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Emergency applications family law

Emergency applications

The protection of children from harm is a concern we all share. If a situation arises where children may be at significant risk of being harmed, Social Services or any concerned adult may make an emergency application to the court in order to protect them.

What can you do?

If you are concerned for the safety of a child and feel the situation is an emergency then the court can act very quickly – on the same day if necessary. You can make an application to the court to deal with any of the following:

  • A specific issue order
    • This will determine a particular issue, such as which school the child should attend or his or her medical treatment
  • A prohibited steps order
    • This will prevent someone from taking any action specified by the court without the approval of the court. This could be appropriate when, for example, there is a suggestion that the other parent might remove your child from the country without your consent
  • Internal relocation
  • Child abduction
  • International relocation

If you are considering making an application for either a specific issue or prohibited steps order, some useful information on these matters is available on our website:

  • Disputes about arrangements for children: what the court assesses
  • Disputes about arrangements for children: the court process
  • The role of CAFCASS in children disputes

Internal relocation

Applications concerning the relocation of a child from one part of the UK to another usually arise in the following circumstances:

  • You have remarried or are in a new relationship and your new spouse or partner’s job or business has been relocated to another part of the country
  • You have been offered a job in another part of the UK
  • You wish to return to live near your family after your relationship separation
  • You want to relocate with your child for lifestyle reasons (for example, moving from a city to the country)

The relocation of children can often be an emotive issue. To help you understand the procedures and decision making process, we have outlined the two scenarios below:

If you wish to move within the UK with your child

If you wish to move elsewhere in the UK then you do not need to get the other parent’s formal permission, although of course we suggest that you inform the other party of your plans. If you move without their knowledge, they can ask the court to make an order preventing the removal of your child, at least until the circumstances are properly investigated. The court can also make an order forcing the return of your child, which can be very disruptive and upsetting for him or her. We would therefore advise that if you are considering a move within the UK the correct approach would be to try and agree this with the other parent or otherwise apply for a specific issue order.

If you are trying to stop the relocation of your child within the UK

If you wish to stop an internal relocation you must apply for what is called a prohibited steps order. The court’s main concern will be the best interests of your child. The court must take various matters into account (the welfare checklist – link to page) in considering what is in the best interests of your child.

If your child has already moved within the UK

In this situation, you can make an application for a specific issue order for the return of your child or in some cases an application for any of the following:

  • Wardship, location or collection orders
  • Disclosure orders against third parties
  • Any other orders to assist in finding and recovering your child

You should also inform the police. If a criminal offence has been committed, they will be able to provide significant assistance if the child is still within the UK.

Contact our Family Law specialists

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