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Children not being returned by their non-custodial parent after summer holidays

With the summer holidays soon upon us, many people often take for granted the opportunity to go abroad, or on day trips to see loved ones. However, not all families have the same privilege, as some must navigate the challenge of dividing their child's holiday time between themselves and their former partner.

In an ideal scenario, dropping off your child with your ex-partner for some holiday time should be a straightforward and stress-free experience. You would expect a smooth transition between households, minimal disputes, and pre-arranged dates that allow each parent to make plans and spend quality time with their children. Unfortunately, reality often deviates from this ideal. It is becoming increasingly common for one parent to refuse to return the child to the other parent after the summer holiday period.

This situation can be incredibly distressing for the parent who is rightfully concerned about when they will be able to see their child again, especially if they initially expected only a brief separation. In the face of such turmoil, the question arises: What can you do? In the following blog, we aim to provide some guidance to empower anyone in this situation, helping them understand how they can best advocate for themselves.

What actions can the police take?

Naturally, your instinct may be to call the police and seek their assistance in retrieving your child. However, it's important to understand that the police do not possess the authority to simply return your child if both you and your ex-partner share parental responsibility. In cases where both parents have joint responsibility for the child's care, the police cannot favour one parent over the other. It puts them in a difficult and conflicting position.

Although the police cannot directly intervene to return your child, there are certain circumstances in which they can expand their powers. If you believe your child is in immediate danger, and there is a genuine and serious threat to their well-being, the police may be able to take action. However, such situations require compelling evidence of imminent harm.

Seeking legal assistance

One viable step in this situation is to engage a solicitor who can help you navigate the legal process. Your solicitor can draft and send a formal letter to your ex-partner, clearly stating your request for the immediate return of your child. The letter may also indicate that, if the child is not returned promptly, you will initiate court proceedings.

Is going to court an option?

In cases where an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation or mediation, seeking court intervention becomes necessary to regain access to your child. It is strongly advisable to seek urgent legal advice from a qualified family law solicitor who specialises in child custody matters. They can provide you with tailored guidance and explain the best course of action for obtaining a court order.

If there are significant concerns about the child's safety that require immediate attention, a without notice hearing can be arranged. This type of hearing allows you to seek urgent temporary orders from the court without notifying the other parent in advance. However, it is crucial to consult with your solicitor to determine whether this is an appropriate step in your specific case.

How can legal advice and a court order assist you?

By obtaining a court order, you establish a legally binding obligation on the other parent to return your child. This not only helps resolve the immediate issue but also acts as a preventive measure, discouraging similar situations from recurring in the future. The court order sets clear expectations and consequences, ensuring that both parents understand their responsibilities and the importance of upholding the child's best interests.

Remember, each case is unique, and the legal process can vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances involved. Seeking professional legal advice is essential to ensure you are well-informed and guided through the process in the most effective and appropriate manner.

If you are struggling with a similar situation, then please contact Family Law Direct at and book your free initial 15 minutes phone call by pressing ‘book online’.

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