Q: My former partner and father of my children took our children away for the weekend and is now refusing to return them to my care. He is a really good dad and they love spending time with him but the children have always lived with me and I don’t know what to do.
A: If the children’s births were registered after 1st December 2003, both parents were present at the registration and your partner’s name appears on their birth certificates then he has Parental Responsibility for the children and you must apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to allow the children to live with you. In emergency cases you can request an urgent hearing but from what you say it seems unlikely your children are in any danger.
Since 22nd April 2014 it has been a requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to making an application to the Court. Family mediation may well help to resolve the living arrangement issues between you and the children’s father. If mediation fails and you make an application to the Court, the Court may decide that the children should be returned to your care and the status quo be maintained.
Every case has different circumstances, however, and it may be that the Court makes an Order that the children live with their father. If they are of an age to have their wishes and feelings ascertained, a Court Reporter may be asked to speak to them and prepare a report for the Court. If throughout the proceedings agreement cannot be reached, the Court will make a final decision based on all the circumstances of the case and by applying the welfare checklist set out in the Children Act 1989. If you are at all unsure about your position, you should contact a reputable family lawyer for advice.