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When your Ex doesn't return your child

Many of us take for granted going away on holidays or going on day trips to see our family or friends. However, this is not the case for all families, who must split their child’s holiday time between themselves and their ex-partner.

Ordinarily dropping your child off for some holiday time with your ex-partner should not be daunting, right?  You would also expect for there to be a smooth transition between households with limited dispute and that pre-arrangements of dates should allow for each parent to be able to make plans for the valuable time they have to spend with their children? Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is becoming more and more common for one parent to refuse to return their child to the other parents after having spent time with them in the school holiday.

This can obviously be a very scary time for the parent who would rightly be concerned about when they will next be able to see their child after thinking their child would only briefly be out of their care.  When faced with this turmoil, the issue is what can you do?

What can the police do?

It is only natural to want to call the police and ask them to get your child for you, however this is not the most productive course of action. Contrary to popular belief, the police have no power to return your child if both you and your partner have parental responsibility as this gives your both joint responsibility for your child’s care. The police cannot make the decision to choose between parents as this puts them in a difficult and conflicting situation.

Having just stated that the police do not have powers to return your child, they do have the scope to extend their available powers if you believe your child to be in imminent danger. This would have to be a serious and real threat for the police to act.

A solicitor could be instructed to draft and send a letter to your ex-partner to explain that your child’s immediate return is requested and failing this return, court proceedings would be initiated.

Can I go to court?

Ordinarily to gain access to your child again in these circumstances, if an agreement cannot be reached it does require a court order. We would suggest that you obtain urgent legal advice for them to be able to advise you on what is the best order to try and obtaining from the court.  If an order is sought immediately due to concerns about the child’s safety, then a without notice hearing can take place.

How would legal advice and a court order help me?

By having an order in place you can create a legal obligation on the other parent to return your child and prevent this situation from reoccurring in the future, which is the most important thing!


If you are struggling with a similar situation to the one set out above in this article, then please contact Family Law Direct at and book your free initial 15 minutes phone call by pressing ‘book online’.

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