Example case study: Prohibited Steps Order issued to father who failed to return son to family home

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The following case study is based on a matter that our child law solicitors typically take on.

Our children solicitors advised a mother on living arrangements for her son after her ex-partner failed to return him to the family home.


Louise and James had been in a relationship for over 15 years and shared an 11-year-old child, Michael. Their relationship started to deteriorate when Michael turned eight years old, and they separated shortly after.

A change in agreed living arrangements

Following their separation, James moved out of the family home in Gloucester and relocated to Minehead, around a two-hour drive away.

James and Louise agreed between themselves that Michael would live with Louise in the family home during the weekdays and stay with James at the weekends; an arrangement that had been in place for three years.

Louise’s new partner moved into the family home, and she fell pregnant with twins.

When it was James’ time to have Michael for the weekend, Michael told James he was struggling to adapt to the new changes at home, having Louise’s new partner living with them and becoming a big brother to six-month-old twins. He said he felt disconnected from everyone at home and that he preferred spending time with his father.

Following on from what Michael had told him about his homelife, James decided not to drop Michael back to Louise, disregarding the previously agreed arrangements

Court orders

Louise instructed our child law solicitors to help return her son home and to reinstate the previously agreed living arrangements.

Our team made an urgent application to the court for Michael to be returned to his family home and applied for a Child Arrangements Order and a Prohibited Steps Order (a court order that prevents a party from making a decision about their parental responsibility).

The court ordered James to immediately return Michael to Louise and made a Prohibited Steps Order which prevented James from removing Michael from Louise’s care or his school. James subsequently made an application for a Child Arrangements Order for Michael to live with him full-time and also a Specific Issue Order for Michael to be able to attend a secondary school near James’ home.

Involvement of Cafcass

The court felt it needed more information about both parties’ positions and wanted to know more about James’ wishes and feelings in light of his age. They therefore ordered Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to prepare a report to help the court make a final decision about the arrangements for Michael about who he would live with and what school he should attend.

This report took several months to prepare and recommended that it was in Michael’s best interests to carry on living with Louise during the week but recommended that Michael spend additional time with James during school holidays with unlimited telephone/FaceTime contact during the week.

James was not happy nor in agreement with this recommendation and a final hearing was therefore listed for the court to make a final decision. After hearing evidence from both parents and the Cafcass officer, and listening to a reading of a letter from Michael, the court made an order in the same terms as those recommended by Cafcass.

The court did not make a Specific Issue Order concerning Michael attending a school near James’ home on the basis that he was going to be with Louise during the week.

Contact our child law solicitors

If your ex-partner has acted against agreed living or child arrangements, our child law solicitors can help. For straightforward, practical advice, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill in our online enquiry form.


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