What Happens at an Emergency Custody Hearing?


When couples with children divorce, the judge files an order placing custody of the children with one parent. In situations where the custodial parent is placing the safety of the children at risk, the non-custodial parent has the right to file an emergency custody petition. Once this has been done, the family court judge is responsible for deciding where the children will be the safest.

After the Custody Petition is Filed

  • After you have learned of circumstances in your former spouse's home that might be endangering your children, talk to a family law attorney. He can tell you what your rights are and what you can do to change custody from your former spouse to you. He will help you file a petition for temporary emergency custody, which enables you to take physical custody of your children away from your former spouse, states lawyers.com.

Determination of Emergency

  • Some conditions in the custodial home might pose a risk of physical or emotional harm to your children. These include, but are not limited to, threats of mistreatment or abuse; physical custody of your children being awarded to a convicted sex offender; allegations of sexual abuse; and risk of neglect or abuse arising from the custodial parent's alcohol or substance abuse or child abandonment. If only one child has been abused, the family court judge might order that you receive custody of the children on an emergency basis. What family courts consider to be an emergency can differ from one jurisdiction or state to the next. Some jurisdictions view emergency situations more broadly, covering more situations than other jurisdictions.

Types of Evidence Required for Emergency Petition

  • Your lawyer should request specific documents and examples of abuse or situations that put your children at risk. Your request for an emergency custody petition must arise out of a situation where your children are truly at risk of harm, rather than from a desire to harm your former spouse. The types of evidence your lawyer will ask for might include medical and dental records, police reports or arrest records regarding your former spouse, reports from your child's psychologist or psychological evaluations, proof of prior convictions of your former spouse, reports from Child Protective Services social workers and the results of past protection order hearings. It is not enough to tell your lawyer or the judge that you are seeing emergency custody because the children are in danger -- if you do not have proof, you make it difficult for the judge to issue an emergency custody order, says the Mr. Custody Coach website.

Judge's Decision

  • If you and your lawyer are successful in obtaining an emergency custody order, this order is only temporary. You are responsible for filing future petitions and requesting future court hearings to make the custody order permanent. The court that holds "original jurisdiction" over your custody case is the court that legally extends the custody order. Until the court issues a permanent custody order, the temporary order remains in effect, but this time frame is limited, making it important for you to continue your efforts as soon as you get the emergency custody order.


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