Date updated: Wednesday 24th January 2024

The most important and useful types of Orders are those contained in Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, and are known  as “Section 8 Orders” .  Broadly speaking these orders provide a framework for parents on issues such as where children live and on major decisions which cannot be agreed by the parents.  Applications to the court should on the whole never be the first port of call, however we recognise that there are instances when they are necessary.

What orders can the court make? 

1. Child Arrangement Order

A Child Arrangement Order sets out :

a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and

b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person

Whatever order the court makes will only be if it is in the best interest of the child, their welfare being of paramount importance. The court can regulate the time that a child spends with each parent with the starting point being that it is ordinarily in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with the parent they don’t live with. How this is managed will depend upon the circumstances however an order may include arrangements for telephone or video calls, letters or cards or face to face time. Where necessary the court can also provide for time to be supervised or supported such as through the use of a contact centre.

2. Prohibited Steps Order

A Prohibited Steps Order prevents a parent from exercising their parental responsibility without the permission of the Court. For example, a parent can be prevented from taking a child out of the country or from collecting from school. 

3. Specific Issue Order

These orders will typically be made when parents cannot agree on important decisions in their child’s life. For example parents may not agree on what school their child attends or one parent may wish to change their child’s surname.

Duration of Section 8 Orders

Typically a Section 8 Order will continue until they are either discharged by the Court or when the child reaches the age of 16, whichever is the latter. The Court has power to vary or discharge existing Section 8 Orders, where one of the parties makes an application to the Court.  Having said that parents are also able to agree to vary the terms of any order by consent and what works for a child at age 8 may not be workable when they reach 13. Parents should be encouraged to agree any variations between themselves or via mediation rather than returning to the court each time they run into difficulties.

What Factors Will The Court Take Into Account When Making Section 8 Orders?

Where a Court is asked to make any decisions regarding  a child, the child’s welfare will be the Court’s paramount consideration. A Court will have regard to The Welfare Checklist, when considering whether to make, vary or discharge a Section 8 Order, namely :

(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);

(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs;

(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;

(d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;

(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;

(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;

(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

The Court will not make an Order unless the Court considers that doing so would be in the best interests of  the child, as opposed to  making no Order at all.