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

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 6 Nov 2017 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Melmel - Your Question:
Well that would be brilliant, but he won't budge. He could easily go and stay with family, but he is trying to drive me out by ignoring me. This is so unhealthy for my youngest son. The atmosphere is so bad. I am going to my parent's this weekend, just to sort things out and have some breathing space. I'm either feeling angry and tearful, and that is not the way to live.

Our Response:
The Citizens Advice link heremay help you with more practical issues. Unfortunately, emotional issues are more tricky to navigate. I know it may seem difficult, but can you sit down and try to discuss what you should do if you separate? Obviously, if your partner owns the house, then he is going to be more reluctant to move. If you co-own the house then you have equal rights to stay in the property. If you are the primary carer of your children, then it makes sense that the children are not disrupted from their day-to-day routine. If you cannot negotiate a separation with your partner directly, then mediation may be an option to suggest, please see link here . Putting the interests of your children first should always be the objective in any negotiation for a separation, as this is what the courts focus wholly on.
SeparatedDads - 7-Nov-17 @ 9:34 AM
Well that would be brilliant, but he won't budge. He could easily go and stay with family, but he is trying to drive me out by ignoring me. This is so unhealthy for my youngest son. The atmosphere is so bad. I am going to my parent's this weekend, just to sort things out and have some breathing space. I'm either feeling angry and tearful, and that is not the way to live.
Melmel - 6-Nov-17 @ 4:44 PM
@Melmel- can't your partner move out of the house? It sounds like a nightmare situation.
Corey - 6-Nov-17 @ 3:09 PM
Hi. I'm in a nightmare ATM. I have two sons. One is nearly 18 and my youngest is 12. I have been living with my partner, who is their father, for over 20 years. The problem is when we argue, which is often, he gets verbally nasty and threatens to kick me out of the house. He's working and I'm a stay at home mum.We just had an argument over the weekend, and I'm getting the silent treatment, which I class as mental abuse. The other issue is if we aren't married, who gets custody of my sons. I could go to my parents place, but the boys school is close to us where we live and I don't want to disrupt their routine, but I can't take this treatment anymore.
Melmel - 6-Nov-17 @ 1:01 PM
Ano - Your Question:
Hi me and my partner have not been getting along he is mentality abusive to me and shouts at my order kids there not his kids my youngest 9 months old is his and some days he says oh I can't cope with him and most days he just leave me to get on with it myself I want to leave him but he keeps saying he is taking my baby and I'm so scared to leave him ive cause I don't want my baby gone he has had other children look away from him adopted years ago if I left and took my baby what's the chances I would be able to get my baby back and what would happen thanks

Our Response:
If you would like to speak to someone personally, you can speak to an adviser via Woman's Aid here . You don't say whether your partner is the father of your baby and whether he is registered on the birth certificate. If he is not, then as specified in the article, the police can intervene.
SeparatedDads - 3-Nov-17 @ 12:57 PM
Hi me and my partner have not been getting along he is mentality abusive to me and shouts at my order kids there not his kids my youngest 9 months old is his and some days he says oh I can't cope with him and most days he just leave me to get on with it myself I want to leave him but he keeps saying he is taking my baby and I'm so scared to leave him ive cause I don't want my baby gone he has had other children look away from him adopted years ago if I left and took my baby what's the chances I would be able to get my baby back and what would happen thanks
Ano - 2-Nov-17 @ 9:27 PM
CT - Your Question:
My sister has a son with her ex partner. Her son lives with her. After a domestic incident the court deemed that the son must only have 3 hours contact per week with the father. And the child is under no circumstance allowed around his mother (the childs grandmother). The sons father is living with his mother and my nephew is there around the grandmother when he is not supposed to have contact. This is court ordered until December 2017. The father has not returned the son since his last contact visit last week and the police say theres nothing they can do. Social services have also been contacted. the head of the department said my sister should collect the child from school but then a collegue advised my sister against this. My sister has had so many battles with her ex and in court they deemed him unsuitable so what rights does she have now? I dont understand why the social services are not doing anything. A cafcass report indicates her son should not be in the exs house but he is. Social services are failing her and the child. Please can anyone offer any advice as what steps she can take?

Our Response:
If the court deems your sister the resident parent and a residence order is made which determines where the child should live, then the police should be able to intervene and return your sister's son to your sister.Has the order been shown to the police? Unless there is a good reason why your sister's child should be kept by the other parent, then your sister can legally pick her son up from school. It is advisable that your sister seeks legal advice immediately. If the police and social services cannot intervene, then your sister would have to apply for a court order asap.
SeparatedDads - 2-Nov-17 @ 10:29 AM
My sister has a son with her ex partner. Her son lives with her. After a domestic incident the court deemed that the son must only have 3 hours contact per week with the father. And the child is under no circumstance allowed around his mother (the childs grandmother). The sons father is living with his mother and my nephew is there around the grandmother when he is not supposed to have contact. This is court ordered until December 2017. The father has not returned the son since his last contact visit last week and the police say theres nothing they can do. Social services have also been contacted. the head of the department said my sister should collect the child from school but then a collegue advised my sister against this. My sister has had so many battles with her ex and in court they deemed him unsuitable so what rights does she have now? I dont understand why the social services are not doing anything. A cafcass report indicates her son should not be in the exs house but he is. Social services are failing her and the child. Please can anyone offer any advice as what steps she can take?
CT - 1-Nov-17 @ 3:41 PM
My partner has a son with his ex wife and she is constantly stopping contact for what ever reason she may choose, we have had enough of it. We all came up with an agreement which was mostly fall of her demands and we stuck to it, she didn't, and after my partner having ago at her for not sticking to the agreement she has once again stopped contact! There's never been a year where she hasn't stopped contact. He only sees his son 4 days a month. But she seems to get a power kick out of my partner begging her to see his son . She has used CM payments as blackmail demanding it be paid early or she isn't handing the child over, also demanded he pay more money for the child's school equipment even those was recieving CM the next day and when my partner said she can use the money for the school stuff as he has no more she then told him he wasn't allowed to take his son on holiday even tho she had already agreed to that. She is constantly using his son as a weapon to gain more money or just power over my partner. We are trying to save to take her to court but he just wants to see his son and she won't let him. We have asked her constantly and she just demands money that we can't pay and shouldn't have to pay when she's already recieving child support from him. There must be something that can be done.
Tazkelsey91 - 25-Oct-17 @ 9:37 AM
My ex partner picked up my two children to take them to his house my son stays over night now and then however my 15month old daughter has only spent time with him at his parents house and he has never played a part in her life , however he explained he wanted to take her to his house for a few hours and he would return her after a few hours about 1 hour after he left he text me to stay my daughter was staying over night and refused to bring her home until the next day he lives about 30 mins drive away from me and I do not drive after repeatedly texting him begging him to bring her home he refused and did not bring her home until the next day , am I able to stop him from taking my children to his house again he has done with with our son said he wasn't bringing him home I am unable to trust him to return our children when he says he hasn't paid child support since my daughter was born and he has only just started to ask about our daughter I don't know where I stand legally
Concernedmummy - 24-Oct-17 @ 8:21 AM
My partner and I live together with two young children. She suffers mood swings and is on anti-depressants. Often, she threatens to leave me and keep the children, it is causing me great heartache and pain because I still love her, and ofcourse our kids. Can she keep threatening this action? and what would I do if she left and took the kids?
HarryD - 24-Oct-17 @ 2:21 AM
Smarie06 - Your Question:
My partner and his ex have been to court and a residency order was made in 2015. The residency was made in favour of the mother with an amicable agreement made between both parties and the judge. There have been problems from the start with 5 separate hearings being made and the mother only turning up 2. She was given residency however was given a 6 months suspended sentence for stopping my partner seeing his son. Obviously cafcass were involved to do the relevant safeguarding checks but were "unable" to gain contact with the mother!!We have had our concerns regarding his sons welfare but in a sense have been stuck on what to do after approaching social services ect without much success. He has finally been able to approach his sons school and they have been extremely helpful, after his ex told the school he wasn't allowed to speak with them. It has now come to light that the school have concerns over his son. First off they was told by his ex that his son has never had any contact with his father and doesn't know him. (he's been there since birth)It turns out he has counselling on a weekly basis due to his lack of confidence amongst other things. The school have said he is a withdrawn and introvert child who doesn't have friends, he puts his hood up at play times and hides behind the shed.He is below average academically for his age.His attendance is shocking ranging in the 60% range. If he is not in school he is late sometimes an hour late where he goes into school with his arm over his face and is embarrassed. They have said that he comes into school "dirty and smelly often with No socks" All of this has come to ahead and become very upsetting for both me and my partner. After having parents evening over the phone and being told there has been no change! This was today. It is our weekend and my partner has decided not to give him back on Sunday and take it back to court. With our concerns can he do this with her having residency? His son is 6 years old. Thank you

Our Response:
If your partner's ex has a residency order, then the police will be able to intervene and give the child back to his mother. Your son's only recourse is to apply back to court for custody. If the school also has concerns with regards to lateness and neglect etc, then the school may be able to back your partner up and to help prove your partner's concerns. As specified in the article, '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.'
SeparatedDads - 20-Oct-17 @ 3:57 PM
Ccfc123 - Your Question:
Me and my ex partner went to court got a child arrangement order sorted she had residency for the child but now I have lots of concerns about his welfare also she does not take him to school and always late for school can I not return him or will I get in trouble? I have PR and concerned about her drinking as she's out on uni nights in the week

Our Response:
It is never a good idea to keep your child without the other parent's consent. Likewise, if the court order specifies your son lives with his mother, then the police can intervene to return your child to your ex. This would also give your ex the ammunition to accuse you are breaching the court order and stop access. If you feel your ex is not caring for your son properly, then you should consider asking your ex to attend mediation in order to try to resolve your concerns.
SeparatedDads - 20-Oct-17 @ 3:36 PM
Murph - Your Question:
Hi I need some advice. I have an 18 month old son. The mother won't let me see him due to me getting into a new relationship. I have took her to court and got interim contact till the next court date. There has been no safeguarding issues and no other reason why I shouldn't be allowed to see my son. I've started I want to see my son every weekend or on a bit weekly basis. What are the chances of the court granting this. Thanks

Our Response:
If there are no safeguarding issues or no other reason why you should not see your son and you have had a consistent relationship to date with your son, then it is more than likely the court will continue to allow access as before. The benchmark access awarded is usually once a fortnight at weekends (possibly including an overnight stay) and one night mid-week. However, every case is different and dependent upon the situation/circumstances.
SeparatedDads - 20-Oct-17 @ 11:49 AM
Eve - Your Question:
My son and hisee girlfriend have split up and she as taken his two children need some advice please

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Much depends upon whether your son's girlfriend has regained contact or has cut off all contact. If she is refusing to let your son see his children, then please see link here. If your son's girlfriend has left without a forwarding address, then your son can apply straight to court and fill in a C4 form, which is an application for an order for disclosure of a child’s whereabouts. This will allow the courts to put a trace on the children in order that he can bring the matter for access to court. Alternatively, he can use a tracing agency. If his is ex still in communication with your son, then you would have to follow the procedure laid out in the article (only if they cannot agree access between them). I hope this helps and I hope the situation resolves itself soon. As you can appreciate, with so little information, it can be difficult to advise fully. Where your son is in doubt, he should seek legal advice.
SeparatedDads - 20-Oct-17 @ 9:32 AM
My partner and his ex have been to court and a residency order was made in 2015. The residency was made in favour of the mother with an amicable agreement made between both parties and the judge. There have been problems from the start with 5 separate hearings being made and the mother only turning up 2. She was given residency however was given a 6 months suspended sentence for stopping my partner seeing his son. Obviously cafcass were involved to do the relevant safeguarding checks but were "unable" to gain contact with the mother!! We have had our concerns regarding his sons welfare but in a sense have been stuck on what to do after approaching social services ect without much success. He has finally been able to approach his sons school and they have been extremely helpful, after his ex told the school he wasn't allowed to speak with them. It has now come to light that the school have concerns over his son. First off they was told by his ex that his son has never had any contact with his father and doesn't know him... (he's been there since birth) It turns out he has counselling on a weekly basis due to his lack of confidence amongst other things. The school have said he is a withdrawn and introvert child who doesn't have friends, he puts his hood up at play times and hides behind the shed. He is below average academically for his age. His attendance is shocking ranging in the 60% range. If he is not in school he is late sometimes an hour late where he goes into school with his arm over his face and is embarrassed. They have said that he comes into school "dirty and smelly often with No socks" All of this has come to ahead and become very upsetting for both me and my partner. After having parents evening over the phone and being told there has been no change! This was today. It is our weekend and my partner has decided not to give him back on Sunday and take it back to court. With our concerns can he do this with her having residency? His son is 6 years old. Thank you
Smarie06 - 19-Oct-17 @ 11:59 PM
Me and my ex partner went to court got a child arrangement order sorted she had residency for the child but now I have lots of concerns about his welfare also she does not take him to school and always late for school can I not return him or will I get in trouble? I have PR and concerned about her drinking as she's out on uni nights in the week
Ccfc123 - 19-Oct-17 @ 11:29 PM
Hi I need some advice. I have an 18 month old son. The mother won't let me see him due to me getting into a new relationship. I have took her to court and got interim contact till the next court date. There has been no safeguarding issues and no other reason why I shouldn'tbe allowed to see my son. I've started I want to see my son every weekend or on a bit weekly basis. What are the chances of the court granting this. Thanks
Murph - 19-Oct-17 @ 6:49 PM
Ashley - Your Question:
My Ex is the mother and obviously has primary care over our son, However I have PR as I'm on the birth certificate but she wont let me see him unless it's good for her, I also work away in the military and don't get many weekends at home so obviously this has made it hard for me to get much access to my boy, is there any set way I could just show up whenever and just say I'm having him as she is not very cooperative with the times I'm home

Our Response:
No, taking your child without the authority of the primary carer is never a good idea as it can backfire and of course, all trust will be lost thereafter. If you wish to see your son more, then suggesting mediation is your next option, if your ex refuses, then you may wish to apply to court. The court does wish for fathers to have more contact with their children, as it will where possible make this happen. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 19-Oct-17 @ 3:49 PM
My son and hisee girlfriend have split up and she as taken his two children need some advice please
Eve - 19-Oct-17 @ 12:26 AM
My Ex is the mother and obviously has primary care over our son, However I have PR as I'm on the birth certificate but she wont let me see him unless it's good for her, I also work away in the military and don't get many weekends at home so obviously this has made it hard for me to get much access to my boy, is there any set way I could just show up whenever and just say I'm having him as she is not very cooperative with the times I'm home
Ashley - 17-Oct-17 @ 4:36 PM
Gill.I.am - Your Question:
My ex took my child away for a few days and is now refusing to give him back I haven't seen my son in nearly two weeks I did not put his fathers name on birth cert but yet he presented a birth cert with his name on we did go to court last year to declare he was the father even tho he wouldn't do a DNA test how do I get my son back

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. We cannot add any more to the suggestions made in the article. If your ex was awarded parental responsibility, then you would have to take the matter to court. If your ex wasn't awarded parental responsibility, then you can get the police involved who will return your son to you. If you have a child arrangement order which specifies that your son lives with you, then the police can also intervene.
SeparatedDads - 5-Oct-17 @ 3:20 PM
My ex took my child away for a few days and is now refusing to give him back I haven't seen my son in nearly two weeks I did not put his fathers name on birth cert but yet he presented a birth cert with his name on we did go to court last year to declare he was the father even tho he wouldn't do a DNA test how do I get my son back
Gill.I.am - 4-Oct-17 @ 7:26 PM
I have a court order stating my child lives with me, ex is named on the birth certificate and has PR. But he has refused all contact offered yet keeps attempting to collect my four year old from school on the days he used to have contact as stated on a now expired contact agreement. He is ignoring all solicitor letters officially but uses them as fuel to be abusive and aggressive towards me. With the court order stating my child lives with me can he just turn up and take my child whenever he feels like it? With no prior notice, agreement or arrangements in place?
Mumoffour - 22-Sep-17 @ 9:39 PM
Colpat - Your Question:
My Ex has PR for our two year old son and our agreed childcare arrangements are that he will care for our son every second weekend and on WednesdayEvenings. However, he needs to travel on business and to enable him to do so he is threatening to take our son to his Mothers who lives 400 miles away and leave him there for up to a week at a time so she can look after him whilst he travels. I do not consent to this but if he does it, what can I do?

Our Response:
If you cannot agree between you, you could try to come to a workable arrangement through mediation, please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 22-Sep-17 @ 3:44 PM
Barry - Your Question:
Hi my ex has taken daughter to Spain on holiday without my consent, where do I stand.

Our Response:
You can see what circumstances your ex can take your child out of the country without consent via the link here . However, if your ex has taken your child out of the country without consent and is planning not to bring her back, then your ex has committed abduction, in which case please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 22-Sep-17 @ 2:30 PM
My Ex has PR for our two year old son and our agreed childcare arrangements are that he will care for our son every second weekend and on Wednesday Evenings.However, he needs to travel on business and to enable him to do so he is threatening to take our son to his Mothers who lives 400 miles away and leave him there for up to a week at a time so she can look after him whilst he travels. I do not consent to this but if he does it, what can I do?
Colpat - 22-Sep-17 @ 12:15 AM
Hi my ex has taken daughter to Spain on holiday without my consent, where do I stand.
Barry - 19-Sep-17 @ 11:48 AM
Jenna - Your Question:
I was wondering if I could have some advice my partner or now ex partner took my daughter up to his house 12 weeks ago just like a normally would and has not brought her back and his refusing me to have any contact with her we have three other children together that are with me that he also hasn't bothered with in the 12 weeks I saw his mother down the park with my daughter and when I went over her and her husband attacked me swore at me and locked my daughter in car so I couldn't get to her while she cried for me.i don't know what to do what are my rights????

Our Response:
I'm afraid you would have to follow the advice laid out in the article and apply to court. Three months is a long time to follow this up. The longer your ex is allowed to care for your daughter, then more difficult it will be for you to get her back. If you cannot afford legal representation through the courts, you can self-litigate, please see link here. You may also be able to get a reduction on court fees if you are on a low income, please see link here . The Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to give you some legal advice.
SeparatedDads - 18-Sep-17 @ 10:52 AM
I was wondering if I could have some advice my partner or now ex partner took my daughter up to his house 12 weeks ago just like a normally would and has not brought her back and his refusing me to have any contact with her we have three other children together that are with me that he also hasn't bothered with in the 12 weeks I saw his mother down the park with my daughter and when I went over her and her husband attacked me swore at me and locked my daughter in car so I couldn't get to her while she cried for me.i don't know what to do what are my rights????
Jenna - 15-Sep-17 @ 12:26 PM
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