What is a Specific Issue Order?
Fri 27 January 2023
Disagreements between parents are not uncommon. So, what happens when an agreement cannot be reached over an issue concerning a child between separated or divorced parents?
Applications can be made to the Court to decide on a specific issue. These are commonly known as Specific Issue Applications and they are often made on an urgent basis.
If you need lawyers to advise on a specific issue application, please do get in contact. We have a highly experienced team of family lawyers based in over 20 locations in England & Wales.
Disagreements over children where a specific issue order may be needed
The Courts can make a number of decisions on areas of disagreement, such as:
- Medical Treatment
- Changing a child’s name
The starting point when trying to resolve an issue is to do so without court intervention. This can be done either by the parents reaching an agreement themselves or through a solicitor led negotiation. This can be progressed if needed into meditation where with aid of a qualified mediator, parents try and reach agreement. Unless there is genuine urgency, it is invariably better to avoid a Court application unless other options have been tried.
How does the court decide on specific issue applications?
The Courts considerations regarding any specific issue application will always consider the criteria set out in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989. These considerations are known as the welfare checklist, which includes:
- The wishes and feelings of the child
- The physical and emotional needs of the child
- The effect of any proposed order upon the child
- The age, sex, and characteristics of a child
- The risk of harm towards any child
- The capability of the parents to meet the child’s needs
- The range of orders available to the Court
In short, the above can be summarised in a simple question; “Is the order in the child’s best interest?”
Do you need permission to take your child on holiday?
If the parent has parental responsibility (in the legal sense) for a child, in the absence of any agreement the parent who is taking the holiday must make an application for permission from the Court. If they take the child outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales without either permission of everyone with parental responsibility, or with an Order of the Court, they could be guilty of child abduction under the Child Abduction Act 1984. This requirement for permission also extends to things like school trips outside of England and Wales. Fortunately, a number of schools are becoming alive to these issues as they undergo further training.
Specific issue applications relating to education, relocation and other matters
Education will look at where the child is spending majority of the time and the practicalities of getting the child to and from school. It will consider the school itself, attainment, and any concerns.
Applications regarding relocation considers the child’s quality of life so will look at:
- Quality of housing
- Job prospects of the parent who intends to move
- The ability to maintain a relationship with the absent parent
A change of a child’s surname will look as to whether this will help with a child’s sense of identity. Does the name change take into account both parents’ names? Is the child’s surname different to a sibling or parent where the child is living? Would a name change benefit a child?
Religion looks at the area where the child is living, the parents’ respective religions and whether by practicing that religion if this in any way would benefit the child with reference to the child’s heritage and identity.
With the above in mind, if parents can reach an agreement between themselves, it is going to prove a much quicker and far less costly option. If not, all avenues need to be fully explored by taking the matter to Court.
If you would like additional information on the above, please contact Darren White by clicking the ‘contact us’ button to email him directly or call Darren on 01925 256 648 at our Warrington Office. For more information, please click here.