Obtaining an Emergency Custody or Parenting Time Order When You Think Your Child is At Risk

May 18, 2017

There are a lot of instances when you want to change custody or parenting time orders on an emergency basis. I was sitting in a court that handles restraining orders, waiting with my client for my hearing to be called. I was watching all the people ahead of me talking to the judge about why they should be granted an order of protection, also known as a restraining order.

In one particular case the woman was begging the judge for a restraining order with her children on it. The reason was because the ex had just been arrested driving impaired while the children were in the car. In Arizona, that is considered a felony offense, a very serious offense.

The judge declined to issue a restraining order with the kids on it which would have prohibited the ex from having parenting time with the children. The judge felt as though the woman should have been going back to the family court judge who issued the orders on custody and parenting time. And talking to that judge about whether an emergency existed. Obviously this was very upsetting to the woman. She was distraught.

It's a lot easier in Arizona to get a restraining order very quickly as opposed to going to family court and filing a motion and then waiting months for a judge to make a decision. But I'm willing to bet, depending on your state, that there is some provision in your state laws that provide for emergencies. An emergency is something that could cause irreparable harm to you and your children. The definition may vary depending on your state or country.

So you have to research those statutes. But if your children are in a position that they are at risk of harm or death, abuse or neglect, then that is certainly an emergency. The thing to do is file an emergency petition with your court. If the family court judge determines that an emergency truly exists, then a judge will probably be able to give you relief much more quickly than a judge would give you on a normal case where an emergency doesn't exist.

Keep in mind that sometimes when a judge grants emergency relief, that relief is only temporary. The judge may grant a temporary order like the case with this woman. She'd gone to her family court judge and explained to the judge what happened in an emergency petition and the judge said yes I think there is an emergency. The judge may have put an order in effect that the ex not see the children UNTIL a full hearing was held on the issue. Until the judge had an opportunity to hear from the ex.

So, keep in mind the judge may issue an emergency order quickly but it might not be the final order. Another thing is, if there is an emergency in your case and it's the type of emergency where the police need to be called, then call the police. If you need to call the ambulance, call the ambulance. If you need to call Child Safety or the Child Protective Service Department in your area, call them. Because if your children are being placed at risk of harm by the other parent. For example if they are being abused or neglected or not being fed then you need to report that. Your failure to report that could result in Child Protective Services bringing charges against you for not protecting your children.

But in these type of cases, you need to be really careful about what you think is an emergency and what's not an emergency. Because I have a lot of people come to me and they say 'this is what's going on and I want emergency relief and in some cases I have to tell them, it's not really an emergency.

Your child has to be at risk of irreparable harm. Check your state statutes for the standards in your location because they might be different than I'm telling you. They may be more lax or they may be more serious standards. And If you are able to talk to someone in your area, pay for an attorney's time for 30 minutes to talk about what the requirements are.

If an emergency happens, take the right steps, jump through the right hoops. Don't try to go around the system or find a loophole. The other party will not take too kindly to it and probably the judge won't either.


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