How To Get Emergency Custody Of Children

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Emergency custody of children is often sought if one parent becomes abusive and presents imminent harm or threat to the child. Other instances include child abandonment or parental substance abuse that puts the child in danger. It is only granted in exigent circumstances, so unless the threat of harm is serious, parents should not attempt to seek emergency custody.

Step One: Figure Out Who To Call

If you become aware of a serious and immediate threat to the child coming from a parent, you need to consult with the family court in your state. Different states, counties and municipalities have different rules regarding which court handles family law issues, so you will need to call the clerk of courts to determine the court with jurisdiction over child custody issues.

Step Two: Gather Documentation

Once you know who you need to call, you need to gather the appropriate documentation to support your emergency custody claim. Documents include medical records, police reports, records of abuse, protection order proceedings, Child Protective Services records, child psychiatrist evaluations, prior parental convictions such as sex offenses or violent crime charges and any other relevant proof.

Step Three: Fill Out and File The Petition

Because of the exigent circumstances of an emergency custody request, it is deemed “ex parte,” meaning that you do not have to notify the potentially abusive parent that you are seeking emergency custody.

The petition will ask for identifying information for yourself and your child as well as detailed description of why you are seeking emergency custody. It is best if you tell only the truth in this description. Back up everything with supporting data and documentation. You may need to file and make copies of the documents themselves to send with the form, or you may simply need to bring the documents to the court hearing.

Petitions may generally be filed either by certified mail or in person to the proper court. Call your local family court clerk and ask for the address of the court that handles emergency custody requests as well as any other methods for filing your petition.

Once the court has received your petition, you will receive a date for a court hearing. Attend your court hearing with all the appropriate documentation.

Keep in mind that an emergency custody order is only temporary. Once you’ve achieved it, you need to go through the process of filing for a permanent custody change.

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