Hello there. Nobody has an automatic right to a Residence Order in respect of the children. As you are aware, a Residence Order is an Order stating where the children should live. In whose care they should be.
The legislation is totally geared towards making necessary orders that are in the best interests of the children. In order to make a decision, the court needs to consider a statutory criteria that includes (i) physical, emotional and psychological needs (ii) risk of harm (iii) capability of person to provide adequate care and (iv) sex, age and characteristics of each child, amongst other things and in no particular order.
The court will appoint a Children and Families Officer (CAFCASS) to investigate. The Officer will file a report to the court making recommendations as to what order is in the child's best interests.
Nobody can guarantee that you will be awarded a Residence Order. From what you have said, if there are no concerns or allegations about your care of the children and if father has not changed, it seems that you are the better person to provide full time care for the children. However, the children need to maintain a relationship with their parents unless it is not in their best interests to do so, commonly due to risk of harm. There are cases of parents who were not good carers in the past but, who have worked hard to reform. Parents who have seen the error of their ways and over time are able to satisfy the court that they have changed and can now provide risk free care for their children. If that is the case, there are merits to father's application.
It is very difficult to give you a definitive answer without full facts. The court looks for the best person to provide full time care for the children bearing in mind the statutory criteria.
Best Regards, Harjit Sarang