Your ex-partner is taking your children without consent

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

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


Call the police on 999 if you think your children will be taken out of the UK in the next 48 hours. The police can issue a ‘port alert’ which will stop them being taken out of the UK. Find out more about port alerts on GOV.UK.

Try to hide their passports or stop them getting a passport - find out how to stop someone getting a passport on GOV.UK.

Get legal advice straight away – find a solicitor who can deal with child abduction cases on GOV.UK.

You might be able to get legal aid to help you pay for legal advice. If you need help finding a solicitor or with legal fees, talk to an adviser.

Show your solicitor and the police any evidence you have that your ex-partner is planning to take them abroad - for example texts, emails and tickets.

You might be able to get help from other authorities - check your options on GOV.UK.

You can get further advice over the phone or online from Reunite - a charity which helps with cases of child abduction to foreign countries.

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.

You’ll normally need to show that you’ve tried mediation before you apply to court. There are exceptions that mean you don’t have to try mediation first - for example, if you’ve experienced domestic abuse. Check how mediation works.

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, 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.

If you can, get advice before going to court. A solicitor will be able to tell you whether a court is likely to decide in your favour. You could also talk to an adviser.

You have to pay a £255 court fee to get a prohibited steps order. If you're on a low income, you could get help to pay the fee.

You can apply to the court for the prohibited steps order and find out more about the fee on GOV.UK.

If you can't apply online, you can download the paper form on GOV.UK. Applying by post will take longer than applying online.

If your case is urgent

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.

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Page last reviewed on 24 February 2020