Specific Issue Order: Understanding Child Arrangements

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What is a Specific Issue Order?

 

A Specific Issue Order is an order granted by the Family Court and is a type of Child Arrangements Order. It is used to help resolve disputes regarding the upbringing of a child. e

A Specific Issue Order, as the name implies, deals with a specific issue or question related to a child’s upbringing. It is a subset of Child Arrangements Order (CAO) and it can be applied for in addition to or as part of a CAO.

This type of order is used to make decisions about specific aspects of a child’s life. These may include what school they should attend, what religion they should be raised in, or whether they should have certain medical treatment.

Specific Issue Orders are similar to a Prohibited Steps Order. A Prohibited Steps Order; however, can prevent someone from taking a certain action. This may include preventing someone from having contact with the child.

These orders can be sought by parents, guardians, or other individuals who have an interest in the welfare of a child, ensuring their physical, emotional and educational needs are met. These orders are binding and enforceable by the court.

The paramount consideration for the court is the welfare of the child. The court considers all aspects of the child’s circumstances and the potential impact of the decision.

The court uses a ‘welfare checklist’ to assess the child’s needs, the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances, and the capacity of the child’s parents or guardians to meet the child’s needs.

 

How to obtain a Specific Issue Order

To obtain a Specific Issue Order in England and Wales, the following steps must be followed:

  • File an application: The first step is to file an application for a Specific Issue Order with the Family Court. The application can be made by a parent, guardian, or other individual who has an interest in the welfare of the child.
  • Attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM): Before applying to the court, you must attend a MIAM where you will be provided with information about mediation and other forms of dispute resolution. You will be assessed to see if you are suitable for mediation. If the court finds that mediation is not appropriate, you will be given a certificate to file with your application.
  • Attend a hearing: After filing your application, a hearing will be scheduled. Both parties will be given an opportunity to present evidence and argue their case. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making a decision. A Cafcass Officer (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) may appointed by the court to prepare a report and provide an opinion.
  • Wait for the decision: After the final hearing, the court will make a decision on the Specific Issue Order. A decision may be made immediately, or the court may reserve its decision, which means it will be made at a later date.
  • Enforcement: If the Specific Issue Order is granted, it is binding and enforceable by the court. If the order is not being followed, the court can take enforcement action, such as imposing fines or even imprisonment.

It is worth noting that it’s advisable to seek legal advice before applying for a Specific Issue Order, as the process can be complex and it may be difficult to navigate without help from a legal professional.

Can a step parent apply for a Specific Issue Order?

Yes, a step-parent can request a specific issue order in England and Wales under the Children Act 1989. A step-parent is defined as someone who is married to, or in a civil partnership with, a child’s parent, but is not the child’s biological parent.

Step-parents can apply for a specific issue order if they have been granted parental responsibility for the child by the court, or if they have the consent of all individuals who have parental responsibility for the child.

A step-parent would need to demonstrate that the decision they are seeking is in the best interests of the child and that they have a genuine interest in the child’s welfare. The court will take into account the relationship between the step-parent and the child, as well as the views of the child.

How much does it cost to obtain this type of order?

The cost of obtaining a Specific Issue Order can vary depending on a number of factors such as the complexity of the case, the Solicitor’s fees, and whether legal aid is available.

If an individual is eligible for legal aid, they will not have to pay for legal representation. However, if an individual does not qualify for legal aid, they will have to pay for their legal representation themselves. Legal Aid is usually available in cases where the applicant or child is at risk of suffering domestic violence, or is a victim of domestic violence.

The cost of a Specific Issue Order case will depend on the complexity of the case, the number of hearings that are required, and the amount of time that the solicitor needs to spend working on the case. In general, a simple case that is resolved quickly may cost less than a complex case that goes to trial.

It’s worth noting that court fees also need to be paid, these fees will depend on the stage of the proceedings and they can vary. Court fees can be waived in some cases, such as if the person is on a low income or receiving certain benefits.

A C100 application is the form that is used to apply for a Specific Issue Order. The application fee for a C100 order is currently £215.

Discharging a Specific Issue Order

Parents can obtain permission from the Court to discharge a Specific Issue Order when the circumstances that warranted the order have changed significantly, making the order no longer necessary or relevant.

Grounds for discharging or varying an order can include the following:

  • Change in circumstances: The most common reason for discharging a Specific Issue Order is a significant change in circumstances that affects the child’s welfare or the practicality of the existing order.
  • Consensus between parties: If all parties involved agree that the order is no longer necessary, they can jointly apply to have it discharged.
  • Child’s best interests: Any decision to discharge will be made with the child’s best interests as the paramount consideration.

 

A specific issue order from a family court will automatically end when the child reaches 16 years of age, unless there are extraordinary circumstances justifying the issuance of the order. In such cases, it may continue until the child turns 18.

How can Expert Family Law assist?

We understand that disputes involving children and their care can be incredibly complex and sensitive. The solicitors on our panel can provide you with the best advice and assistance on resolving child arrangement disputes and obtaining a Specific Issue Order from the Court if the dispute cannot be resolved between the parents or through the process of mediation.

As well as assisting with child arrangements, our panel of family law solicitors can also advise and assist on the process of divorce and the division of assets following the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership (ancillary relief).

We ensure that the family law solicitors on our panel have the skills and experience required to assist on your legal case. We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner.

Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a child arrangement solicitor from our panel could help on your case.

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