Q: My children have lived with me for most of the time since their father left us, but as he was on furlough from the start of the coronavirus pandemic, I agreed to them spending more time with him, to ring some changes for them because of home schooling. Now he has been made redundant and has suddenly decided he wants to keep them. He keeps threatening that he will not return them to my care. Can he just do this? What can I do to stop it from happening?
A: Firstly, we would need to establish whether the children’s father has parental responsibility. He would have parental responsibility either by being married to you at the time of the children’s birth, or by being named on their birth certificates and was present at the registration. If it is the case that he does have parental responsibility, then legally you both have equal rights over the children unless a Court Order is in place to state otherwise.
If their father fails to return the children to your care, then you could contact the police to carry out a welfare check. However, if the police deem that the children are safe, then they will not usually intervene in returning the children if their father has parental responsibility over them.
To prevent the father refusing to return the children, or to act upon a refusal if that happens, you can make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order stating that the children live with you. If this order were in place, it would create a legal obligation on the children’s father to return them to your care at the end of contact. Likewise, if you were worried about him fleeing with the children then you could consider applying for a Prohibited Steps Order which is an order that limits a parent from carrying out certain acts.
This question has been answered by Sean Rolinson, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.
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