I’m scared my co-parent won’t return our child after they spend time together. What can I do?

A Recovery Order will Order your co-parent to return the child by a certain time, and if they don’t, then the police are given authority to recover the child.


Worried your co-parent (let’s call her Sally) won’t return your child (lets call him Jonny) to you after spending time with him? Then fear not! I have some simple advice for you to put your mind at ease. 

Say you have Jonny in your care most of the time, and Jonny is to visit Sally during school holidays, and for whatever reason, you are worried Sally won’t send Jonny back when the visit is over. 

There are some simple things you can do to either avoid this, or make it easier to get Jonny back. 

  1.  Make plans and make them in writing

    Make definite plans for exactly when Jonny is visiting Sally. Agree on specific dates and times for when the changeover is to happen. 

    And most importantly, get this in writing. 

    This will show a joint intention between both of you that Jonny is meant to be returned to you and because then it gives you an exact time for Jonny to be returned, rather than being left in limbo. 

  2. Book the return trip

    It is important that the return trip is booked, because it is pretty hard to argue that you both intended for Jonny to stay with Sally and not be returned to you if you’ve booked a return flight, bus or train. 

    If Sally is being difficult, you may just need to organise the return trip yourself. Yes that sucks, but if you leave it on Sally, are you sure she is going to book that return trip? By having one in place, it is a lot harder for Sally to drag out the trip and it gives you much more certainty. Not to mention a return airfare may (will!) be a lot cheaper than solicitor fees or Court.

  3. If you do all of this, and your co-parent still withholds your child? 

    We can help you get what is called a Recovery Order.  

    The courts hate when a parent unilaterally changes a child’s living arrangements, and with a Recovery Order, you can ask a court to return a child to their normal living arrangements. 

     If you’ve done steps one and two and have an agreement to return Jonny in writing and evidence of return arrangements, then all of this should make it much simpler for you to have a Recovery Order made. 

    It will be pretty hard for Sally to argue something like you had agreed for Jonny to live with her now, or she thought that it was still their time with Jonny if there is clear hard evidence that Jonny should be back with you by now (and not just he said she said).

    Now I’ll be honest with you, it’s not something that will happen overnight, and on average can take one to two weeks (depending on the urgency and risk factors) to get into court, but this shouldn’t be overly detrimental to Jonny (this can depend on the level of risk though). 

    You may just want to keep this in mind when you’re choosing travel dates, meaning perhaps don’t have Jonny return the day before school, make it a week or two before school, so you have time to go through this process and Jonny won’t miss out on too much school (if it comes to this).

    Sometimes filing a Recovery Order can scare the other parent, and they will hand the child back. But even if they don’t, a Recovery Order will Order Sally to return Jonny by a certain time, and if they don’t, then the police are given authority to recover Jonny; don’t stress to much though because it rarely makes it to that point.

  4. Get something in place for the future

    To avoid having to go through this stress each time Jonny visits Sally, aim to enter into some sort of formal arrangement for the future.

    This can be done through reaching an agreement and detailing it in a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders, so that both you and Sally have a clear understanding about Jonny’s time with each parent.

    If Sally not willing to negotiate or speak to you about arrangements, we can help come up with options for you to get some arrangements in place.

Where to from here? 

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