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What Happens If My Ex Keeps the Children Without My Consent?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Nov 2020 | comments*Discuss
Child Abduction Parental Responsibility

The thought of your ex partner taking your children is the worst nightmare of many parents, and so if it happens, understandably it is a very emotional and stressful time. Many people turn to the police for help to return their children, but how much the police can help is very dependent upon your personal situation. If both parents have Parental Responsibility and one parent is keeping the children against the other's wishes, the police CANNOT help, even if the children do not normally live with them. However, if the parent does not have Parental Responsibility, the police will be able to intervene.

So what is Parental Responsibility?

The Children Act 1989 defines 'Parental Responsibility' as 'all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child'.In plain English, this means that you have responsibility to:

  • house the child
  • protect and maintain the child
  • make decisions about their education
  • name the child
  • consent to any medical treatment for the child

Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility as they are listed on the child's birth certificate. A father will automatically have Parental Responsibility if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth or was listed on the birth certificate. Alternatively, both parents can sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement and register it with the courts, or more commonly, a father can apply to the courts for Parental Responsibility.

To apply to the courts, you will need to fill in form C1 found at Gov.UK - Forms and Guidance. A court fee of £215 is also payable though you may be able to get assistance with this if you receive benefits or have a low income.

But what if both parents have Parental Responsibility?

The father of my son has decided not to return my child. He has access every week, but we had an argument about what time he should return my child and he said he wasn't going to return him as he has parental responsibility and he has found out he can legally keep our son. I called the police, but they said they can do nothing about it as he is named on the birth certificate and therefore has PR. I am beside myself with worry. It has been four days now and my ex is still refusing to return him. My son is only four and has never been away from me longer than a day. I can't eat or sleep and I am beside myself with worry. I just want my little boy back.

If both parents have Parental Responsibility then the police cannot intervene to take the child off one parent and give them to the other; the police cannot choose between parents, that is the remit of the courts.

In this situation, if you are concerned about being able to see the children, or, if you think that the children should live with you, you can apply for a Child Arrangement Order.

Note: You may have heard about Contact Orders or Residence Orders. A Child Arrangement Order replaces these older orders but those with Contact or Residence Orders need not re-apply. Also confusingly often those in practice will still refer to (for example) obtaining a Residence Order when applying for a Child Arrangement Order.]

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

This court order determines where your child lives, which relatives they have contact with, and what type of contact (e.g. in person, phone calls, or letters). Anyone with Parental Responsibility can apply for an Order.

To apply to the courts, you will need to fill in form C100 found at Gov.UK - Forms and Guidance. A court fee of £215 is also payable though you may be able to get assistance with this if you receive benefits or have a low income.

I am a father of two children six and three. When I went round to pick them up last week I found my ex collapsed on the sofa through drink and drugs and her ex partner also high on drugs. My daughter and son were not dressed and my daughter's nappy had not been changed for hours and she was playing with food in the dog's bowl. I have heard they are not being fed or looked after properly and the Social Services are looking into this.

Ordinarily, the court will give notice of the hearing to both parties so that they can attend and give their side of the story. However if you think that your child / children may be in danger, then you may be able to apply for an emergency without notice hearing which will be much quicker than a full "with notice hearing". However be aware that this will only be a temporary solution and that any without notice hearing will be followed shortly after by a full "with notice" hearing in which the court order may be changed. If you are considering this option, seek professional advice or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for some free assistance.

If you can show that your former partner is not able or appropriate to look after your child / children, you may be able to get an order stating that the children should live with you. However you will need to evidence this.

Below are easy ways to obtain this evidence:

  • Take photographs of the condition of your children when you see them (e.g. unwashed / dirty clothes / dirty nappy)
  • Video or photograph your interaction with your former partner when going to collect your children, including any condition of their house as you can see it from areas into which you are invited / the doorway. However remember that you must not trespass into the property.
  • Take a witness with you when you go to try to collect the children (e.g. a family friend or if possible an independent person such as a local church minister).

Note that the courts are very unlikely to not award at least contact to a parent, even if they are inappropriate to look after a child. However this contact may be indirect, such as by letter, or supervised at a contact centre.

Remember that whilst the police cannot take a child away from a parent with Parental Responsibility, they are able to intervene and remove a child if there is a real risk to life. If you are concerned about a real and immediate threat to your child's safety, speak to your local police force and social services.

If you are unsure about your rights, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau who will be able to provide you with free assistance. The courts may be able to help, but this can be a lengthy process and you will need to evidence any concerns. It is therefore important to know your options before seeking a court order.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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@kit.if that was the case in my situation I wouldn't take the child .even if she was getting beating from partner its( none off my business). I am not like dan or Darryl who would take there children and put them in school.i would say to the mother give her daughter to (her family) to look after if they cantjust put the kid into the care off the state .once her mother said once her daughters been raped in my head i was like wtf do you want me to do about it .her mother never had any issues calling the police on me back in the day .her daughter she get over it not that big off deal its not like she was murdered.
Christopher - 18-Nov-20 @ 1:06 AM
Hi....my ex cannot cope any more with our children I have PR and I told her I would take care of them as she had a ex who wS beating her etc. She then wrote a letter of consent stating I could have custody and put them in a school in my area. Where do I start for custody. I've applied for schools ive notified third parties yet I fear she will try and take them back and place them in danger as the ex keeps coming back with more threats. I am happily married and my wife excepts my children whole heartedly. Please advice thank you Kit
Kit - 14-Nov-20 @ 10:40 PM
My partner and I got a dog 6 months ago that bit his child (completely our fault he left the room when he shouldn't have with the kid eating) but now eventhough we are willing to muzzle the dog and keep her in the garden for the weekend every week totally away from the child mind you she still won't let him see his kid until the dog gets rehomed. does the father have any rights?? Is it ok to keep him from seeing his son even though he's taken precautions so it never happens again? We really want to keep the dog but she won't allow it with her son there
C.S98 - 14-Nov-20 @ 4:35 PM
So for the second time in 6 months this women has had 2 covid scares. The first she didn't even tell me about until after she got the results, so I dropped my daughter back with her knowing she might have it. So you would think thats a wake up call. Oh no she then proceeds to have people round, go round other peoples homes and travel across the country to another friends. 3 of these work within the NHS may I add. And has managed to start a new relationship ????? Bare in mind my daughter has asthma. So I get dogs abuse for wanting her here until she gets the all clear. Am I missing something?
Faze - 3-Nov-20 @ 12:08 AM
I reported my ex for domestic abuse never made a statement my mum has forced me to set a protection plan up against me having no parental rights for the time being, does my ex have any rights to my child she won’t allow phone calls to him regarding my son or anything. He has previous ss involvement but never any charges where does he stand pls. I seriously don’t want my mum in full care of my son as she is toxic and only wants my son for finacial gain.
Kay - 21-Oct-20 @ 3:10 PM
My daughter ex boyfriend took four children frm my daughter made false allegation to police which wozent true it been 12 weeks Ishe ad contact twice now he stoppin us see children durin 12 weeks I knew it just get house now been told he got house while this woz a goin wiv police it been prove he a liar now it ova we can't get them back he leavin children wiv childminder a while he works apply for court but it gonna take few weeks my daughter suffers 15 years of domestic abuse now she got rid of ex he took children there no section 47 or anything so sad I worry bout my daughter depress cryin all time she good mother the ex is just out to hurt her make sure she loses everything he controlinI blame police as it woz I goin investigation we follow the rules and police advice but now it ova we. Ant seem to get them back
Ka - 20-Oct-20 @ 9:58 AM
@Clark.with the amount of guys this women was sleeping with at the time she fell pregnant. It is only fair for the child and myself that we take the DNA test .then I would off been involved with the child and done it all legally with court orders and paid support.but her mother wouldn't play ball .there loss not mine now I don't even pay support or have any worries of looking after children . I gave them the option few years ago .
Christopher - 5-Oct-20 @ 2:44 PM
@Clark.years ago I ask for a (DNA test) never got a reply .if it turned out I was the father I would of steppedup and went and got a court order and been involved with the child as much as I could anyway with court order .but I have serous doubts about been the bio father .(i don'tbelieve the mother one bit) .but they never replied. So yeah though my eyes I gave them the change all we had to do was take the DNA test .i would of paid support and got court order .but that ship has sailed now.
Christopher - 5-Oct-20 @ 2:28 PM
@Clark.sounds like my story ,but for myself I am done there will be no court battle ,because of the child's age and for the fact we don't know each other from a bar of soap .and for the fact I don't know if I am the(bio father ).i don't care if they blocked on fb I don't even use it .and I never contact the mother because I learnt from that and I don't want to be in front of the( courts) again .and I do not have any contaçt with her family or want any .and if the mother is pregnant good for them .i think that would be 3 kids to 3 diffent father's (classy ).
Christopher - 5-Oct-20 @ 2:02 PM
I am a father that always thinking my daughter . Its been 2years that I've not seen my daughter coz my EX dont want to show it to me. 2 years since we were speak on my EX that she will make a move to go to our house to show my daughter to me and my parents but she didnt do what she says , rather that she moved far away from there village and i dont know where to find . Aand she blocked me in the social media (FB) and i never cantact her, i ask her friends , aunt where they go but rather saying where they are they say "they dont know". One of my good friend tell me where they are and give me the number of the mother of myEXso ill contact them and ask them why they didnt do what they say and She didnt reply, and knowing that my EX have a Livein partner and my EX is pregnant. Now im a pursuing a Joint custody so i can visit or have a little months to spend my daugher even though my daughter dont know me anymore , but when I win this battle of Custody my daughter and I have time to get to know each other.
clark - 5-Oct-20 @ 5:36 AM
Hi just wanted to share my issue and looking for some information. 6 weeks ago I was thrown out of my house through manipulative control by my ex partner. He told me to go and sort my head out spend some time away from the kids and sort a place to live. Through the relationship of 8years he had trust issues he's cheated on me physically abused me, came back to me treated me like a child when it came to money it was like asking for pocket money. He's always thought I was cheating on him when I never did and he's done it to me again with a ex friend of mine. He's with-held money from me, he's stopping my children from talking to me alone by leaving me on loudspeaker so he can listen in also he's telling them that they don't have to talk to me if they don't want to. Never has he said he'll never let them see/talk to me but it's more my children's mental well-being that I care about and he's not doing anything to help them.
Breeze - 24-Sep-20 @ 4:51 PM
Guys.... Really need some accurate advice/information please. So....... long story short....... My partner (fiancee) of 15 years has informed me that our relationship is over, & that she is in love with another guy. She will be moving out to rented accommodation soon approx 5 miles away. (we are in housing association property at present, so no mortgage). She wants to take our son aged 14 with her, but he has told me that he does not want to go with her. He does not want to be away from his friends in the evenings, & does not want to catch the bus to & from school. She has not told him about the new boyfriend, but he has overhead phone conversations & seen txt messages from him. He has not told her he knows, but regardless of that, does not want to move. Can she force him to live with her ?. Is he legally allowed to decide for himself where he wants to live ?
P J - 4-Sep-20 @ 11:02 AM
I have a grandson..his mom is my daughter. When she needs to go back work in the city,she left her son in my custody. When her ex live in partner took my grandson,he didn't return it. When my daughter pay a visit,she tried to go to his ex to visit her child. But they never let her see the child until she needs to go back to her work again. As a mother,she's sending allowance for her child. When we had the chance to get the child...the ex come to visit his son and that's okay. But then, one night,he came again,entered inside my house and pull out his bolo and break the tv while his son is watching. so the boy run to his auntie shaking. When my worried daughter learned about this,she decided not to give her son back to her ex. The child to doesn't want to go back to his father's custody. Mt grandson started to share his experience to his father especially when he is drunk. As a grandma,should I return my grandson or follow my daughter's plead not to. Please help us!
Melirene - 1-Sep-20 @ 2:46 PM
hi i have two children with my ex husband we are both going through court proceedings for child custody.. it has been on going since May last year , my ex husband has caused domestic abuse towards me in our 3 year marriage and has caused child abuse recently to my older son aged 4, i have had my children live with me since birth during separation the children where with me until my ex hisband filed a Prohibited Steps Order in court when I was leaving my current city to move to Manchester for work he had stopped me from taking my children with me in oct 19 I had a hearing before a recorder who made the decision that my children live with their father on temporary basis until final hearing takes place, in January this year I let the courts know about my domestic abuse from my ex where they filed the hearing to be in the magic Court due to the covid 19 outbreak all my hearing had been adjourned .. i have had barely any contact with my children my ex has made all the decisions around them with out my input my ex has physically harmed my older son leaving mark on his body and the courts have not heard me in any sense due to fact finding that arnt true I am scared that am losing my children to a abuser I cannot think straight and I miss them dearly does anyone have any advice that could help me try and win back my children?
chaz - 31-Aug-20 @ 6:08 PM
The father of my child has decided to snatch my child in public town centre ,police cant do anything as hes on birth certificate,theres been domestic violence between us,hes been arrested for harassment,and now hes refusing to give my child back where i am the main carrer ,hes not got any spare clothes with him,any of his eczema creams ,and now hes thinking of taking him to Yorkshire where his parents live. He also smokes weed ,and i have no idea if hes been smoking it around our child ...
Auram - 29-Aug-20 @ 4:13 PM
My daughter has just turned one, I have not been allowed by the mother to see my daughter for nearly eight months now.... The other month I received photographic evidence that my ex has been having a well known paedophile round and there has been the police called to the address several times. social are involved and even tho they are putting her on the child at high risk register... There still seems to be nothing happening.. I call social services on a regular basis with concerns of my daughters welfair and being at high risk and I'm always getting palmed off saying I don't have evidence... (what evidence do they need?)... I have a private court hearing on the second but I feel this cannot wait as social have already let her down on too many occasions. Today as soon as I paid her child support I got a message saying my daughter said daddy for the first time, but my concern is that I've not been there for 8 months so who is she calling daddy? What can I do to ensure my child's safety? . I am on the birth certificate but the mother is excersising her rights and not letting me see her.... I am worried that this could turn into another baby P incident where social overlooked the situation. What can I do?
Steve - 21-Aug-20 @ 5:22 PM
Hi. I understand that a lot of people are in far worse situations than myself. However my ex is threatening to stopping me seeing my 2 year old daughter. I have her 2 nights a week and see her 4 days of the week. We did mediation just under 2 years ago as she stopped me seeing her for 10 weeks back then. I'm worried she will do the same again, my daughter and I have such an amazing bond and I'm a great dad. I just hate my ex making threats like that and holding it over me. I'm looking into shared custody, contact orders etc. I don't understand it all.
John - 11-Aug-20 @ 7:42 PM
I have just had my daughter for 2 weekends in a row shes only 3yrs old a bright living little girl Split from my ex wife 4 months ago, she moved a druggie and dealer into family home within 2 months, my daughter and stepson are not happy with the situation, their mum also a drug user has now centred her world around this man and he has a 1yr old whom he has stay at the house for weeks at a time, he has constantly assaulted my daughter thischild , when her mum has been at work, I ask the kids well what is theboyfriend doing when this happens?they both said hes just sat on a playstation, I have photo evidence of scratch hes galore on my daughter a bad urine rash burn I had to heal up for her, last weekend she turned up no answers from the mother, only defend doing the otherchild and boyfriend, she had a massive bite mark on her back from the other kid, again theboyfriend wasnt watching ! I had to get her hospital treatment and placed on penicillin, this week shes said, shes been signed of sick from work 2 weeks, as I told her she wasnt to leave my daughter in his care with that other child again, i then yesterday see her coming vain from work! She was very erratic s reaning at me monday for bo reason, i gave e her petrol mo ey to get my daughter tonursery last few daysbefore break up as she said she was skint, she did t take her, so shes now w.otionally abusing my daughter further not allowing her to speak to me as shes so honest for me to k ow if shes safe, instead shutting her away daily in the house with her boyfriend minding with my stepson and other abusivechild there, social services are investigating, now but will take a while, I'm worried sick shes being abused e.otionally and physically further by hischild and him not supervising, and so she can leave her in his care whilst she goes to work shes stopped her having contactwith me for no reason to hide this from me and to stop my daughter dis using any abuse with me shes getting in his care is there anything else I can do I'm out of my mind with worry for my daughters safety.
Steve - 23-Jul-20 @ 7:22 AM
My ex hasn't paid a penny towards the children in 14 weeks. Everytime I ask for something its always an excuse. The children now don't want to go to visit him and he's making out like I'm stopping him. He is on the birth certificate. I have a opportunity to move away save to buy a house have child care support so I can go to work but he won't let me the children want to move themselves.
Shell - 10-Jul-20 @ 8:54 AM
My partner left her husband 3 years ago and arranged 50/50 nights as he was wanting shared responsibility of the kids. She does the majority care (daily care and 75% of holidays as she works in a school and he decides to use his holiday time with his new partner rather than his children and refuses to pay a penny maintenance even though he earns 30k a year more.Pre covid he went to only having the children 3 nights and still refuses to pay anything and has now threatened to take them back 3.5 nights to avoid cma involvement.Can he do this without her permission and also what can she do about maintenance.I am really concerned about her mental well being at the moment as he is being really unreasonable about what is best for his children.
Andy - 9-Jul-20 @ 8:51 AM
@worriedgran.so the mother is lesbian bye so sound off things living in pub room with a little child .you are right it’s not a good place for small child .but maybe that’s all they can afford right now .i myself have lived in many pub room for work and when in between places .in depends on the place as you said it’s a flat so could be alright .f I have stayed in sum pubs where there was no locks or windows and with shady characters back when I worked in events traveled everywhere living out of suitcase.but I have stayed in sum really nice ones to.maybe he just have save up for solicitor make sum cuts elsewhere on other things .that way the solicitor and work out a order that suits with he’s work life .and totally understand how difficult it is with sum jobs and working away from home .
Chriso - 5-Jul-20 @ 4:30 PM
Hi my son and his ex had a baby girl almost 3 yrs ago. She kicked him out 3 months later after a 12 year relationship. She has not let him see or speak to her in 5 weeks. He works 5 days of a 7 day rota so doesn't have set days off. She says that he should have her every weekend as she needs routine and that he can't have her when he's off in the week but how can he physically have her at weekends if he's working?! She won't answer his calls, takes 3 days to reply to his texts. He is at his wits end!! Can she do this? He has PR. He doesn't have the money and neither do we, to get a solicitor and doesn't qualify for help. We as grandparents haven't seen or spoken to our grandaughter either as his ex has blocked us. She has moved into a flat above a pub with her new girlfriend which is not the best environment to raise a small child and now with lockdown restrictions being lifted, I worry for her health. Please no judgmental or hurtful comments, my heart can't take it anymore.
Worriedgran - 4-Jul-20 @ 8:55 PM
My ex has taken my son no PR he has also taken his daughter who he has PR. Hes phoned social services as I had an argument with current partner. The kids have no boundaries with him. The do with me. My kids are saying they dont want to come home hes turning my kids against me day by day what do I do? Hes also make in my kids lie too
Bexs100188 - 4-Jul-20 @ 6:38 AM
Hi. Mother of my son and the social worker decided to send my son back to school last week without even asking me about it. I am not working at the moment so I could easily stay with him at my place like we've been doing for most of this coronavirus time. I have amazing contact with my son and he love to spend time with me. Could they just put him back to school and at risk without father permission? By the way. I have exactly same rights as my son's mother. The only difference is she live with my son. Thanks
Maniek - 1-Jul-20 @ 8:57 AM
@candice.i am packing it in the fat lady has sang .people can say what they want about me .in reality I am no father the child’s been gone longer then I ever new her and I didn’t even really know her years go she was a baby .she be alright she most likely grow up to be a we’ll around adult bye now .in my defence I really tried to the point I was in front of courts again .(what more can I do ?).her mother will just (stitch me up again )if I ever tried again .so I am giving up .
C laurie - 22-Jun-20 @ 8:24 PM
Please help!!! I've been though a lot the past 6 years trying to figure out how to get my daughter back!!! No custody agreement and his not on the birth certificate and refuses to let her be alone with her!!!
Candice - 22-Jun-20 @ 2:07 PM
Hi i have 2 younger daughters whom i lost custody because i needed to show more stability ...long story short thier paternal grandmother was awarded custody and now she gave then over to some people non relatives in Mississippi. I live in Alabama. I have visitation rights and phone privileges that ive been denied now for 3 months. I have not lost mu roghts but these people are directly ignoring my rights to call or see my kids
Shannon - 22-Jun-20 @ 2:32 AM
My ex partner moved my child from Scotland to England without any notice (didn’t even tell him till day before).I got a court order to try and stop her however because she had sold up and purchased a house in England and changed our sons school The Scottish court reluctantly allowed her since they had no home in Scotland to return to.Move forward 3 years and my son is 12.He is miserable, Crying and wanting to be with me in Scotland. He is here on a visit however doesn’t want to go back. I have PR due to his age but where do I stand if he doesn’t go back or if she refuses to let him move?Can the police force his return and is my son at 12 allowed his own legal representation (can that be Scottish or English) ?Urgent advise needed.Thank you
Eddie - 21-Jun-20 @ 1:43 AM
@man-man.this is legal advice but advice from a ex father who has been in cells and doesn’t have contact with my daughter .first thing your need to do Is (stay out of trouble and away from the cells ). turn your depressed feeling of not seeing your son into motivation and change your life .use your love for your son even though you don’t see him To make your life better and when he’s a adult he will be proud of you .when you tell him your story and how you used your love for him to turn it around .this is my advise .
C laurie - 15-Jun-20 @ 7:47 PM
@man-man.this is not legal advice but advice from a ex father( maybe you should give up mate And work on your life) .you will see him again one day.mate I am in the same boat I don’t have any contact with my daughter even social media or have ever known the child whereabouts I don’t know what state or country they live .but I am ok with that It’s mothers job mate to have the children that’s what I think anyway .my advice from a ex father to another ex father is( give up ) for yoursanity health and well-being just wait to your son is a (adult) if it’s meant to be it will happen when your son is a adult.maybe not the advice you wanted to here but I know from experience mate you won’t win brother it’s pointless don’t even try it will only end in more heart ache.
C laurie - 15-Jun-20 @ 7:21 PM
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