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

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 21 May 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.

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[Add a Comment]
Mac - Your Question:
My son his 14 and lives with his dad but now wants to live with me can he make him go back if he don't want to thanks

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether there is a court order in place. If there is, then you would have to keep to the order. If not, the article explains all. However, it is never a good idea to keep a child without the other parent's consent - as it can backfire if the matter ends up in court.
SeparatedDads - 22-May-17 @ 12:41 PM
My son his 14 and lives with his dad but now wants to live with me can he make him go back if he don't want to thanks
Mac - 21-May-17 @ 11:01 PM
Manic - Your Question:
My daughter is living with me from Nov 2015 and still.now she is 3yrs 2 months. I putt the application I need full residence and ex putt cross. He said he want the child.he have not seen her for long time. He did not like her at all. Cafcass recommendethink in my favour. Daughter will stay with mother. There is no safeguarding issue no risk assessment. Is there any possibility Court can swich the residence. Cafcass Lady said I am.good mother in her report. Plz reply

Our Response:
The court will almost always adhere to what the Cafcass report says. The court will not switch residency unless it deems it absolutely necessary i.e in cases of neglect or where the primary carer can no longer look after the child. You have little to worry about.
SeparatedDads - 19-May-17 @ 2:18 PM
My daughter is living with me from Nov 2015 and still ..now she is 3yrs 2 months. I putt the application I need full residence and ex putt cross.He said he want the child.he have not seen her for long time . He did not like her at all. Cafcass recommendethink in my favour.Daughter will stay with mother. There is no safeguarding issueno risk assessment.Is there any possibility Court can swich the residence.Cafcass Lady saidI am.good mother in her report. Plz reply
Manic - 19-May-17 @ 10:40 AM
Hi i am still with my partner been together for 5 years we have 2 kids one on the way.. one of our kids osnt mine so i know i have no parental rights.. but the 2nd is mine and i am on the birth certifacte so do have rights. My partners mum has had a problem with me feom the start but we were on a family holiday at weekend and things got nasty and out of hand we had a big arguement etc and showed that her love fur the kids is diffrent because of my kid been mine she doesnt love or care for her in the same way as the first... anyway long story short what rights do i have to dtop her seeing my kid and the baby boy on the way.. my misses has spoken to her now after saying she was done with her and now me and her argue becaise of this now i want help in the right direction to keep my famliy but get rid of the poison she calls gran!!! Can anyone help thanks
Keir2017 - 17-May-17 @ 4:53 PM
N1owe - Your Question:
Hi, I've been split up with my ex for 5 years now, we have to kids aged 5 & 7. They come to me every other weekend, I currently have another partner and a 5 month old son which they adore. My daughter aged 7 has recently started asking to live with me which I would love, every time I take her home she is in tears because she wants to live with my partner and me with our baby son / her brother! I'm on her birth certificate and have PR and there is no parental court order as to where they have to live, how can I go about fullfilling her wishes to live with us? It's getting to the point she is telling me all sorts of stories about her Mum to live here! Any help please

Our Response:
If your ex will not agree, or discuss this, your only option is to suggest mediation in order to try to resolve the matter. If your ex refuses, your next option would be court. However, it is rare a court will split up siblings and move one child to another parent's house unless absolutely necessary. The courts will always decide upon what it thinks is in your children's best interests and consistency and stability are seen as most important. Therefore, I suggest you seek legal advice if you strongly wish to pursue this matter to see whether you may have a case.
SeparatedDads - 15-May-17 @ 12:46 PM
Hi, I've been split up with my ex for 5 years now, we have to kids aged 5 & 7. They come to me every other weekend, I currently have another partner and a 5 month old son which they adore. My daughter aged 7 has recently started asking to live with me which I would love, every time I take her home she is in tears because she wants to live with my partner and me with our baby son / her brother! I'm on her birth certificate and have PR and there is no parental court order as to where they have to live, how can I go about fullfilling her wishes to live with us? It's getting to the point she is telling me all sorts of stories about her Mum to live here! Any help please
N1owe - 14-May-17 @ 6:21 PM
Debby - Your Question:
It has now been four years since we split and a year of divorce. My ex has never committed to having our son. I've tried everything to get them to have time together , no joy. Now very suddenly my son is invited to go over and says he will go alternate weekends, I'm not happy for him to go unless I have details of address, times for collection and drop off back to my home. My ex will not talk to me about this. Can he just take my son. Son wants to go, but I'm not happy. Son has taken break up bad and has had nightmares and has been under care of CAMHS.Where do I stand

Our Response:
You do not have to consent for your ex to have your son if he has not previously had access. Putting a proper schedule in place on your terms via mediation may be the best option here, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 10-May-17 @ 10:51 AM
It has now been four years since we split and a year of divorce. My ex has never committed to having our son. I've tried everything to get them to have time together , no joy. Now very suddenly my son is invited to go over and says he will go alternate weekends, I'm not happy for him to go unless I have details of address, times for collection and drop off back to my home. My ex will not talk to me about this. Can he just take my son. Son wants to go, but I'm not happy. Son has taken break up bad and has had nightmares and has been under care of CAMHS. Where do I stand
Debby - 9-May-17 @ 6:19 PM
Kayla - Your Question:
Hi my ex partner as stopped me seeing my son, even the court at the time 5yrs ago specifically said I have to have regular contact. As I moved away I said to him I could still have contact weekends and school holidays he declined as he was demanding my address I told him he didn't need my address obviously for safety reasons which my solicitor at the time told him he wouldn't need my address he had my telephone number. When I msg to say how he is I just get the same response, I get no input about his schooling in how wel he is doing etc. It's broke my heart not been able to see my son as he's getting older he requested me on social media and my ex as blocked me from his account. So I know that he still wants to see me. Please help

Our Response:
Please see link here, which will answer your question in full.
SeparatedDads - 5-May-17 @ 2:20 PM
Hi my ex partner as stopped me seeing my son, even the court at the time 5yrs ago specifically said I have to have regular contact. As I moved away I said to him I could still have contact weekends and school holidays he declined as he was demanding my address I told him he didn't need my address obviously for safety reasons which my solicitor at the time told him he wouldn't need my address he had my telephone number. When I msg to say how he is I just get the same response, I get no input about his schooling in how wel he is doing etc. It's broke my heart not been able to see my son as he's getting older he requested me on social media and my ex as blocked me from his account. So I know that he still wants to see me. Please help
Kayla - 4-May-17 @ 10:38 PM
Cb - Your Question:
Hi, am currently going through a breakup, we're not married but have lived together for nearly a decade. We have 2girls aged 9&6. I'm not saying she doesn't love them but definitely can't cope with them, most evenings I get a phone call while at work with her on the verge of a mental breakdown because they won't go to sleep. (She is very calculating to make sure it's always a phone call and not a text so I have no written evidence), Counter to what she says about not stopping me from seeing the kids she is threatening to move halfway across the country with them, clearly a massive contradiction. I have parental responsibility, so what are my options? Would I have a case for custody?

Our Response:
In the first instance you would have to suggest mediation to your ex in order to try to resolve the issue mutually. However, if you fear your ex may move without consulting you/asking for consent, then you may be able to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is an order granted by the court in family cases which prevents either parent from carrying out certain events or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. This is more common in cases where there is suspicion that one parent may leave the area with their children. With regards to residency, it is very rare that a court will take children from one parent and hand them over to the other unless absolutely necessary and with very good reason. Therefore, if you are considering this route you may wish to seek professional legal advice to see if you have a case to answer.
SeparatedDads - 28-Apr-17 @ 1:52 PM
Hi, am currently going through a breakup, we're not married but have lived together for nearly a decade. We have 2girls aged 9&6. I'm not saying she doesn't love them but definitely can't cope with them, most evenings I get a phone call while at work with her on the verge of a mental breakdown because they won't go to sleep. (She is very calculating to make sure it's always a phone call and not a text so I have no written evidence), Counter to what she says about not stopping me from seeing the kids she is threatening to move halfway across the country with them, clearly a massive contradiction. I have parental responsibility, so what are my options? Would I have a case for custody?
Cb - 27-Apr-17 @ 8:29 PM
alex8154 - Your Question:
Hi All I currently have a child arrangement order in my favor I have full custody. I just wanted to know as sometimes my x threatens not to return the children after contact. If she was not to bring the children back to me after contact what could I do about this? As she lives miles away I dont know where she lives ect could I call the police? Would they return them ? Or would I have to go back to court? As this would seem silly as my children would be missing school ect any advice would be great thank you

Our Response:
If you have a residence/child arrangement order which determines through the court with whom your children should live, the police can intervene and return your children if your ex attempts to keep the children without your consent. If your ex is threatening to keep the children, then a solicitor's letter outlining your rights and the repercussions of what would happen if she attempted to do this, might do the trick. Therefore, you may wish to seek some legal advice in order to explore your options fully if your ex decided to breach the order.
SeparatedDads - 27-Apr-17 @ 10:36 AM
Hi All i currently have a child arrangement order in my favor i have full custody. I just wanted to know as sometimes my x threatens not to return the children after contact. If she was not to bring the children back to me after contact what could i do about this? As she lives miles away i dont know where she lives ect could i call the police? Would they return them ? Or would i have to go back to court? As this would seem silly as my children would be missing school ect any advice would be great thank you
alex8154 - 26-Apr-17 @ 10:27 AM
My partner left 2 weeks ago and left me with the children...she has stated several times in the past that she would get on a coach with the children anf dissapear...i had legal advice to let her see the childrwn but not to let her take them anywher by herself...she is now demanding i let her take the children out...she was out every weekend and sometimes didnt come in till 2 the next day...i am willing to let her see the children everyday but still not trusting her to take them out...is there anything i can do?
Mikwex - 21-Apr-17 @ 12:21 PM
Concerned friend - Your Question:
Hello thereThis really isn't for me my ex gf has a daughter with an already married Muslim father they split up 6 months ago.The daughter was living with her mum rughtup until the father took her on a weeks holiday and upon return told the mother she wasn't going to get her daughter back as it's tradition in Iraq that the child stays with the father bear in mind they are in the uk.He started telling her she's a useless mum and is no good and can't afford to buys her daughter everything she asks for and has threatened the daughter directly saying he will kill her if she tells social services.My friend is concerned and dearly misses her daughter she is scared to go to social services in case they take her daughter away from her.Can he legally do take the daughter under tradition ? is he mentally abusing both the mother and child?Will the services take the child away from the mother?

Our Response:
The first question to ask is; has the father got parental responsibility of the child (named on the birth certificate)? If he hasn't, your ex should call the police asap as the police will be able to intervene and return her daughter to her. If he does have PR, then the police cannot intervene, as it is then up to the remit of the courts to decide what it thinks is in the best interests of the child. Muslim law is not recognised in the UK, so your ex should not be afraid of taking the matter further. If your ex has been to date the main carer of her child, then it is highly likely her child will be returned to her. BUT she has to act quickly. She can go to Social Services too, who will try to help her have her child returned. Likewise, if your ex feels the father make take the child out of the country without her authorisation, she also needs to act quickly. I advise she seeks legal advice either by an independent solicitor or via the Coram link here.
SeparatedDads - 19-Apr-17 @ 12:16 PM
Hello there This really isn't for me my ex gf has a daughter with an already married Muslim father they split up 6 months ago. The daughter was living with her mum rughtup until the father took her on a weeks holiday and upon return told the mother she wasn't going to get her daughter back as it's tradition in Iraq that the child stays with the father bear in mind they are in the uk. He started telling her she's a useless mum and is no good and can't afford to buys her daughter everything she asks for and has threatened the daughter directly saying he will kill her if she tells social services. My friend is concerned and dearly misses her daughter she is scared to go to social services in case they take her daughter away from her . Can he legally do take the daughter under tradition ? is he mentally abusing both the mother and child? Will the services take the child away from the mother?
Concerned friend - 18-Apr-17 @ 11:04 PM
la - Your Question:
My ex partner and I split 4 months ago and whilst he was still living in the joint home I met somebody else to which I suffered alot of emotional abuse from my ex, when he left he told me he had a choice in if this person was around my children or not, also he wants to see my children one day a week but is unwilling to give me the times he will be taking them and the times he will be fetching them home, I have stated im not happy with this as the children need routine and I need to make sure im in when they arrive home.he told me that if I dont let him take them he will call the police and that he will apply to have my children 50% of the time.I really dont know where to turn.

Our Response:
It sounds like there is a lot of verbal emotional reactions here with neither party quite knowing what their parental responsibility rights are. If neither of you can agree, you might wish to put a halt to these disagreements before they get out of hand. Mediation should be considered here in order to come to a family-based agreement, please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me here. This way, you can come to a mutual agreement regarding what suits you both. The mediatior will be able to outline both of your rights and help you agree a schedule between you. It is understandable that your ex is feeling emotionally pushed out of his children's lives and his knee-jerk reactions are as a result of this. Making him feel that he is still part of your children's lives and that you both should work together towards what is in the best interests of your children will hopefully help you get through this tricky time.
SeparatedDads - 12-Apr-17 @ 12:55 PM
my ex partner and i split 4 months ago and whilst he was still living in the joint home i met somebody else to which i suffered alot of emotional abuse from my ex, when he left he told me he had a choice in if this person was around my children or not, also he wants to see my children one day a week but is unwilling to give me the times he will be taking them and the times he will be fetching them home, I have stated im not happy with this as the children need routine and i need to make sure im in when they arrive home. he told me that if i dont let him take them he will call the police and that he will apply to have my children 50% of the time. I really dont know where to turn.
la - 11-Apr-17 @ 9:09 PM
Hi. My wife took our two boys to another town . She told me through her solicitor that if l want to see them l have to contact with her solicitor. At the moment we have equally custody. What can l do?
Sv - 8-Apr-17 @ 2:38 PM
Nhla - Your Question:
Hy I have a situation where the father of my son does not want to return my son and my stays with his mother in another area and the father of my son stays around my area but he won't allow my son to come back to me and I want my son back. how can I be helped

Our Response:
If your ex has parental responsibility, you would have to take the advice outlined in this article and apply to court for a child arrangement order which will determine who your child should live with, please see link here. If your ex is not registered as the father on the birth certificate, or does not have parental responsibility (and your son normally lives with you), then as also specified in the article you can contact the police who may be able to help return your son to you.
SeparatedDads - 3-Apr-17 @ 10:37 AM
hy I havea situation where the father of my son does not want to return my son and my stays with his mother in another area and the father of my son stays around my area but he won't allow my son to come back to me and I want my son back. how can I be helped
Nhla - 2-Apr-17 @ 5:47 AM
Azza - Your Question:
I have a genuine concern for the welfare of my daughter due to use of cannabis in her mothers house. She becomes very aggressive when she hasn't got the funds for her habit. My daughter has disclosed information about her mum being aggressive/violent towards her(social services are aware) Can I legally remove my daughter from her mums care.

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether you have parental responsibility of your child, please see link here. However, it is never a good idea to 'remove' a child from the other parent unless there are safeguarding issues, meaning unless necessary, as this type of action can backfire long term. Likewise, not all substance misusing parents are considered to be putting their child at risk. In fact, many children of substance misusing parents receive good parenting, stability and have all their needs fully met. What you have to consider before you take this action is whether your child's own needs are being met, or whether you think your child is genuinely at risk, and/or is receiving the level and quality of care that they need. Therefore, legal advice may help here. You may also wish to seek some further advice from NSPCC here who you can talk to directly about your concerns.
SeparatedDads - 27-Mar-17 @ 10:13 AM
I have a genuine concern for the welfare of my daughter due to use of cannabis in her mothers house. She becomes very aggressive when she hasn't got the funds for her habit. My daughter has disclosed information about her mum being aggressive/violent towards her(social services are aware) Can I legally remove my daughter from her mums care.
Azza - 26-Mar-17 @ 3:32 AM
I cannot see a judge saying for stability it has to be once a week on the same day when your ex works shifts... You both work but its not such a problem surely to organise one day a week that is convenient for you both. Mountains from molehills springs to mind
Jo - 17-Mar-17 @ 6:03 PM
Hi there, me and my wife have been married for slightly over 5 years, last year she got pregnant and gave birth to a wonderful boy, in December her sister came over from abroad to support with the child for a few months, however since the sister came over our relationship is falling apart, all of a sudden when i was at work she text's me to inform me that they are moving 300 miles away to some friends, we do have a mortgage and i am worried that she will not pay anymore, i alone can not possibly pay the mortgage.
Blind - 25-Feb-17 @ 3:31 PM
I've taken my daughter put of her mothers home this morning, she has been under social services child protection and has signed contracts stating until they deem fit she is not to allow men near our daughter due to the nature of her previous relationships, I have stood by her side throughout until today as I can not stand by and allow my daughter to be taken by social because my ex is going against them. Have I done the right thing ? I never wanted it to get to this as she can be a wonderful mother. But I can't sit back and watch her screw our daughter up through her own ignorance.
jay - 25-Feb-17 @ 10:43 AM
Ben - Your Question:
I am wondering if I have any legal right to know the adress where my now ex moved to with my daughter? We haven't gone through the courts yet but she won't even give me the adress so I can mail stuff to our child for her birthday or anything. We split just a few months ago. I have been begging her to let me see my daughter, she won't even let me call or send me pics/keep me updated.I am trying to get funds for court so I can see her again!

Our Response:
The court can put a trace on your child to allow you to apply to court for access to your child via a C4 form ( which is an application for an order for disclosure of a child's whereabouts). However, if your ex still wishes to keep her address confidential during and after the court process, she has every right.
SeparatedDads - 22-Feb-17 @ 12:46 PM
I am wondering if I have any legal right to know the adress where my now ex moved to with my daughter? We haven't gone through the courts yet but she won't even give me the adress so I can mail stuff to our child for her birthday or anything. We split just a few months ago. I have been begging her to let me see my daughter, she won't even let me call or send me pics/keep me updated...I am trying to get funds for court so I can see her again!
Ben - 21-Feb-17 @ 8:29 PM
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