When Your Ex Doesn’t Return Your Child

MyBump2Baby Expert Podcast


when your ex doesnt return your child
  • When Your Ex Doesn’t Return Your Child

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In this episode, Carla interviews Megan Edwards, an Associate Solicitor in Family Law Group, about what to do when an ex-partner refuses to return a child. Megan explains that the appropriate course of action depends on factors such as parental responsibility, existing court orders, and concerns about the child’s safety. She advises parents to first try to negotiate and amicably agree on the safe return of the child. If there are significant safety concerns, the police and local authority should be contacted. Megan also discusses the process of obtaining court orders and the importance of seeking legal advice.


  • When an ex-partner refuses to return a child, it is important to consider factors such as parental responsibility, existing court orders, and concerns about the child’s safety.
  • Parents should first try to negotiate and amicably agree on the safe return of the child, unless there are significant safety concerns.
  • If there are concerns about the child’s safety, the police and local authority should be contacted.
  • Legal advice should be sought to understand the options available, including obtaining court orders for the return of the child.

Megan is a Solicitor and joined Family Law Group in September 2017. She works out of the Milton Keynes office and specialises in care proceedings and domestic abuse matters.

Whilst completing her Legal Practice Course at the University of Law in Birmingham, she undertook a Master’s Degree and obtaining a high distinction award in both. Her studies were undertaken alongside her training contract, which she completed whilst working for a legal firm in Northampton. Megan has also achieved a Degree from Oxford Brookes University with first class honours, as well as obtaining a Oxford University Press prize  for high attainment.

Since qualifying as a Solicitor in 2017, she has gone on to specialise in all matters relating to children and domestic abuse. Megan also has experience in advocacy and enjoys representing her clients in court where possible.

Megan understands the importance of reaching an out of court settlement, and will use her vast negation skills to meet client objectives in an amicable and non confrontational way.

Megan is passionate about her work and decided to embark on a career in law so that she had the opportunity to help people, particularly vulnerable people such as children.

Megan has an aptitude for supporting clients and people in need of help. She achieves this by ensuring that she listens fully to her client’s needs and is compassionate, yet efficient in ensuring the right outcome is achieved.

Family Law Group Website: https://www.familylawgroup.co.uk/

Carla (00:00.478)
Hello everybody and welcome to My Bunked Babies Expert Podcast. Today I am delighted to be joined by the lovely Megan Edwards, the Associate Solicitor in Family Law Group. Hello Megan, how are you?

Megan Edwards (00:14.95)
Hello Carla, I’m good thank you, how are you?

Carla (00:17.48)
I’m very well, thank you. I’m looking forward to having you here because today we’re going to be talking about a subject that a lot of parents going through separation can struggle with and it’s what can someone do when their ex doesn’t actually return their child. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. Would you mind just introducing yourself, Megan?

Megan Edwards (00:37.67)
So I am, as Carla said, I am an associate solicitor from Family Law Group. I’m based in our Milton Keynes office, but we have various offices around the country and I specialise in all matters that pertain to children issues, whether that be disputes around contact or other issues such as children being wrongfully retained by another parent.

Carla (01:02.11)
great that’s really really helpful and you’ve got an office in Milton Keynes haven’t you? Perfect so if a parent is facing a situation where the other parent is refusing to return the child to their care what would someone do? Where do you stand with this?

Megan Edwards (01:06.726)
Yes, we do.

Megan Edwards (01:23.27)
Well, the most appropriate way forward when someone is faced with a situation like this will depend on a few things really, to be honest Carla. Whether the other parent has parental responsibility is a factor for consideration. Whether there is already any court orders in existence in relation to the child and whether there are concerns about that child’s immediate safety in the care of the other parent that has retained them.

What I would say is that unless there are significant concerns about the child’s safety in the other parent’s care, the first point of call really would be to try and speak to the other parent that’s retained the child in a calm manner to try and negotiate and amicably agree the safe return of the child. Now,

That being said, if you do hold genuine and significant concerns about your child’s safety in the parent’s care, you should immediately contact the police and the local authority in your area who hold certain powers in the most serious of situations to remove a child if they are satisfied that they are at immediate risk of significant harm. Where…

Carla, there aren’t any concerns around that child’s immediate safety. It’s just the other parent has retained the child without agreement from the other parent who that child usually resides with. Then the first thing that really should be considered then is whether that parent has parental responsibility for the child. So as birth mother, that parent will always hold parental responsibility. Where the…

biological father is concerned, it’s not always automatic and that will depend on whether the parents were married when the child was born or prior to birth and then it will depend on whether that parent, the father is named on the birth certificate for the child as to whether they hold parental responsibility. But I would say that’s the first thing that a parent in this situation should be considering is the other parent that’s retained the child, do they have parental responsibility for the child?

Carla (03:26.796)

Megan Edwards (03:36.646)
If they do share parental responsibility with you for your child, then contrary to public and popular belief, the police are generally unable to assist in the return of the child. And what people will often find in that situation is the police quite often will say, this is a civil family matter and you need to seek independent legal advice from a family solicitor.

Carla (03:49.616)

Megan Edwards (04:02.598)
Of course, that is caveated with what I said earlier about if there are genuine and real, real concerning issues with the child’s safety in that parent’s care, then the police do have some powers. Now, if the other parent doesn’t have parental responsibility, then the police should be able to assist you in returning the child to your care.

Carla (04:24.734)

Megan Edwards (04:26.758)
then the question arises is, well, what do we do if the police don’t assist or that parent does have parental responsibility and the police say you need to then go and seek legal advice? If that’s the scenario that the parent is facing, then it would be right to obtain some legal advice as soon as possible. But it will be necessary to consider whether an application should be made to the family court. And there are certain orders that can be made. What should be…

considered is whether there are already orders in existence. So if there is already what we call a child arrangements order in place, and that is an order that can regulate the living arrangements and the spend time with, so the contact arrangements with the other parent. If there is already a child arrangements order in place that specifies where a child should live, then the parent that has retained the child,

If they are in breach of that order because it’s not in accordance with any specified contact arrangements, then they will be breaching a court order. And the most appropriate course of action then would be to seek advice around a possible enforcement application to the court to enforce the order against them. We would also advise clients to consider whether there is already a prohibited steps order in place at the same time. So a prohibited steps order,

as the name suggests, is an order that prohibits parents or other people from taking certain steps in relation to a child. So we quite often see prohibited steps orders being made to prevent the removal of a child from a parent’s care. If that type of order is already in place, then again, they are in breach of a court order and the parent who the child normally lives with should take appropriate legal advice around enforcing those orders against the other parent.

Carla (06:02.736)

Megan Edwards (06:21.574)
Sometimes, and in quite a lot of cases to be honest, Cara, there isn’t already any quarter orders in place. And then parents in that situation will be thinking, well, okay, I can’t enforce a quarter in place that’s already in place because there isn’t one. Where do I go from here? They share parental responsibility with me. The police can’t help me. What on earth do I do? So in those cases,

Carla (06:45.072)

Megan Edwards (06:45.35)
we would suggest to people that they should get some legal advice around possible applications to the family court for orders to be made. And those orders that you would apply for are the types of orders that I’ve just explained. So a live with child arrangements order, and we would also advise around a possible application for a prohibited steps order to then prevent any future removals because naturally some of the concerns of the parent will probably be, well what if this happens again?

Carla (07:05.236)

Megan Edwards (07:13.734)
so we would advise around possibly applying for prohibited steps order as well.

Carla (07:16.552)
Yeah, and how quickly can you get an order then?

Megan Edwards (07:23.974)
So it is possible in the most urgent of cases for a prohibited steps order to be made on what we call a without notice basis. So what that means is in the most exceptional and urgent cases, the court can make normally a prohibited steps order without the other parent even being given notice of the application before that order is made.

Carla (07:33.456)

Megan Edwards (07:49.35)
So it’s made on an interim basis before the other parent is served with the court application and papers. Now, as I say, that tends to happen in the most urgent and exceptional circumstances. It’s usually where there is a risk that giving notice of an intended application will then frustrate the order being applied for, where there are concerns, significant concerns around the child’s safety, which we spoke a little bit about before. And…

where there are real concerns in some cases that the parent may even leave the country and leave the jurisdiction with the child. And that’s where we would be talking to people about, you know, if any of those factors arise in our discussions with a client, we would say, well, we need to be considering whether this application is made on a without notice basis initially. When they’re made without notice, then they can be made very quickly. So you can get those orders sometimes. In the most exceptional cases, they can even be made.

Carla (08:38.046)

Megan Edwards (08:48.486)
on the same day. If you don’t quite meet that really high threshold to have an order made on a without notice basis, it can take up to a couple of weeks to get an order in place, even where you’re marking the application as urgent, it’s just not necessarily on a without notice basis. But those orders initially would be made on an interim basis. We tend to say to clients that these types of proceedings, to get to a

Carla (08:52.048)

Carla (09:10.494)

Megan Edwards (09:17.894)
final hearing where you’re looking at an order being made final, they tend to take in the region of six to twelve months, sometimes in excess, in most complicated cases they can even take up to around the 18 month mark and it really does depend on your local family court and what their listing timeframes are like.

because it does vary from court to court around the country and the family courts have been inundated with family law applications recently. So to get to a final hearing stage is not necessarily quick, however, as I say, there are options to explore orders being made on an urgent basis and in some cases without notice.

Carla (09:59.454)
Yeah, that’s great. I mean, that’s… I didn’t realise there’s so much to it, isn’t it? I guess if you’re thinking about getting an order, the sooner, the better, really, to start the process. Even if perhaps you’re getting… You know, you’re at a point where you’re actually getting on OK, you know, if something changes, like, you know, your partner meets someone else or you meet someone else and then there’s kind of a bit of an issue there.

Megan Edwards (10:05.678)

Megan Edwards (10:10.054)
Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Carla (10:25.886)
If you’ve got the order in place at least it protects you all really doesn’t it?

Megan Edwards (10:30.246)
Absolutely and things as you say things might be amicable initially but if something changes it’s really important that people act quickly particularly in those urgent cases where there are concerns about a child’s safety whether that be a physical safety risk, an emotional safety risk or there are threats perhaps to even leave the jurisdiction because that can complicate matters.

Carla (10:52.88)

Megan Edwards (10:53.766)
when a child leaves the jurisdiction with the other parent and isn’t returned. So it really is, time is of the essence with these types of cases and I can’t stress the importance enough of securing as soon as you can really in an ideal situation some legal advice as soon as possible.

Carla (11:10.654)
Yeah, yeah. So even if it feels like everything’s going to be fine, we would advise, you know, reach out to your nearest family law solicitor. Obviously, Megan’s here as well that can support you and answer any questions. So, Megan, when it comes to, sorry, just going off on a tangent here, what you mentioned about holidays, how does that work then? Do you both have to get permission from the other person to go on holiday? How does that work?

Megan Edwards (11:29.956)

Megan Edwards (11:40.358)
So again, that depends on what orders, if any, are already in existence. If you do already have an order from the family court saying that your child is to live with you, then you have permission to leave the jurisdiction as the resident parent with your child for up to 28 days at a time without needing the permission of the other parent with parental responsibility. If there is no orders,

in existence, then it would depend on whether the other parent has parental responsibility or not. If they have parental responsibility, then yes, you would need their permission to leave the country with your child, even for say a week’s holiday. We would always advise people to try and get that in writing, because if you do leave the jurisdiction, the other parent does have parental responsibility and hasn’t given their expressed consent for that.

then you are technically committing an offence under the Child Reduction Act, which is a criminal offence. So it is really important that you are obtaining permission from the other parent where they hold parental responsibility. Where they don’t hold parental responsibility, you technically do not need their permission to go on holiday. And what I would also say is that just going back to if there is any orders in existence.

Also check whether the court did make any prohibited steps orders if you do have an order in place. Sometimes, not in all cases, but in some cases the courts may have already made a prohibited steps order limiting when parents can leave the jurisdiction. So even where you have a live with child arrangements order specifying your child lives with you, do check that there isn’t anything else that might limit you going out of the country.

and limit that 28 day general rule because sometimes that is the case. It wouldn’t hurt if you are getting independent legal advice to show a copy of any orders that the family court has made to a family solicitor and they of course will be able to help with that.

Carla (13:40.926)
Yeah, that’s really useful because in some cases and not all, some parents, if they’re going through abuse or something similar, can use that as a way to exert control over the other parent. So it’s really difficult and having those orders in place, again, it just makes you think, you know, it’s really important to get on with that as soon as possible, really. That’s brilliant. That’s been really, really helpful. Megan, would you mind just sharing a little bit more about how you can help?

Megan Edwards (13:50.756)

Megan Edwards (14:01.926)

Carla (14:10.978)
Parents, families, app family law group because you guys cover so much don’t you?

Megan Edwards (14:13.542)
Yeah, of course we do. Yeah, we do. We, so as the name suggests, we cover all matters that pertain to family law issues. So from divorce and finance matters, right through to children matters, we specialize in all things that relate to family law. We, in relation to children matters, we can assist with private…

issues when it comes down to things like living arrangements, spending time with arrangements, holidays, name changes, parental responsibility. We also specialise in matters where perhaps the local authority are involved and in the most serious of cases where the local authority have removed your children because they are concerned about your children’s safety. We can assist in all of those types of matters.

And particularly when it comes to living arrangements and contact arrangements, if you are concerned around the other parent retaining the child, there are also orders we can get in place and they are the types of orders that I’ve spoken about. The child arrangements order and prohibitive steps order, we can apply for those where there is a threat made before the retention has even taken place. So there are lots of things that we can help you with at Family Law Group and we offer free clinics in most of our offices around the country.

Carla (15:15.742)

Megan Edwards (15:33.798)
So I would really encourage people if they want some advice to reach out to us and explore whether they can book in for perhaps any of our free advice surgeries. We also offer legal aid. So if you are of limited financial means, then it would be worth exploring whether you qualify for legal aid with us. And we also will help people on a privately paying basis if they don’t qualify for legal aid.

but we’d have very competitive fees and we’re always open to discussing those with people to try and make it where possible affordable for people.

Carla (16:07.806)
That’s lovely. It’s nice to hear that you really care about these families and want the best outcome, obviously, for everybody involved, because for a lot of people, it might be the first time they’re ever going through something like this. And, you know, it’s scary, isn’t it? Change is scary.

Megan Edwards (16:12.838)

Megan Edwards (16:22.246)
It is scary. It is. And what I always say to clients is we really empathise with you at Family Law Group. We understand that there is nothing more important in this world to you than your child or children. So we are dealing with the most important thing and emotions will run high and it is very stressful and emotional, but we pride ourselves at Family Law Group in being approachable.

Carla (16:42.928)

Megan Edwards (16:51.75)
and being able to help people through what is probably going to be one of the most difficult points and times in their life. And I would just encourage people to reach out if they want to even just have a chat about the possible options. We’re always happy to help people.

Carla (17:09.31)
brilliant thank you so much Megan and what we’ll do is we’ll pop Megan’s links and family law groups links underneath this podcast so if you want to reach out directly to Megan or any of the team you can do that so thank you so much for being our guest today you were so great.

Megan Edwards (17:11.526)
You’re welcome.

Megan Edwards (17:22.534)
Thank you. No, thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Carla (17:27.036)
Thank you.

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