The most important and useful types of Orders are those contained in Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, and are described as “Section 8 Orders” as follows:
- 1. Residence Order
A Residence Order sets out where the child is to live and with whom. The Order does not have any affect on the Parental Responsibility of either parent and is intended to settle the child’s living arrangements only. A Residence Order can be made in favour of more than one person. It is possible for the Court to Order a shared Residence Order where the people granted with the Residence Order are not living together. In this case the Order will specify the periods to be spent by the child in each household. When a Residence Order is granted in someone’s favour it automatically gives them Parental Responsibility for the child. A Residence Order will usually end upon the child in question attaining the age of 16.
- 2. Contact Order
A Contact Order requires a person with whom the child is living to allow the child to visit, or stay, with the person named on the Contact Order. Where parties are unable to agree over the amount of contact that the non-resident parent should have, either party may ask the Court to define such contact arrangements. A Court will then make an Order setting out the amount of contact that the non-resident parent is entitled to and the resident parent must make the child available for contact at these times and dates. Where it is felt that direct contact will not be in the best interests of the child, the Court may make an Order that indirect contact should take place in the form of telephone calls or letters from the non-resident parent to the child.
- 3. Prohibited Steps Order
A Prohibited Steps Order prohibits a parent from doing something that has been specified in the Order, without the consent of the Court. For example, a parent can be prohibited from removing the child from the jurisdiction by use of a Prohibited Steps Order and would only be able to remove the child from the jurisdiction with the consent of the Court or the other parent.
- 4. Specific Issue Order
A Specific Issue Order enables the Court to give directions on a specific issue which has arisen, or which may arise, for example the decision to change a child’s surname, the choice of the child’s school or religious upbringing.
- Duration of Section 8 Orders
Generally Section 8 Orders will continue unless discharged by the Court until the child reaches the age of 16. The Court has power to vary or discharge existing Section 8 Orders where one of the parties makes an application to the Court.
- What Factors Will The Court Take Into Account When Making Section 8 Orders?
Where a Court is asked to determine any question in respect of the upbringing of a child, the child’s welfare will be the Court’s paramount consideration. A Court will have regard to certain factors when it is considering whether to make, vary or discharge a Section 8 Order and these factors are as follows:
- the wishes and feelings of the child concerned (in the light of his/her age and understanding);
- the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child;
- the likely affect on the child of any change in their circumstances;
- the age, sex, background and 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 at meeting the child’s needs;
- the range of powers available to the Court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question;
When deciding whether to make a Section 8 Order in respect of a child, the Court shall not make an Order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no Order at all. This highlights the importance that both parties should work together in the interests of the child, and try to come to an agreement in respect of such things as residence and contact. It is only where it is impossible for an agreement to be reached that the Court may decide that an Order would be better for the child, than having no Order at all.