A specific issue order (an SIO) is an order that determines a question in relation to a child’s upbringing where those that hold parental responsibility cannot agree.
In family law cases it is often applied for by one parent against another parent, but an application can be made by anyone who holds parental responsibility for a child (including step-parents and special guardians) and anyone who has a child arrangement order as a person with whom the child should live. Anyone else, including in some cases the child themselves, needs the permission of the court to make an application for an SIO.
An SIO can deal with a wide range of issues. Some examples include:
- Questions concerning medical treatments (such as whether a child should be given vaccinations or a blood transfusion)
- How and where a child should go to school (whether they should have a state or private education, which specific school a child should go to)
- Religion (what religion the child should be brought up into, what religious customs should the child follow, such as circumcision)
- Changing a child’s name
An SIO must determine an issue that concerns the exercise of parental responsibility, and they cannot be used where a Child Arrangements Order (which determines where a child lives and how much time it spends with each of the parents) would be best placed, an SIO cannot determine where a child should live, for example.
An application for an SIO can be issued either on its own or during the course of other Children Act Proceedings; usually when one parent applies for a Child Arrangements Order.
An application for an SIO is sometimes accompanied by an application for a Prohibited Steps Order (an order which prevents someone from doing something). For example, an SIO may be applied for to return a child from outside the country, along with a Prohibited Steps Order stopping anyone from taking the child away again.
There are some restrictions on making an SIO. They cannot be made in respect of a child in Local Authority Care. Also, an SIO should not be made in respect of any child aged 16 or above, or extend beyond their 16th birthday, unless the circumstances of the case are exceptional. No SIO can have effect beyond the child’s 18th birthday.
When a Court considers making an SIO, the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration and the Court will, at each stage, have regard to the following:
1) the welfare checklist as set out in section 1 of the Children Act 1989,
2) that it must be better for the child for an order to be made than to make no order, and
3) that any delay in deciding matters is contrary to the welfare of the child.
If you need to instruct a family lawyer to help with any aspect of an SIO, read our simple step-by-step guide, then get in touch with our clerks who will discuss your needs and put you in touch with the barrister best able to help you.