Prohibited Steps Order – Understanding Its Role Against Abuse

Wooden gavel and paper family figures on a table, symbolising family law and protection with a Prohibited Steps Orders.

In the ongoing struggle to combat domestic abuse, understanding and utilising the legal protections available is crucial. Among these legal defences, the Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) stands out as a significant safeguard for individuals and families experiencing abuse. This article aims to unpack the PSO also highlighting its critical role within the United Kingdom’s legal framework. We will explore the nature of a PSO, the procedure for securing one, as well as the profound impact it has on the lives of those it is designed to protect. By the end of this discussion, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how a PSO functions as a key instrument in the prevention of abuse.

What is a Prohibited Steps Order?

A Prohibited Steps Order is a legal safeguard in the UK made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. Accordingly, it aims to prevent specific actions by individuals in family disputes.

This court order is pivotal in situations where there’s a concern for a child’s well-being. It effectively restricts a parent or guardian from making unilateral decisions or undertaking activities that could harm the child.

Its primary purpose above all is to ensure the child’s safety and welfare. It acts as a preventive measure against potential abuse or harmful situations. Through a PSO, the court can stipulate various conditions. These include preventing a child from being taken out of the country or also prohibiting changes to their living arrangements without judicial consent. It’s a crucial element of the UK’s legal apparatus for protecting vulnerable individuals from abuse.

Obtaining a Prohibited Steps Order

Securing a Prohibited Steps Order in the UK involves a legal process that requires careful navigation. The journey begins with an application to the family court, typically filed by a parent or guardian who believes their child’s safety is at risk. The paramount consideration for the court is always the child’s welfare.

Step 1: Application

The applicant must complete Form C100, the standard document for family court applications concerning children. This form allows the applicant to specify the nature of the order they seek and detail the reasons behind their request. The court will also ask for proof that you have attended or tried to attend a mediation session in the form of a MIAM (Mediation Information & Assesment Meeting) certificate. This must be filed alongside Form C100. However, cases involving domestic violence are exempt. As well as this, there will be a court fee of £232.

Step 2: Evidence

Supporting evidence is crucial. The applicant needs to provide clear reasons why the Prohibited Steps Order is necessary. This might include instances of past abuse, threats, or any behaviour that puts the child’s safety in jeopardy.

Step 3: Court Hearing

Once the application is submitted, a court hearing is scheduled. Both parties involved in the dispute are expected to attend. During the hearing, the judge considers the evidence and listens to both sides. They then assess what arrangement best serves the child’s interests.

Step 4: Decision

The court’s decision on whether to grant the Prohibited Steps Order hinges on the child’s welfare. Additionally, the court will typically get a CAFCASS advisor to prepare a report, of which the court will make it’s decision. Consequently, if the judge is convinced that the order is in the child’s best interest, it will be issued. Furthermore, the specifics of the order, including it’s time frame, can vary, tailored to address the unique circumstances of each case.

Important Considerations

Legal Representation: It can be advisable to seek legal advice when applying for a Prohibited Steps Order. A solicitor specialising in family law can offer guidance and improve the chances of a successful outcome.

Emergency Situations: In urgent cases, where there’s an immediate risk to the child, the court can issue an interim Emergency Prohibited Steps Order quickly, to provide instant protection while the full case is considered.

The Impact of a Prohibited Steps Order

A Prohibited Steps Order can have a profound impact on the lives of those it protects, primarily offering a shield against potential harm. Its influence stretches beyond the immediate legal restrictions it imposes, fostering a safer environment for children and, in some cases, for the adults involved.

Immediate Protection

The immediate effect of a PSO is the protection it offers to children from actions that could endanger their physical as well as emotional well-being. By restricting certain behaviours of a parent or guardian, it minimises the risk of harm, ensuring the child’s safety is the top priority.

The order establishes clear legal boundaries, making it explicitly clear what actions the restrained party cannot undertake. This clarity is crucial in preventing misunderstandings and ensuring that all parties are aware of the limitations imposed by the court.

Deterrence of Further Abuse

For individuals who may pose a risk of domestic abuse, a PSO serves as a strong deterrent against further abusive actions. Knowing that there are specific legal consequences for violating the order can discourage potential abusers from engaging in harmful behaviour.

Psychological Impact

The psychological benefit for the protected individuals cannot be understated. For children, knowing that there are measures in place to protect them can provide a sense of security and stability. For the applicant, it also offers peace of mind and reassurance that the legal system can offer protection against abuse.

Challenges and Limitations Of A Prohibited Steps Order

While a Prohibited Steps Order is a powerful tool, it’s not without its challenges and limitations. Enforcement can be difficult, especially if the restrained party is determined to breach the order. Additionally, the emotional toll of going through the legal process should not be overlooked, both for the adults and children involved.

Conclusion: Essential Protection With A Prohibited Steps Order

The Prohibited Steps Order is a vital tool against domestic abuse in the UK, offering immediate and significant protection. It’s a beacon of hope for those seeking safety, underscoring the legal system’s commitment to well-being. For anyone facing abuse, understanding and using this order can be a crucial step towards a secure future.


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