Court orders for you and your child

The family court can make orders – also called injunctions – that control how parents have contact with their children.

The court can decide who the child lives with, how and when the child sees the other parent, and who makes important decisions about the child's upbringing.

Unlike informal arrangements, court orders are legally binding and enforceable. If someone breaks a court order, they can be fined or even jailed.

If you need protection from domestic abuse, there are other court orders that can help you better. Please see Get legal protection from domestic abuse for more information about them.

It’s best to get legal advice or a solicitor before applying for a court order. You may be able to get legal aid too.

Child arrangement orders

A child arrangements order decides:

  • who the child lives with
  • how and when the other parent has contact with the child

When the court considers your case, it will decide what’s best for your child, and will put your child’s welfare and safety above anything else.

If you’re named as the person that the child lives with (the resident parent), you automatically have parental responsibility for you child. You may well have had this anyway.

Types of contact

The order can say what kind of contact the other parent should have with your child:

  • supervised contact
  • unsupervised contact
  • no contact at all

For example, for cases involving domestic abuse the order might only allow supervised contact in a contact centre, a place where a parent can spend time with their children while staff are on hand or watching nearby.

It may not allow any contact at all with an abusive parent if the child is at risk of harm.

Where contact is allowed, the court can say whether it should be face to face (direct contact), or by letters or phone (indirect).

The court can also add conditions, such as that a parent does not drink alcohol while with the child.

Specific issue orders

A specific issue order settles a dispute between parents who both have parental responsibility about important aspects of the upbringing of their child. It’s sometimes called a section 8 order.

The issues might include:

  • which school your child goes to
  • whether medical treatment or surgery takes place
  • what kind of religious upbringing your child has
  • whether your child lives abroad
  • whether you can take your child abroad on holiday
  • whether someone should have contact with your child
  • what your child’s name is

You can only apply for this order if you have parental responsibility for the child or have special permission from the court.

Prohibited steps orders

This order stops people with parental responsibility for a child doing something that they’d normally be allowed to do; or gives a parent permission to do something that wouldn't normally be allowed without the consent of the other parent.

This order can be used to stop someone:

  • taking the child away from their current caregiver
  • taking the child abroad
  • moving the child to somewhere else in the UK
  • taking the child out of their school
  • bringing the child into contact with someone
  • changing the child’s name
  • deciding on a child’s medical treatment

These orders are often made through urgent applications to the court in an emergency, initially without the other parent knowing.

Consent orders

You can ask the family court to give legal force to any informal agreements you have with the other parent through a consent order.

This means that if the other parent breaks the agreement, the court will be able to enforce it with fines or other penalties.

You should not agree to a consent order before getting legal advice.

For more information, see Agreeing child arrangements with the other parent.


In emergencies, you can make an urgent application for these orders.

But if you or your child is in danger now, or if your child is at immediate risk of abduction, you should contact the police.

Need help with something else? Just ask us.

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