Q: My parents have moved to France to enjoy their retirement and twilight years. Unfortunately this means they will see less of my kids, their grandchildren who they dote on. My ex says I am not allowed to take them to France to see my parents. She has the kids’ passports. Can she really stop me from taking them? What can I do?
A: Many separated parents have difficulty agreeing arrangements for their children, not just when they will see each parent but also extended family members. In your case you have the added difficulty of having to take the children abroad to see their grandparents.
The government has for many years been trying to guide people away from Court and towards family mediation in cases such as this, as the family court system is overstretched due to the number of cases it has.
I do believe that family mediation is a wonderful alternative to litigation when it works and the government are right in this regard. However, mediation is a voluntary process and has to be entered into openly. If mediation breaks down or one party does not wish to do it then an application to the family Court is the only way to resolve such issues. In this case you would need to apply to the Court for a child arrangements order allowing you to take the children to France to see your parents. The Court could also Order your ex to provide you with the children’s passports by a certain date.
Court proceedings can be effective in restoring and/or increasing contact between children and their estranged family but do not appear to improve parental relationships and their capacity to parent successfully after separation.