When parents have a dispute over how or where a child should be raised, or who they should live with, a court order may be applied for. Court orders are intended to resolve issues and disputes, and usually remain in place until the child is sixteen years of age – but in some cases, it may continue until they are eighteen.
Court orders are often called Section 8 orders, as they are referred to in Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. Usually the person applying for an order is the mother or father of the child, but other people such as family members may be able to apply if the court grants them permission. Applications for a Section 8 Order are usually processed in the Family Proceedings Court or County Court but can be transferred to the High Court later if they are complex or difficult to resolve.
What is the process for getting a Court Order?
To apply for a court order, you must:
- Make sure you are eligible to apply
- Be able to prove you have attended an initial Mediation and Information Assessment Meeting – except under special circumstances, such as cases of domestic abuse, or urgent cases where a child is at risk
- Fill in the C100 court form
- Send the form and three copies to the nearest court that deals with cases involving children
You will have to pay £215 to apply for a court order. If you are issuing applications for siblings at the same time, only one fee is payable.
When looking at a court order application, the Court will not take the side of either parent; rather, they are concerned only with the welfare of the child and will make their decisions based on the child’s best interests. The court are guided by a set of criteria in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, known as the Welfare Checklist:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (considered in light of his/her age and understanding)
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances
- The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the Court considers relevant
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- How capable each of the child’s parents and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant is of meeting the child’s needs;
- The range of powers available to the Court under this Act
This checklist is intended to help professionals decide what is in the best interests of the child.
If a child’s welfare is immediately at risk, the court may consider a Section 8 order as an emergency. It may be possible in this case for a judge to hear only one parent, but often the order will be applied for a limited time period until the other parent can be heard as well.
The most common Court Orders concerning children are:
- Child Arrangements Order – This order outlines where the child will live, how much time they spend with each parent, and what types of contact they may have with each parent – such as emails or phone calls. It replaces the previous Residence Order and Contact Order, but if you already have one of these orders in place you will not need a new application.
- Specific Issue Order – Defines particular aspects of a child’s upbringing, such as what school they should attend, whether they can go on holiday with a parent, what religious ceremonies they can take part in, and so on.
- Prohibited Steps Order – Stops one parent from making a specific decision about their child’s upbringing. PSOs may be put in place to immediately prevent a parent or relative from changing the child’s name or citizenship, taking them abroad, or allowing specific medical procedures (such as circumcision) being performed on the child. Unlike other Section 8 orders, PSOs can often be addressed as urgent matters, and may involve the judge hearing only one parent.
- Special Guardianship Order – This form of order is separate from Section 8 Orders and protects children who don’t live with their birth parents or adoptive parents. SGOs have greater protections than a standard Residence Order and are usually in place where a relative or foster parent is caring for a child. Although the parents of the child still retain a level of parental responsibility, if there is a dispute the person with an SGO will have the final say.
- Appointment of a Guardian – In most cases, this is done to allow a relative or family friend to take over parental responsibility for a child after the death of a parent.
Foys Solicitors can help
If you wish to apply for a court order, you will want to make sure that your case is likely to be heard and that you have a good chance of having the order granted. You will almost certainly have to try mediation before you apply, as well. Foys Solicitors is a specialist in Family and Children Law and can arrange an initial mediation meeting to see if you can resolve your problems outside of court. If this doesn’t work or simply isn’t possible, we can then proceed with an assessment of your situation, look at what type of court order would be suitable, and help you apply.
The welfare of a child is always of utmost importance. For a free initial consultation to help with children court orders, contact your local Foys Solicitors office today.