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Lauren Branning (played by Jacqueline Jossa) was last seen in EastEnders in 2018 when she decided to emigrate to New Zealand in the aftermath of Abi Branning’s (Lorna Fitzgerald) death. However, Max Branning’s (Jake Wood) estranged daughter could be set to return to the Square after discovering some alarming news about her niece from ex-boyfriend Peter Beale (Dayle Hudson).
Lauren and Max have shared a bumpy relationship ever since she exposed his affair to Stacey Fowler (Lacey Turner) with a video tape recording during the iconic Christmas 2007 episode.
Their relationship worsened over the years and Max’s confrontation with Jack Branning (Scott Maslen) at the Queen Vic boat party proved it hadn’t got any better.
The lothario discovered his daughter had been contacting her uncle instead of him as she dealt with the break-up of her relationship to Peter.
Lauren was originally played by Madeline Duggan who played the role for four years until she left in 2010.
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Three months later the role was recast with Jacqueline who burst onto the scene and quickly became a fan favourite.
After falling pregnant with his child, Lauren and Peter left the Square in 2015 after learning Bobby Beale (Clay Milner-Russell) was Lucy Beale’s (Hetti Bywater) killer.
She then reappeared in 2016 but this time she had Ian Beale’s (Adam Woodyatt) other son, Steve Beale (Aaron Sidwell) in tow.
Their relationship shocked Walford residents but the couple soon settled into life on the Square.
However, Steven’s jealousy led to a fling with Abi and resulted in her becoming pregnant.
Tragically, Lauren and Abi fell from the roof of the Queen Vic alongside Max as they tried to save their father from taking his own life.
Abi didn’t survive the fall but doctors were able to deliver her baby girl before turning off her life support.
Max sweetly named his granddaughter after his daughter and was later granted custody of her with his new wife and Abi’s auntie, Rainie Branning (Tanya Cross).
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However, in recent scenes, Rainie revealed she wanted a divorce from Max and planned to marry Stuart Highway (Ricky Champ).
If Max and Rainie failed to agree on a custody arrangement, the pair could make an application to the courts to determine the arrangements.
In this eventuality, there are many concerned parties who could come forward and make a claim to raise baby Abi.
EastEnders fans have watched Peter reveal how much he misses his son Louie and could get in contact with Lauren to suggest they raise Abi.
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Lauren has rarely seen eye-to-eye with Max and may well believe she could offer a better life for her niece than her father could.
Express.co.uk spoke to Sarah Jane Lenihan, partner at Stowe Family Law to find out whether the couple would have a chance at getting custody of Abi.
She said: “My advice would be that they would need permission of the court but if they were being considered as a couple and their relationship was stable this may improve their position than a single dad in the event the court felt that neither Max nor Rainie could meet Abi’s needs.”
Could Lauren betray her father and request custody of Abi in an explosive return storyline?
EastEnders is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
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