Your ex-partner is taking your children without consent
You might be able to stop your ex-partner taking your children somewhere without your permission.
You need to act quickly - whether you think they’re going to be taken somewhere in the UK or abroad.
If you think they’re going to be taken to live abroad
You should get legal advice straight away – find a solicitor who can deal with child abduction cases on GOV.UK.
You can also contact Reunite, a charity which specialises in cases of child abduction to foreign countries.
If you think your children will be taken out of the country in the next 48 hours, call the police on 999.
If you can, hide their passports. If you don't have them, find out on GOV.UK if you can stop their passports.
The police can issue something called a ‘port alert’, which will stop the child being taken out of the country.
Try to gather any evidence you can that your partner is planning to take them abroad to show your solicitor and the police - for example texts, emails and tickets.
If they’re moving within the UK
If you can’t agree where your children will live, you should go to mediation. A professional mediator will try to help you come to an agreement that works for you and your children.
Unless there was domestic violence in your relationship, you’ll need to go to at least 1 mediation session before you’ll be able to go to court - even if your partner won’t go with you. This session is called a mediation information and assessment meeting ('MIAM').
You should make sure you have parental responsibility. All mothers and most fathers do. If you’re not sure, you can check if you have parental responsibility on GOV.UK and apply if you don't.
If you can’t agree
If you’ve tried mediation or been to a MIAM already, you can apply to court for a ‘prohibited steps order’.
You’re only likely to get a prohibited steps order if you can show that your ex-partner is trying to move your children for a reason that’s not in their best interests - for example, to stop your children from seeing you.
You might be able to show this if they’ve tried to stop you from seeing your children in the past - for example, by cancelling arrangements you’ve made to spend time with them.
If you ex-partner can show that your children’s lives will be better because of the move, it’s more likely that the court will decide in their favour.
Courts are changing the way they work because of coronavirus. Hearings could happen:
over the phone or by video call - these are sometimes called ‘remote hearings’
with a mix of people in the court and people joining over the phone or by video call - these are called ‘hybrid hearings’
If you go to the court in person, you’ll have to wear a mask or covering for your mouth and nose. If you don’t wear one, you won’t be allowed in the building. Some people don’t have to wear one – check who doesn’t have to wear a mask or face covering on GOV.UK.
If the court hasn’t told you how to attend your hearing, contact them to find out. You can search for their contact details on GOV.UK.
You have to pay a £232 court fee to get a prohibited steps order. If you're on a low income, you could get help to pay the fee.
If you can't apply online, you can download the paper form on GOV.UK. Applying by post will take longer than applying online.
After you’ve applied online, you should call the court to explain why your case is urgent. The court will decide if you need an urgent hearing.
Your case would be urgent if, for example:
your child is in danger
your ex-partner hasn’t returned your child when they should have
You can find the court’s contact details on GOV.UK.
Page last reviewed on 24 February 2020