"An order giving directions for the purpose of determining a specific question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of Parental Responsibility for a child."
Orders made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 may only apply to issues of Parental Responsibility, and cannot be applied to issues which concern only the adults in a case. The original Section 8 orders are:
· Prohibited Steps Orders
· Specific Issue Orders
· Contact Orders
· Residence Orders
In 2013 Contact and Residence Orders were abolished and replaced by Child Arrangements Orders.
Orders made to vary or discharge these orders also come under Section 8.
Once a child reaches the age of 16 any Section 8 order ceases to have effect, and the Court normally will not make new orders other than one to discharge an order. Under exceptional circumstances it can make orders for a child up to the age of 18; if it does the order will cease to have effect once the child reaches 18,
Section 10 of the Children Act determines who may apply for a Section 8 order. Sections 10(4) and (5) determine the categories of person who may apply as of right.
If you cannot apply as of right you may apply with ‘leave’, that is, with the permission of the Court, and Section 10(8) sets out what factors the Court should consider in such an application. These applications include those made by the child and 10(8) provides that the Court must be satisfied the child has sufficient understanding to make the application. Usually the initial judgement of the child’s understanding will be made by his solicitor, if he has one, but the discretion remains with the Court.
A Specific Issue Order (SIO) ‘means an order giving directions for the purpose of determining a specific question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of Parental Responsibility for a child’. For example, but not exclusively:
· What surname the child should be known by;
· Which school the child should attend;
· Whether the child should receive medical treatment;
· How religion should be included in the child’s upbringing (including ritual circumcision - See Re J (Specific Issue Orders: Muslim Upbringing and Circumcision)  2 FLR 678);
· Whether the person with care can take the child to live abroad.
This is the area in which family justice often achieves an apotheosis of pettiness as parents battle in Court over whether to have a child vaccinated or what state school to send the child to, not because the argument is necessary, but because it enables the parents to continue their dispute in another form. Before you make the application, ask yourself if this is really what highly trained lawyers should be spending their careers doing.
Like a Prohibited Steps Order, a Specific Issues Order interferes with Parental Responsibility, taking it away from the parents and handing it to the Court, leaving the parents infantilised and unable to make appropriate decisions for their children. Like PSOs, they are not to be made where a Contact or Residence Order could achieve the same result. When parents are eventually able to come to an agreement, an SIO can be changed or lifted, provided that to do so is in the best interests of the child.
Applications for Specific Issues Orders are made using Form C100 and there will be a fee to pay of £200.