What advice to offer?


I have a small childrens club and yesterday a lady came in with her two children aged 17 months and 4. Two weeks ago she arrived in France as her and her husband had planned but he got cold feet at the last minute and stayed in their old place of residence. She very bravely came by herself and has found somewhere to rent, one child in school, and looking for some form of childcare for the other. She has been to the local Maison de Enfance who will not take child two as she explained she and the childrens father had separated. I had heard it was possible to go to the gendamerie and ask for a statement declaring your separation in these cases. She fears he might come on the off chance to take the children back, therefore forcing her back. I have to add French is not a problem for this lady who although is not French speaks language fluently.

I would like to help her but need to clarify, does anybody know about the statement at the gendamerie?

Thanks Leeanne

Hi there...we moved to France in July, myself, my husband and three kids. My eldest is from my previous marriage and I had to go to my solicitor in the Uk that carried out our divorce, and have the consent order re written. I spoke at length with my ex and we agreed that this would be happening, however I did need the consent in writing and for it to be lodged and agreed with the court.

I now have the consent order and the agreement from the court (got this 3 months before leaving the UK) - that it was ok to leave the UK...

I have not yet been asked for this paperwork however I am pleased that I have it, a written and confirmed agreement covers both of us.

Verbal permissions count for nothing except when done in front of officials or law officers (magistrates, etc), so do not place too much faith in that. Country of origin is important and can work in favour. All you have said strongly suggests an Assistante Sociale irrespective of what family may have done, she may well be protected herself but there are such things as the father turning up, snatching the children then taking them home. Hard to prevent without a legal decision to their care status. Within the EU several tens of thousands of children face this kind of situation each year, in the majority of cases the parents 'recovering' them is well within their rights to do so but it is equally as often not in the children's best interests. That is paramount.

Questions to be asked are
Does she have her husband permission to take the kids to France? Have formal separation proceedings started in the UK

Does she have the ability to support herself and the kids or is she relying on maintenance?

I think she may, if she cannot demonstrate permission to have brought the kids to France and an income be in quite a difficult position. This whole situation sounds very sad and I hope it gets resolved

I am a children's rights specialist, not so far removed from protection and welfare, but I cannot say what the mother's position is as to whether she would be allowed to stay or be forced to leave.

She is the only one who can take any action, since her children are so young for one thing and because she is the only one in possession of the whole story. Firstly, she needs to see a competent social worker to exactly explain the situation. So, the Assistante Sociale for where she is living is the first port of call. It needs to be totally clear before any action can be taken because it may depend on whether there is a need for any kind of care order, custody order or whatever the nature of the appropriate measure may be. Then the Assistante Sociale can guide her to the appropriate authority. Simply going to a gendarmerie or mairie because somebody says it is possible may well be precisely the wrong step to take.

Then there are questions (which you should not divulge here, they are not relevant except for getting something done) such as where she comes from and whether any official or legal action has started there. If there is (hypothetically) evidence or knowledge of abuse then that would help her case here and it is that type of thing that counts. On the other hand, although it does not sound that way, the family is in a safe, secure and viable situation and her departure is 'inexplicable' then little will go in her favour.

Beneath all of this the emphasis must be on providing a safe and secure environment for the two young children, who are too young to be taken into account (although I would argue myself that a four year old can be perfectly well from long experience).

Anyway, take that as a starter and try to work through it from there. Sorry I cannot be any greater help, but it is difficult working in the abstract like this.