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What to do if your partner leaves you with the children

When a relationship breaks down, and there are children involved, it is not uncommon for one party to be left with the children and unsure what to do next. Some parents may feel anxious that the other parent will reappear unannounced and “reclaim” the children, particularly if it is the Father who has been left to look after them. This fact sheet sets out some of the concerns a newly single parent may have, and what options are available.

Can I look after my children by myself?

The key issue, if you are the Father of your children, is whether you have Parental Responsibility (“PR”) of your children (mothers automatically have PR). If you have PR, you are able to make decisions for your child i.e. medical care, schooling, where they live etc. It is crucial that you have this, if you are to care for your children in the long term. If you are married to the mother of your children at their birth, you will have PR of the children. If you are not married, but were present at the registration of your child’s birth, then you will also have PR.

If you’re not sure whether you have it then you can contact us at Watson Thomas Solicitors to discuss it. If you do not have it, you can make an application to the Court for it.

Can my partner take the children away from me?

If you are concerned that your partner may decide to return, and take the children from you despite your being left alone to care for them, you could consider making an application to the Court for Child Arrangements Order to confirm that the children are to live with you. There would be a Court fee of £215 for this application, and you will need to attend Court for a Hearing. Your partner should also be informed of your application unless you are concerned that the children may suffer harm if your partner is notified of your application.

Having this order in place would ensure that your partner could not reappear and challenge your right to look after the children. A Child Arrangements Order can also determine how much time the children can spend with your partner, and whether this would be overnight stays etc. As an aside, if you are successful in obtaining a Child Arrangements Order, you will automatically have Parental Responsibility.

Ideally you can decide these arrangements between you voluntarily, or through mediation, but only a Court Order will be enforceable.

Should I contact anyone?

You should inform your children’s school, and organisers of any after-school activities that the children attend, of the events so that they can keep an eye on your children during school time in case they feel any distress. This will also help in case your partner tries to collect the children from school.

Unless you are concerned about your partner’s welfare, or that of your children because of your partner’s actions, there should be no need to contact the Police or Local Authorities.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility of being a single parent, there are charities such as Only Dads and Only Mums that can help you, as well as local support groups through your GP and Citizens Advice Bureau. Please see our further information resources section which provides details of organisations who can offer support.

Watson Thomas Solicitors part of Stowe Family Law, is an established family law practice with offices in Fleet and Guildford. To book your free callback, please submit your details and we'll arrange a free, no obligation callback at a time to suit you.