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

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 1 Jun 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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About 5 months ago the mother of my daughter asked if I could take her temporarily because she was being evicted, a few weeks went by without hardly any contact from the mother, after a few weeks my daughter started visiting her mother on the weekends, my daughter would get upset saying that she didn't want to leave me, she had told members of my family that she worried about her mum finding a new house and that daddy wouldn't be able to find her, the mother and myself came to an agreement that during the week I would take care of my daughter so that she attended school ect, when covid-19 struck I could no longer go to work so I said I'll have to start claiming the child benefits something that her mother had been claiming for the previous 5 months even though she didn't have her, she even asked me for the child maintenance on the first month, anyway as soon as I said this she started demanding I dropped my daughter back saying I'm not going to ruin her life aka benefit money. I said no and made her take me to court. Since then the court ordered a child agreement order for 6 weeks until the next court hearing once cafcass and social services did there reports. The judge said that I would have my daughter Monday to friday and her mum over the weekend. The very first weekend that the order was put in place my exs grandmother informed me that my ex had taken my daughter to live in London something it stated in the order she couldn't do, I tried emailing my ex partner saying if you bring our child back before Tuesday lunch time I will not report her for breaking the order. It has now been 10 days since I've seen my daughter or spoken to her. I've reported this to the court but I am waiting for them to enforce the order, what consequences would my ex partner be facing, I wouldn't want my daughter seeing her mother in a contact centre because that will stick with her forever.
Pawny - 30-May-20 @ 4:37 AM
I have a son he was born in 2005 his mother left me when he was 3ish with my child hood best friend she moved to Florida I tried to have her served she moved to Colorado and the. The guy she was with got raided by dea and arrested and charged with money laundering and frugs, also my son was present the hole arrest. Now its bee. 6 months she is back 2 st Louis and wants me to see him but only on her time I have no rights and he is thrown the middle. Anything would help Thanks Brandon
Brandon - 22-May-20 @ 3:49 AM
My son 2 years nearly Me and his mother have just recently split My ex mother has been cautioned for harassment and assault to me and she is saying she is taking our son to see her My ex has a 10 year old daughter who’s gran has smacked her and hit her for behaviour this woman is very direct and calls this 10 years old dad worse than crap can is stop this so this doesn’t happened to my son and turning against me when I’m not there ? My sons mother has agreed to shared care ? But what about the 3.5 days I’m not there she loves two doors away from my son. Help this woman is dangerous !!
Stev - 6-May-20 @ 9:37 PM
I have recently been discharged from rehab (alcohol) so am in recovery and taking all the necessary steps to maintain my health. Since my admission my son has been living with his father. His Father is becoming increasingly difficult. Changing my sons doctor without advising me and not informing me of this or other events in my sons life. My son was recently stopped by the police for smoking weed. I was informed of this event by a friend, wherein I was also told that his father allows him to smoke it in his presence. I am desperately trying to restore my relationship with my children (my son is 16). However I feel my ex is hindering this process by encouraging my son not to contact me. Is there an external service I can contact to help ease the way.
Emma - 5-May-20 @ 11:01 AM
My ex husband was over indulging my 13 year old son which resulted my son worshiping his dad. My son was pushing all boundaries and was behaving worse on a weekly basis! In the end this resulted in me telling my son to stay with his dad for a bit, but I expected to see my son ever other weekend! My ex took my son while I was in work the following day while I was in work, he will now now let me see my son for no reason and just makes up an untrue stories about me. I now have not seen my son for 3 months and he will not answer my messages, I think this is so he doesn’t upset his dad! Appeared to be nothing I can do as my son will not go against his dad!
Sprouts - 13-Apr-20 @ 8:37 PM
I need some advice. My ex partner took my daughter into isolation for 3 weeks and agreed that I would take her back on the 12th April which is her birthday. And that would be just short of the 3 weeks. He’s now refusing to give her me back on the 12th April and said he is locking the door and I can’t even come see her. Does he have the right to keep her with him? Can I phone the police and say he’s refusing to give me her back? She stays with me full time and goes to his on weekends usually. Please help my heart is breaking
Steph - 9-Apr-20 @ 9:32 AM
Hi I have been my son’s career and stay at home dad for 7years, and when my marriage to his mum ended he moved in with me, we have lived together for over 6 months now. He has regular contact with his mum and brother His mum as turned round and said she wants him back.. and told me that I can either set a date to give him back or she is just going to keep him.. Can she do that? She said because we are still married she can. We are both named on his birth certificate.
Skegypeanut - 1-Apr-20 @ 1:08 PM
My ex has stopped me seeing my child for 3 months now..she says I always let her down when I dont..she says to keep to set dates but when she changes them or I cant change she stops me seeing her..this is not fair one bit...
Ad - 27-Mar-20 @ 4:36 PM
Hi could i get some advise please. 8 weeks ago i was unwell with depression my mum asked my exes parents if they could look after my 12 month old baby for a few days while i got better. My mum is disabled so couldnt. My ex has now moved in with his parents and they wont give me my baby back. My ex goes out to work every day and his 65 year old mum and dad r looking after her. They r using the corona virus as an excuse saying they cannot leave the house and no one can go there. I am at my whits end and want my little girl back. I am crying every day and no one will help me Not the police social services or doctor. What can i do
Amber - 26-Mar-20 @ 1:40 AM
I have come out of prison My girlfriend was cheating on me Wiles i was inside she then told the authorities that i was aggressive wen i saw her at her home days later they then wanted to talk to me regarding our son and his safety with i done so Everything was fine from that point on. She now wants to rebuild and keeps pushing me away she donse not have our son on a day to day basis he lives with her mother I want my son but i dont know if I would be arrested i am on the birth certificate and I named him but in Glasgow its not simple with police and authorities i dont know what to do with everything
Billyjean - 15-Mar-20 @ 4:39 AM
My ex has stopped me seeing my child, has told me and our child that I am the bioligical Dad but her new oartner us Daddy. She has told the police and s s. i have asssulted our child. Totally untrue, she yold s s. i had assaulted my oartners child. Again totally untrue Police & s.s found no evidence. I used to see my child every other w/e, holidays. Took my child on holiday. She just wants the money from maintenance. It is £300 a month, if i see my child it would be less. Her response to my partner was she knew it was unfair but she wasn't giving up her money for nobody, so do one. She is using my child as a weapon.She did exactly the same thing with her eldest childs FatherHe only restarted a relationship with his daughter when she was 20.I fear this will be the same, history repeating itself. She always portrays herself as the victim. She left me with a lot of debt, some run up behind my back I know its not just women, men can be the same. I havent seen my child for 2 yrs now.I have tried,i seen birthday & xmas cards/gifts. Have opened a trust account for her. I just dont have the money to go to court, im paying the debts she ran up and the highest amount in maintenance. I jyst want a relationship with my child
009 - 11-Mar-20 @ 10:44 PM
My partners ex is making our life hell. She keeps using the child from thier relationship as a weapon. She refuses to let the child spend time with them and now because she is not letting them see the child, she has gone to the child services claiming that they don’t want to see the child and now has asked to receive more money. She is just using the kid to get money off my partner. What can we do it is affecting us financially?
Anonymous - 21-Feb-20 @ 6:12 PM
Hi I need some advice My brother has full custody and a long standing 5 years of battles and got full custody of first daughter since has 2 more kids with same woman they have come to a point where she left when he was sleeping as she has been cheating and setting a new life up with new guy but as she knew she wouldn’t be able to take all children with out making stuff up so now has gone to police to make false statement saying my brother is controlling her when I’m fact she was removed from mother and baby unit before my brother got the house because she has been cheating before and couldn’t get up for the baby using excuses after excuses for her behaviour causing problems she has several times cheated but my brother didn’t expect this to happen so where does he stand regards to she has taken all 3 they share custody for 2 but the first is in his full custody social say go to lawyers which he is doing right now but would like advice on where he stands
Buttons123 - 3-Feb-20 @ 1:12 PM
@mhay.well your in the same (time bracket) as me .i went and seen a solicitor and what they told me that I don’t have much off a (case) .and (advised) me to wait two the child is a (adult) then try make contact though (social media ).but I have been (blocked) so for me I have personally giving up (all hope now I am done for good )maybe one day she will want to meet me I won’t hold my breath but .
Chris - 1-Feb-20 @ 4:59 PM
My ex husband keep away my daughter for 12yrs he hide at me.I want to introduce to my daughter that im her mother.And my ex have already wife
Mhay - 1-Feb-20 @ 11:14 AM
Do I have any rights to see my grandson he lived with me and his father and motherfor 2 years after being born she has now decided he will not see us what can i do
Nanni - 29-Jan-20 @ 5:37 PM
Hi people my ex and her new feller keep tell me im not allowed to see my son as he better off without me i text my ex to ask me when i can see him but she just Ignore my messages or phones calls and when i do see him she has all these demands of where i can go at what i can do if i go against them she stop me seeing him. And she argues with me so i have to give him back to her as she just uses him as a weapon against me which isn't fair on him or me can anyone help please thanks
Phill - 22-Jan-20 @ 6:41 AM
Can i get some advice my ex didn t want to return my daughter to me when she was suppose to we have joint custodybut im the primary custodial. She threatened me that she was gonna register my daughter at another school. And is brainwashing to lie and say nothing but nonsense what can i do?
Juan - 8-Jan-20 @ 12:00 PM
I need some advice please, parents are divorced and the dad has been paying maintenence for the child since birth. He has also been fetching and dropping the child off during week and weekends. The mother has now refused to drop or fetch the child when asked if turns can be on weekends and week days to fetch and drop the child. Is there a law that states its the fathers duty to fetch and drop the child? How can we go about changing this so that the mother can start dropping and fetching as well?
MS - 1-Jan-20 @ 7:11 PM
I haven't seen my son for over 5 months now as my wife has refused to let me have any contact with my 9 year old son.I am filing for divorce and I have paid the £215 to get a court hearing but it's been over a month and I have heard nothing back from them the ex decided out of pure resentment to put a stop to me seeing my son even though our marriage was a total mess and we spent most the time shouting and disagreeing and living in misery and she tried to control how I wanted to live my life.Our son was the reason I stayed for so long but when I moved out I felt liberated and free from the madness but I miss my son terribly we went everywhere together and we were like best friends I love him more then anyone but I feel the system is still biased towards the mother and it seems like I'm stuck on square one is there anything more I can do?
Anonymous - 13-Dec-19 @ 9:55 AM
@brightspark.this is (sincerely from the bottom off my heart ).i never had a bond with my daughter she was only in my life a (few short years )and I am done gods truth because there was nothing to (begin with I no it’s sounds terrible but I am honest )I honestly think the system doesn’t need to change in my personal opinion.i could have went to court and got visitation but this sincerely from the bottom off my heart I didn’t want it gods truth .and i personally think mothers do have a stronger bonds with there children gods truth .i can honestly say I never a (bond )with the child .maybe there is (something wrong with me )but I am been honest .
C.laurie - 11-Dec-19 @ 11:56 PM
Hello Mums & Dads who are apart from their children. @c.laurie I wanted to thank you. Although we've never met hearing you say over and over that you're done with it has helped me understand that when I feel that I am done with it I really won't be. We want to be done but in our hearts and souls we will never truely be done we will just be dormant. One thing i've realised from reading your messages is that when I thought "it's worse for mums" because of our bond (not stronger or weaker but just "different") I am wrong. Reading the messages from the fathers I can see that your pain and grief is just the same as ours because I could only tell the difference between the mums and dads by the definition of who the ex is i.e. "her" or "him". I wish there was a "parents apart" so seperated mums and dads can join together to try and help one another and change the system. My heart goes out to you all Our war rages on All my love BrightSpark
BrightSpark - 11-Dec-19 @ 10:11 PM
@wahidyou like my ex she thinks theyknow me ????.foolish or stuck in old ways (joke).what do you (expect) the women is (45 that is middle age) so I know her brain is not up to par with modern ways gods truth .
C.laurie - 11-Dec-19 @ 9:15 AM
I been married for 13 yearswith my ex wife did all what in my power to give her and my two daughters good easy lifebut the last 2/3 years things start getting hard with my ex wife always in bad mood starting argument over nothing lost interest on being a wife in almost in every aspect of relationships so i had to work and provide and when home have to do house work her she was just working as office staff and soon back home always find an excuse to go somewhere take the girls and just waste time at her sister or friend place then if i say something I'm the devil the bad daddy in all this in front of my girls so she managed to grive that idea I'm the bad and she is the sweet heart so last year she moved out with girls and she managed to control them and not talking to me for months but i never give up on my girls the little one she couldn't stay away from me as she is daddy girl but the oldest one it was like wining the lottery by getting away from me and its was for her no difference if I'm alive or dead but worked my way to winn her back for some time till the ex managed to ruin it all by starting a fight with me at her place after me looking after the girls and cooked dinner for them so had to restrain her but she made it that i hit her and she did play her usual tricks by crying and claiming to be the victim again so now my 11 year old she doesn't want to talk to me or even see me while her little sister she prefers to be with me then being with her mum that's prove that the ex managed to brain wash the oldest one by telling her things she shouldn't say or get her involved she always used my girls to hert me cause she knows how much I love them and I just find out that's what she been doing and the way she was acting and how she is running everything around her that she is NARCISSISTS and she did admit that she had problems and need help but she is not doing anything about it and acting like nothing happened but she spend all day at work mean living home at 7h00 coming back most of the time around 19h00 or 20h00 while my girls are home alone from 15h30 so I want to have full custody for my girls want to make sure they have a nice meal and looked after not left alone god knows till what can happen do I have strong cases to win against a narcissistic irresponsible manipulative mum
Wahid - 11-Dec-19 @ 7:36 AM
@siras.(its to late for me ).and( I don’t even know why I am on these sites) .but it’s not to late for you go to the( solicitor ).for me this is my (final post) .if I see my daughter again great but I am not (holding breath )if you what I mean .for you butt you will get to( see )your child again if you go to a (solicitor.good luck).i am peace with not seeing her child and wish them all the best in life .i give my word to this (website )this is my final post ).
C.laurie - 26-Oct-19 @ 8:19 PM
@siras.i know it’s a extremely hard time emotions are obviously high .you as a father not only have to deal with the break up the issues caused from the break up and make it worse now you have deal with notseeing your children .its a rejustmenttime .but what I got from your post with the restraining order you might have lost your head which is understandable when you where married .my advise is (except the break up they happen everyday ).you are on this site so you are a (good father ).my advice is .first thing I would do is (stop all communication with your ex ).get yourself a new place to stay with a spare bedroom for your child and get a (solicitor )for your rights do everything the order said .because women they (don’t care )and will use everything in there power to stop you seeing your child .
C.laurie - 26-Oct-19 @ 7:22 PM
@siras.my story is sort off the same (I have or did I don’t know anymore )have restraining orders on me .i was never married like yourself .her mother went over seas I signed the papers in hope she would let me see my daughter but she (didnt ).she has( new partners )all the time .I don’t have any orders in place for seeing her daughter .because for myself it’s been 10 years I am no (solicitor )but I do think it’s to late for any legal help now .but for you been married and not been 10 years without contact I think if you went to solicitor you will get some sort off visitation.and I understand it been tough .i hope you get it sorted .as for me it’s to late but if I can help others well that’s something.
C.laurie - 26-Oct-19 @ 5:03 PM
Hi i need some advice please January of this year myself and my estranged wife had an argument at my residence, my children were taken by her and i have not seen or spoke to the children since it is now 26/10/2019. I have a restraining order in place in regards to my estranged wife but have no orders in place in regards to the children, social services are not interested in myself and to say it's been tough is an understatement. I have found out that my estranged wife and her new partner have taken my children out of the country on holiday without my consent and my understanding is that i should have been consulted as this could be deemed as child abduction. I am still officially married to my estranged wife and my name exists on both children's birth certificate. I need advice please can i report this action ???. I have started an application of child access in relation to the family court but this will prove problematic i guess. There is no child arrangement order in place and i need to know my options from anyone please. Thank you in advance.
siras - 26-Oct-19 @ 11:50 AM
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
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