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

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 21 Oct 2019 | 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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Hi all. My comment is regarding phone contact between my children and their mother while they are in my care. The kids stay with me every other weekend and half the holidays - I live an hour away and work unsociable hours which limits the contact I can have. These hours contribute greatly to the child maintenance which supports the kids, so I can't really 'cut' the hours down. The kids have a shared mobile phone for half an hour on a Saturday (every other day on week long stays with me), so that they can message their mum. Calls are not allowed because the kids are manipulated to speak for longer, sometimes all evening, which is antisocial and disrespectful at best. The kids try to hang up, but she tells them to stay on. For this reason it is restricted to messaging. After all, they are with her all week. Just to point out, the children have friendships in the area I live in and do not feel isolated or worried away from their mother. Their mother has slight mobility problems, which means that on occasion, she has hospital stays. This has happened during the kids entire lives, but now it seems as though she encourages some kind of anxiety onto the kids by constantly reminding them of her hospital needs to the point where the children feel worried for her, even if it is routine appointments. It's all about her needs and not about alleviation of the kids worries. ( I understand the kids may be anxious and I get that, but it's the constant pushiness of her describing her illness and 'putting words in their mouths' that worried me, e.g. "I know you always get worried and you should know that I'm very poorly and I can't do anything with you at the moment, I'll get better but I'm really poorly and in hospital etc". The final straw came when she was messaging the kids and sent a photo of her post op scar, along with a photo of her in a hospital bed having just woke up - bearing in mind that she wasalready home from hospital at the time, but still felt the need to go fishing for sympathy. If the kids are anxious, they will be even more by now, and judging by my eldest face, she put a massive downer on her day. Their stay with me is considered respite and that is hampered by her attitude. The question is, under these circumstances, am I obliged to allow phone contact on the weekends and holidays I am with the kids? After all, they will be going home to her, and I am not afforded the same level of phone contact during the week. I have had a MIAM but she has not yet. Thank you
Tom - 22-Sep-19 @ 9:58 AM
@stillsane .the gods truth is (I am done for good with trying to see my daughter ).if her mother hits me child support good for her .wouldntexpect anything less from her .and for her (daughter you are on your own )the same way I was when her age .all I can say is good luck in life .this is my final past .thanks for your blog .
C.laurie - 21-Sep-19 @ 9:19 PM
@stillsane.i have never let my daughter down .i haven’t been (around or seen her in years )and yes my daughter Is a teenager now .and most likely doesn’t want to see me because it’s been (years and years) .so I don’t no anymore (I honestly think in my (heart )with the time frame circumstances I am 100 percent sure) I will never see her again .but I am (strong )I have (lost a lot people in my life and been though some hard times ).and one thing that it’s taught me is life goes on we learn and grow .
C.laurie - 21-Sep-19 @ 8:42 PM
Hi Nothing that traumatic as some of the threads I have read. My daughters father has let her down so often since we separated 3.5 years ago. She is a teenager and doesn’t want to see him but every now and then she goes overnight. He doesn’t inform or involve me and invites her on holiday without checking with me first (she hasn’t gone on holiday so I see little point in making a fuss over his rudeness and lack of courtesy for me and my plans). However, since he’s arranged to see he overnight and not informed me, I am now having to chase an nag her for a return time, which I have never been given. It helps me to know that I can go out and what time I need to be home for. Is there anything I can do about this to ensure that he at least drops me an email to inform me of the arrangements and gives me a pick up and drop off time?
Stillsane - 21-Sep-19 @ 8:50 AM
Hi ive split with my partner my daughter stays with me and my family a lot now she's stopped us all from seeing her She's just gone on holiday with her new boyfriend of a couple of month and left my daughter with her mum am i imy rights ti say i want my daughter with methanks
Dan - 17-Sep-19 @ 5:06 PM
there has been 2 counts of domestic violence at my exs house to with my children were removed and came to live with me also was drug use and a history of mental healththayve been with me a year and are thrivingi continued contact with thete mother but not over nights due to risksand that I can monitor them she seems to have got worse on drugs so I've now applied for a c100 arrangement orderim just seeking a rough outcome as she well known to social services
d - 17-Sep-19 @ 2:22 PM
I left my partner and he is now threatening to take my son .he lives in Wolverhampton and I'm in Plymouth staying with my parents and my two other children .I need some advice please and were to go with he seeing our son and not taking him and not returning him. I'm finding this all very hard and just need to know we're I stand .
Pegwench - 10-Sep-19 @ 10:45 PM
Reply for Sophie 86 I'm a mum been in the same boat for reacting in the same way, the more we were in court the more I lost my head with everyone. Not being aloud to be mum is the worst experience and biggestloss in my life. Women are treated differently in family court because our maternal reaction to our loss is misunderstood. You have to find strength to to work with the court process, don't react to your ex or be critical of them, loose the emotion you have when in court. look after yourself and be kind to yourself. I really do empathise with you. It's been 3years and I'm finally aloud to have my boysleepover at my house. Stay strong
Angrymama - 9-Sep-19 @ 11:50 PM
I have been separated from my ex for over a year now and at first I didn't want him to see the children because of the nature to why we split my partner now convinced me that he is the dad and should see them every other weekend so I listened and in the end he started to have them after the 4th time he wouldn't give them back me as a mother started to kick the door down and he called police saying I was volant ect ect in the end social sided with him and I have been with out my babies for almost a year. Everyday that goes by I'm more and more down he wouldn't let me see them for 7 months and now I'm only allowed to see them once a month I need them back my babies are everything to me and I feel like my life is never going to be complete with out them I need help to get them home with their mummy we're they belong please any advice would be great
Sophie86 - 2-Aug-19 @ 8:02 PM
Hi my name is Jose Antonio Leyva my ex don't want me take any responsibility of my kid I have 3 year old boy my ex treats me she said if I trying back for see my son she gone call cops on me and we'll im Spanish I love my son so much when I was there with him I was work just for him she mom treat on me and acueses me for violence domestic I don't do nothing I have prubs about she lie and of her irresponsible mother she doesn't take care my well she wants get money from the state and she wants said I abandoned my child when is not true I want take care the responsibility of him but she doesn't let I have 6 months ready to don't know nothing about my child and I don't know what I do for real
Antonio - 30-Jul-19 @ 7:20 AM
I have been split from my ex for 2.5years now. And I Try and do all I can for the kids. I am trying to speak about the kids to.my ex about.xhanging days and nights we have the kids and it will.reduce the nights I have the kids, which I understand I will pay.more maintenance. However I'm trying to stop having them in the week once both kids are at school in sep...so that they can go directly to school from there mums. And have them every other weekend and visit them during the other week. But she has threatened me with court becuz she says the kids enjoy the says with her. But I dont think this is fair. I also have concerns over there mothers unstable condition and her unstable family. However I work so many hours I just cant cater to take the kids on and afford childcare away from the mess. What should I do??
Gaz - 15-Jul-19 @ 11:57 PM
Hi there I have been separated from my husband for almost 2 years now after 16 years of being together, to cut a long storey shorti had to phone the police on him for threatening me because i am entilted to my fair share of the property we shared together etc which he dosent think that i am entitled to any of it. My daughter was living with me beforeher dad meet somebody new with two kids silmiar age to my daughter and my daughter now has moved out and living with her dad she is 13 now so i cant force her to stay with me. it was very hard at first and i suppose i had to accept it after all he is her dad she was 11 when she moved in with him it was more or less striaght away.What i cant acept is that her dad does nothing but bad mouth me he was very controling thoughtout our marriage im going through a very difficult divorce at the moment and i have been to court to gain acess to my daughter because she dosent want anything to do with me. I havent seen her properly for over a year and half. He is alienating her from me and theres nothing i can do, the court have said for her tocome to my house every Thursdaybut i still havent seen her. She says she dosent want to see me and she never answers my text messages. I am losing my mind its really getting me down i know deep down that she does want to see me but i think that she feels like she is letting her dad down if she does, he is really messing with her head. I miss her every single day and i always text her and send her cards to let her know how much i miss her. Please help me i dont know what eles to do. Emma
em - 12-Jul-19 @ 2:23 PM
After a year of not being able to see my children due to my ex not allowing it, I finally had a court contact order in place.My children were so happy to see me, 1 week after order started my ex said she was applying for a job and might have to move, she never said where. She the told me that the situation had changed and this was no longer happening but my children seem to think they were going away, I asked my ex and she said no that wasn't the case.I received a text message from my ex stating that the children have been accepted into a new school and they would be moving, I could no longer see them during the week but every other weekend was still fine, I text but received no reply- my calls have been unanswered.I went to the house to see them on my contact day to be told thatno-one was at home, by the neighbour they had gone.I phoned the school the next day and the children havenot attended since the beginning of the week, and they had no contact with the mother as their calls have also gone unanswered. I went back to the house on Friday afternoon as it would have been my weekend to have them and no answer or replies to calls or text messages.I have been to my solicitor on Friday morning who said she would send a letter regarding missed contact on the agreed day during the week, however if she has moved already she will not receive the letter.Please advise can I report them as missing? as I have no idea where she has taken my children or the well being of my children.
Pen - 7-Jul-19 @ 1:03 PM
My sons partner left with the children from school no-one knew she'd gone till she called me up my son is distraught he wants to see them he adores his kids but she won't let him she came off her medication four weeks ago without saying anything they've had arguments like any else she's unable to wake up early any morning an think she's staying with her gran grandad who are both really ill and unable to do much what rights has he got his names on the birth certificate yet she'd refusing him point blank heartless
Jj - 6-Jul-19 @ 3:28 PM
I left 3 years ago. My 3 kids are with my ex. I didn't want to rip them from their schools.My husband will not let me take my kids. Not ever. My 10 year old won't even remember me. Now he has no phone. No legal separation. What can I Do? I have no money.
Debbie - 27-Jun-19 @ 4:31 PM
I have been split from my childrens father for 9 years. We divorced 5 years ago and i remarried 4 years ago and now have another child. A contact arrangement was never made as there has never been any dispute over contact and he has always seen the children in my home (everyones choice) . Last year my ex downloaded photos of a messy house and sent them along with photos of my children to a family member, saying that this was my house and my children live in squalor (they don't and I'm not worried about social service visits or what other people might think). I then told him that he needed to make alternate arrangements for contact as he was no longer welcome in my home (i saw a solicitor who agreed i have gone above and beyond for contact for 8 years). He then stsrted picking up the children and taking them for tea once a week. For the last few months he has become unstable mentally during contact. Driving erratically, threatening my 13 year old son with putting his head through the window, keeping asking questions about me, my husband, what we earn, where we work and what we spebd money on. He then turned up at my husband's workplace, just to sit outside and watch him. Yesterday he took them for tea and afterwards took my children for a drive about. They came home and told me he kept asking them if they were asleep yet and they felt uncomfortable, saying he was acting wierd. My son said he felt like hia dad was going to try kidnap them. I don't know who i can ask for help or where to go for advice as we have never had a court case for contact or a social worker but i really am worried about my childrens safety when they go to see their dad. Any help or advice please?
Steady - 21-Jun-19 @ 6:39 PM
Hi I need some advice ok so my daughter has been living with me for about a year now she hoes to her mom's on the weekends now that summer is on and no school she has been with her mom for about 2 weeks now but summer school starts tomorrow she is enrolled to be there but my ex wount give her back saying she don't want to go and wount let me go het her she lives 45 mins away in a different town what are my options to getter her back
Johno - 19-Jun-19 @ 7:49 AM
I have 3 daughters with my ex partner 13, 10 and 7 (which the 7 year old is disabled) I would see them 2 - 3 times a week but could not sleep over due to the youngest needing oxygen in the nights. My ex now tells me that they don't want to see me but I have not heard this physically from them. I've been cut off all ties and blocked in any contact with them. I used to go through my oldest as her mum never wanted to bother, never came out when I took them home or even picked up. Now I have been told by her by a phone call that they don't want to see me, I have emailed various times as only form of communication with my ex but not getting anywhere. Where do I stand on this?
garhar17097 - 31-May-19 @ 3:08 PM
Hi my ex didn't want to know my twins when they was born for the first yr I ask him for help he said no so I went to csa he said they wasn't he's so DNA came bk he was now he pays for them but now the twins nearly 2 for the past 2 yrs he's mentallyabused me and harssdme about lowering the csa I stop he seeing the twins because I didn't want them around it now he was to see then have the over night and demanding to go on birth certificate I don't think he should he asnt been there for them asnt brought them nothing I'm worried it go to court and he will get all he's asked for I've said he can see them but no to sleep and going on birth certificateplease help very worried
Lea - 22-May-19 @ 1:21 PM
Hi I have separated from my partner and I’ve moved back in with my parents, we have been looking after my 4 and a half month daughter for nearly six weeks but my ex was suppose to see my daughter for an hour then never gave her back, we both have parental responsibility we called the police and social services as we didn’t feel my daughter was safe they are not much help, we’re going to see a solicitor but what happens now do I contact mediation or does the solicitor do that we’re just beside ourselves as there is just no help Thanks
Woz - 30-Apr-19 @ 12:08 PM
My former girlfriend left me 2 weeks ago and took my 2 year old son with her 200 miles away I cant afford to travel to see him often and I doubt she'll bring him back to me anytime soon... and now she wants mainitence from me for my little boy I'm hardly ever going to see and is at that age where he may most probably forget who I even am. Am I been a bad father by saying that I shouldn't have to pay for something I can't see because she was the one that took him that far away from me. I have 2 daughters that I also have to pay for but atleast I can see them and hold what I'm paying for. Any advice would be appreicated.. from a son less father
Phoenix198125 - 14-Apr-19 @ 8:10 PM
If I have my son for 50% of school holidays set out in the parental agreement and I need to work for a few days then am I able to use my parents as childminders? My Ex partner is saying that if I work during the times I have my son, then he is to travel 200 miles to be back to his mum even though it's agreed he is with me for that time. I am his farther and I'm on the birth certificate and no domestic violence issues exist. Surely my time is my time with my son and unless it's a wellbeing issue then she has no say. Thanks in advance. Adam
Boz - 5-Feb-19 @ 5:25 PM
My x never gave me chances to see my only daughter, she acting like i have no right on the childpls tell me where to go in scotland or uk in generalreally missing my child.thanks
Az - 27-Jan-19 @ 1:01 AM
My son being denied access to see his daughter, courts set in place 8 weekly contact centre supervised as ex lied about daughter being scared of him. She turned up for first meeting and went well, but no more, excuses of child being sick and scared. My son has done everything to letter. The social worker at centre now writing report to Sheriff. What happens now ,this has been ongoing for 15 monrhs and been hell for him, and extended family. We have been very patient but geel as if we will never see her. Surely this cant go on with the mother continuing to ignore court decisions.
Benny - 19-Jan-19 @ 9:21 PM
Hi my x husband had take in my kids he have my boys weekend thistime ant brought them home we went to2 years ago I've got full sponsor ability for them
Louise - 14-Jan-19 @ 12:12 AM
Omg read that Chris Laurie’s comments what a sick mf
GoodDad123 - 29-Oct-18 @ 10:46 AM
broke up with my baby daddy febuary 2018 he left me for another women so i went back home suffered with my 2year old he never surported her ....now on the 14th october 2018 he called asking if i could please bring the baby to him for a short while ..he told me tht hes nolonger with tht women so i agreed on the 19th we left ...when i got there he still told me the same story so i came back home same morning as i got home i recieved a call from a friend telling me tht hes staying with the same women he said he broke up with and my baby ...somehow i dont trust this women and i dont want her to stay with my baby ...would i be wrong if i went to fetch my baby ?
soso - 26-Oct-18 @ 11:27 AM
Hi there, it is almost 16 months. My ex wife took my son away from and now she doesnot let me see him.It was on june 2017, when my exwife called my son and told him, she will pick him and drop him back next day which wad his birthday.Next morning when I text him to ask what time he will be back.I got a message from him saying his mum as found a better school for him and he will stay with her and he will not come to my place anymore.After that i tried to call him, he didt response one day i got a call from him and got the same answer saying he is happy staying with his mum and will stay there.Aftet i tried to contact his school after finding out from his previous school as my exwife didnt tell me which school he joined.School kept telling me the foem tutor will contact me and all of a sudden i get a message from my son's phone saying he doesnot want to know me anymore.He is happy with his mum and he has new family.I am dead for him and do not bother to contact his school.So can you please tell me what is the best way for me to see my son.As i do not know the messages i am receiving is from him or ex wife. Now his phone number is changed as well so i have no contact what so ever.I will really appreciate your help.I really miss himbut do not want to go my exwifes place and create a scene.Many thanks.
Raj - 20-Oct-18 @ 1:50 PM
My ex keeps saying nasty tnings about me and my partner in front of my son he is trying to turn my son against us he also started keeping my son over the contact days how. Am I stop this can the police bring my son back
Shez - 15-Oct-18 @ 9:33 PM
My husband has 13yr old son. He is being neglected by his mum who he lives with.My husband's name is on his birth certificate.What would happen if he collected him from school and brought him back to ours to live and registered him to start at our local school (my son the year above him already goes to our local school).
Rebecca2018 - 2-Oct-18 @ 12:50 PM
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