A relationship breakup, particularly if the couple has minor children, is almost always the most upsetting thing that the couple will have experienced. The situation is nearly always heightened where the couple are nationals of different countries and one spouse is in a foreign country without the support of their family.
The considerable tensions that the coronavirus pandemic has brought have driven many parents to return to their country of origin with their children without the appropriate permission from the other parent or the courts. Some of whom have no intention of returning. This applies to individuals who are already divorced as well as separating couples. The remaining parent faces the stark prospect of rarely or never seeing their children again.
If you suspect your former partner may take such a step there are measures that can be taken before the event to prevent this from happening. A Prohibited Steps Order which may be made under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 can be sought through the court.
Giambrone's experienced family lawyers explain that a Prohibited Steps Order relates to a single specific issue and generally applies to children up to the age of 16 years, but in some circumstances can extend beyond that age. Once granted, the order ensures that a parent meeting their parental responsibilities cannot take any steps particularly specified in the order, nor can any other person without the express consent of the court. The steps outlined in the order can and often do relate to the removal of a child to another country. Prohibited Steps Orders can apply to a range of issues including:
- Removing a child from a parent or other approved caregiver;
- Taking a child out of the United Kingdom;
- Prohibiting a child being moved to another location within the United Kingdom;
- Removing a child from their school;
- Bringing a child into contact with certain people;
- Changing a child's name or surname;
- Making decisions in respect of a child's medical treatment, etc.
The court will require a welfare checklist to be undertaken with regard to the child or children to whom the order will relate and will only act in exception to this requirement in a case of emergency.
As soon as an application for a Prohibited Steps Order is made an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will be appointed to discover whether there is any possibility that the parents of the child or children are able to come to an amicable agreement of the question of relocation. If no such agreement can be reached CARCASS will be asked to conduct additional investigations and submit a report to the court with its recommendations.
The court will have to be satisfied that a Prohibited Steps Order is fully justified and in the child's best interests before granting such an Order. Giambrone's family law team point out that the family court places the child's best interest as the paramount concern in such matters and will give considerable consideration to the matter before making Prohibited Steps Order. Our lawyers further point out that If a parent or another person disregards a prohibited steps order they may have committed an offence against the Child Abduction Act 1984 and there are provisions in the Family Law Act 1986 to assist in enforcing prohibited steps orders.
If you think that your child may be removed to another country and would like to know more about a Prohibited Steps Order please click here
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.