Services

Several support services can assist parents and children involved in PSO cases. Organisations such as CAFCASS provide guidance and support, ensuring the child’s voice is heard during court proceedings. Additionally, counselling and therapy services can help families navigate the emotional challenges associated with family disputes.

Practical Considerations and Best Practices

Documentation and Evidence

Thorough documentation and evidence are crucial when applying for a PSO. Parents should keep detailed records of any incidents or behaviours that justify the need for the order. This can include written logs, medical reports, school records, and witness statements. The more comprehensive and well-organised the evidence, the stronger the application will be.

Communication and Cooperation

While conflicts can be challenging, maintaining open communication and cooperation between parents is essential. This is especially important when the welfare of the child is at stake. Attempting to resolve disputes amicably and showing a willingness to cooperate can positively influence the court’s perception of the applicant’s intentions.

Understanding Legal Rights

Parents should have a clear understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities. Seeking advice from a solicitor can offer valuable insights into the implications of a PSO and the best strategies for safeguarding the child’s interests. Legal guidance can also clarify the long-term consequences of the order and potential scenarios for its modification or enforcement.


Prohibited Steps Orders (PSOs) are crucial for protecting the welfare of children in contentious family situations. By limiting certain actions of one parent, these orders ensure that the best interests of the child are the top priority. At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing expert legal guidance and support to parents dealing with the complexities of PSOs. Our aim is to safeguard every child’s welfare and to empower parents with the knowledge and resources to make informed decisions.

Whether you are thinking about applying for a Prohibited Steps Order or need assistance with an existing order, our experienced team is here to assist you. We recognise the delicate nature of family disputes and are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients and their children. Trust DLS Solicitors to lead you through the legal process with professionalism, empathy, and an unwavering dedication to your family’s well-being.

Prohibited Steps Order FAQ'S

A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is a court order that prevents a parent or guardian from taking certain actions concerning a child without the court’s permission. This can include decisions about the child’s education, medical treatment, or relocation.

Any person with parental responsibility, including parents, guardians, or individuals with a significant interest in the child’s welfare, can apply for a PSO. The court’s permission may be required for those without parental responsibility.

A PSO may be necessary in situations where there is a risk that one parent might:

  • Remove the child from the UK.
  • Change the child’s school without agreement.
  • Make medical decisions without consulting the other parent.
  • Expose the child to certain individuals or environments that may not be in their best interests.

A PSO lasts until the child turns 16 unless the court specifies a shorter period or the order is discharged earlier. In exceptional circumstances, a PSO can remain in effect until the child is 18.

To obtain a PSO, the applicant must provide evidence that the action they seek to prohibit poses a risk to the child’s welfare. This can include witness statements, documentation of the proposed actions, and any relevant information demonstrating why the order is necessary.

Yes, either parent or any person with parental responsibility can apply to vary or discharge a PSO if circumstances significantly change or if the order is no longer necessary.

The process involves filing an application with the family court detailing the reasons for the PSO. An initial hearing will be scheduled, and the court may issue an interim order if the matter is urgent. A full hearing will be held to determine whether a permanent PSO should be granted.

The court considers the child’s best interests as the paramount factor. It assesses the potential impact of the prohibited action on the child’s welfare, the views of both parents, and any evidence provided.

Yes, a PSO can prevent a parent from taking a child abroad without the court’s permission. This is often requested when there is a concern that the child may not be returned or that international travel is not in the child’s best interests.

If a PSO is breached, the affected party can apply to the court for enforcement. The court may issue penalties, such as fines, or, in severe cases, consider it contempt of court, which can lead to more serious consequences, including imprisonment.

Consulting a solicitor specialising in family law is recommended for specific advice and assistance with PSOs.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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