What is a specific issue order in a family court context?

 
 

The answer to the question, “what is a specific issue order?” is that a specific issue order is an order made by a judge sitting in the family court in England and Wales. A specific issue order is made pursuant to section 8 of the Children Act 1989. The order determines an issue that is in dispute in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child. 

 
The best London children law solicitors suspect that most parents would be none the wiser as to what a specific issue order is, and what it does, after they have digested that answer.
 
When it comes to your children and children law, most parents want clear, easy to understand advice that cuts to the chase and tells you what you need to do and what your options are. The situation is no different with specific issue orders. The top London children solicitors say that the title “specific issue order” may be a bit of a mouthful, but the legal advice does not need to be.
 

How can OTS Solicitors help? 

  
OTS Solicitors family law and children team advise on all aspects of children law, including parental responsibility, custody and access rights and representation in court proceedings for child arrangements orders and specific issue orders. 
 
For a confidential discussion about your children law concerns call the children and family law team on 0203 959 9123. The experienced family law solicitors at OTS Solicitors will be happy to help you.
 

What is a specific issue order? 

 
If parents cannot agree on an aspect of their child’s upbringing, they can make an application to court and a judge will decide.  

 

What specific issues decisions can a judge make?

 

The best London children law solicitors say that a judge can decide on almost any aspect of parental responsibility when asked to decide a specific issue order application. However, the most common specific issue order applications are:
 

• Whether a child should be educated privately or receive state education;

• The specific choice of school or nursery;

• Whether a child should follow one parent’s religion and attend religious ceremonies or a religious school;

• Whether a child should follow a vegan or vegetarian diet;

• Whether a child should be baptised;

• Whether a child should be immunised;

• Whether a child should live in a particular suburb or county of England;

• Whether a child should be given a new first or surname;

• Whether a child should meet a parent’s new partner or attend a specific family event, such as a second wedding ceremony. 

 
The top London children law solicitors will tell you that there are additional specific issue order topics as no one family is the same and therefore different specific issues crop up.
 
However, whatever the nature of the specific issue in dispute between parents there are a number of ways to resolving the specific issue.
 

Resolving specific issues between parents  

 

The best London children law solicitors say that if parents fall out over how they should bring up their children then there are alternatives to making an application to court for a specific issue order, for example:
 

• Direct discussions, sometimes with the help of another family member;

• Round table meeting with the help of a children solicitor;

• Family mediation;

• Family arbitration;

• Family counselling, sometimes involving the child. 

 
Not all of these options will suit all families. For example, you may think that your child is too young to be directly involved in family counselling sessions or you may think that family mediation may not be appropriate because there has been a history of domestic violence. Alternatively, time may be of the essence if you want your child to go to a particular school because of deadlines for school enrolment or term start dates and therefore you feel that you have no alternative but to quickly apply for a specific issue order.
 

The specific issue order court application 

 
If a parent decides to make a specific issue order court application there is likely to be a number of court hearings (called directions hearings) prior to the final hearing of the application. The top London children law solicitors say that at directions hearings the court can order the filing of witness statements or can order expert reports.
 
At the final hearing of the court application, the judge will hear evidence from both parents, any other witnesses and any experts. The judge will assess the evidence, if necessary make findings and give a judgment setting out the reasons behind the decision. 
   

How does a judge decide a specific issue order application?

 
The best London children law solicitors say that a judge deciding a specific issue order court application is no different to a judge deciding on a child arrangements order application or prohibited steps order application as the criteria that the judge has to consider to make a decision are the same.
 
A judge will decide a specific issue order application based on what they think is in the child’s best interests as the child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration. Judges have to consider a number of statutory factors (commonly referred to as the welfare checklist) when making court decisions about children.
 

The checklist includes:

 

• The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned, in light of his or her age and understanding; and 

• The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs; and 

• The likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances; and 

• The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics the court considers relevant; and 

• Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering; and 

• How capable each of the parents and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant is of meeting the child’s needs; and 

• The range of powers available to the court.

 
In some children court applications one factor will carry more weight than other factors. For example, if the specific issue in dispute between two parents is whether a young child should be immunised, the focus will be on the child’s physical and health needs. The judge will carry out an assessment, based on his or her review of the medical evidence and parent’s views, of what order is in the child’s best interests.
 
Many parents struggle to agree on what is “right” for their child, often because there is no one “right” but a range of parental choices and preferences. However, if things do get intractable with the other parent and it is a “red line” issue that you cannot compromise on then you have the option of applying for a specific issue order. The best London children solicitors would always recommend taking expert legal advice before taking the decision to start court proceedings for a specific issue order. That way, you know what the alternate options are. A solicitor will also advise on the likely prospects of successfully securing the specific issue order. 
 

How can OTS Solicitors help? 

  
OTS Solicitors family law and children team help and advise on all aspects of children law, including parental responsibility and specific issue orders, custody and access rights and representation in court proceedings for child arrangements and other children orders. 
 
For a confidential discussion about your children law concerns call the children and family law team on 0203 959 9123. The experienced London family law solicitors at OTS Solicitors will be happy to help you.
 

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