Unfortunately, we have seen many instances where a parent has refused to return a child to the other parent following contact. This can be extremely traumatic for the parent that is left not knowing what they can do legally to have their child returned to them.
Here I have set out some guidance on steps that you can take should this happen to you.
Simply put, yes you should. Your first port of call should always be to contact your ex-partner in a calm manner to try to convince them that it is in the best interest of the child to be returned to you. Contact with them should ideally be made by text message or email, which can be used as evidence should the matter proceed through the Courts.
If you are successful in retrieving your child by contacting your ex-partner, you should contact a Solicitor in any event in order to protect yourself and your child, should this happen again.
If you are unable to retrieve your child by negotiation with the other parent, a first thought would be to contact the Police to request that they enforce the return of your child. However, where both parties have parental responsibility for the child, the police may be unable to force the return of the child as they are not able to choose between the parents.
However, if your ex-partner does not have parental responsibility, then the Police can assist in returning the child to you, given that you have sole responsibility for the child.
All mothers have parental responsibility as they are automatically named on the Birth Certificate.
A father has parental responsibility if they were married to the mother of the child (even if they are not named on the Birth Certificate).
Unmarried fathers only have parental responsibility if they are named on the Birth Certificate.
In such cases the Police or Social Services have additional powers where there is a real danger to the child. If this is the case, you should inform the Police and Social Services immediately and seek urgent legal advice from a Solicitor.
Where your child has been withheld from you and both parents have parental responsibility, there are steps that you can take to have the child returned to you. You can apply for a Child Arrangements Order and a Prohibited Steps Order.
Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order that regulates:
Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) prohibits a parent from certain acts.
A Prohibited Steps Order can prevent:
Such orders usually last until the child turns 16 but can also be set for a specific amount of time.
The Child Arrangements Order and the Prohibited Steps Order are legally binding on both parents and can be enforced via the Courts if necessary.
On filing the application for a Child Arrangements/Prohibited Steps Order, a Court Hearing will be listed. The priority of the Judge will always be the welfare of the child and they will be guided by the welfare checklist when considering a Child Arrangements Order. The application can be listed as an urgent hearing in certain circumstances.
If your ex-partner is refusing to return your child or you have concerns that this may happen in the future, contact us to arrange a consultation with one of our dedicated family lawyers.