With nearly half of marriages ending in divorce, there are a lot of custody disagreements in the United States. Once custody orders are set in place, there are occasionally issues ranging from mild (such as a missed child support payment or visitation disagreements) to extremely serious. Sometimes, one parent becomes concerned that the child’s health and welfare are at risk when they are visiting the other parent. If you suspect that your child’s life or health is at risk, it could be grounds for an emergency custody hearing.
What Is an Emergency Custody Order?
In order to obtain an emergency custody order, you must attend an emergency custody hearing. The issues heard at this hearing are only those that are of urgent nature. In order to have a hearing, the parent must petition the court for the hearing and desired relief, including emergency custody changes.
During the hearing, the judge will only discuss the emergency issue. Any other custody or parental issues must wait until your designated court date. At the emergency hearing, the judge will review the evidence and make a decision regarding custody. If the judge decides to change custody, he or she will issue a temporary order of custody. This could mean that one parent will have full custody of the child for a period of time. Keep in mind that this isn’t a permanent situation. The judge provides the order to get the child to safety until the next step in the process can occur.
What Qualifies as Imminent Danger and Harm?
Each state has different statutes regarding what qualifies as imminent danger and harm when it comes to children. In general, anything that has to do with sexual or physical abuse, neglect of a child’s needs, substance abuse in front of the children, or any direct threats to a child constitute an immediate danger. But you can’t just say that one or more of these issues exist; you must be able to prove them.
The proof you provide could be the factor that makes or breaks your request for an emergency custody order. Live witnesses, photos, text messages, or police reports can serve as evidence of the issues occurring.
What Should I Do If I Think My Child Is in Danger?
If you think your child is in danger, you’ll need proof. If every ex-spouse were able to go into court and claim their children were in danger, the courts would be flooded with cases. While it seems painful and unfair, you need solid proof of what your child is enduring.
Do what you can to keep your child safe while gathering the proof of the danger they are in when with their other parent. Any irrefutable proof that you can provide will help your case the most. Can you get pictures of what is occurring? Is there anyone else there that can document what occurs? Save all communication that you have (via email or text) with your ex. If an incident such as physical abuse occurs, take your child to a doctor and file a police report for further proof.
If you have a legal custody arrangement and it’s your ex-spouse’s turn to visit with your child, you could be held in contempt if you don’t follow the arrangement. Rather than risking your child’s well-being, though, consider asking your child’s grandparents or another friend to be present while your child visits. If you have an amicable relationship with your ex, see if you can talk it out. Discuss the dangers that worry you and ask your ex to refrain from such behavior while the children are in his or her presence. If you and your ex work well with a mediator, consider bringing one in again to resolve the issues that you face now.
What Should I Not Do?
First, don’t wait. If you think something is wrong and putting your child’s welfare in danger, file the emergency custody order right away. If you wait, you could put yourself in a sticky situation right alongside your child. The judge will want to know why you waited and may not consider the issue an emergency any longer.
Don’t try to do it on your own. You are already under a lot of stress. You want to protect your child, but you still need to follow the law. You need law professionals on your side that can help you stay organized and do what the law dictates. If you don’t have proper proof of the emergency, you don’t file the proper paperwork, or you withhold your child from the other parent, it can lead to other legal troubles.
What Happens After an Emergency Order Is in Effect?
After a judge orders an emergency custody order, the child goes into the designated custody. This could happen on the day the court hears the case or within a few days afterward. The order is only good for a specific amount of time, which could be a few days to a few months, depending on the date of the full trial.
At the full trial, the case is reviewed again. The parent that sought the emergency custody order must present the issues and evidence once again. This time, the defending parent has a chance to provide his/her own proof and have a say in the case. This time the judge will review both sides and decide the proper steps to take moving forward.
At the full trial, the temporary order may be removed. It’s often replaced with a new custody order depending on the findings of the issue during the full trial. Typically, judges look at what is best for the child’s interests given the circumstances provided at the latest hearing.
Filing an emergency custody order is serious business. Judges don’t take these orders lightly, so make sure you have adequate proof and the right assistance to get your order approved. The justice system wants what is best for everyone involved and being honest, timely, and efficient is the only way to make this happen. Contact National Family Solutions to learn more about how we can help you file an emergency custody order and protect your child.