What Happens at an Emergency Custody Hearing?

By Brenna Davis

In an emergency custody hearing, a judge hears preliminary evidence and addresses emergency situations only. She may enter a temporary order granting custody to one parent based on the facts of the emergency. State laws vary greatly with regard to the circumstances under which an emergency hearing may occur as well as the procedure for a hearing. Some states, for example, hold the hearing in front of a judicial officer; in other states, the hearing is before the judge.

Emergency Hearing Circumstances

To obtain an emergency hearing, you must file a petition with the court indicating there is an emergency issue that must be resolved. Minor disputes over visitation or child support do not typically constitute emergencies and violations of previously rendered orders are handled through contempt proceedings. Situations that endanger the welfare or health of the child are typically the only situations that warrant an emergency hearing. These situations might include child abuse or neglect, the presence of a sex offender in the home, a parent's substance abuse or a parent's complete refusal to allow the other parent to see the child.

Evidence

At the hearing, the judge will hear only evidence pertaining to the emergency. Child support, division of property and other matters are reserved for trial. The petitioner -- the person who requested the hearing -- will present evidence of danger to the child. This evidence might include sworn statements, medical records, reports from child protective services, and statements made by the child or parent. Judges are unlikely to grant temporary orders unless there is evidence of abuse. In cases where there is an allegation of abuse but no evidence, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem or child psychologist to investigate the case and make a recommendation.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Judge's Order

After hearing evidence and arguments from both sides, the judge will issue a temporary order. These orders last for a limited period of time -- either for a set number of days or until the final order is issued. The judge may issue an order immediately or wait a few days to do so. In cases of child abuse, the judge may grant limited supervised visitation to the abusive parent or may order the abusive parent to attend parenting or anger management classes.

Subsequent Trial

In most states, the temporary order itself is not used as evidence at trial. Instead, any evidence of abuse must be resubmitted. The parent accused of creating a dangerous situation can also present evidence that the problem has been resolved. For example, a drug-addicted parent may present evidence that she has attended a drug treatment program. All states use the best interests of the child as the primary factor in determining final custody arrangements, and most states have a presumption that custody by an abusive or incompetent parent is not in the child's best interest.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Prepare for a Temporary Custody Hearing

References

Related articles

Can an Open Drug Case Affect Child Custody in GA?

A parent's illegal drug use can factor into custody and visitation determinations in Georgia. The degree to which a criminal court case can negatively affect a parent's access to his or her child often depends on whether the drug case is currently open, or ongoing, and whether sufficient time has elapsed since any previous drug charges. The extent to which a parent has been cooperative in rehabilitation programs will also be an important consideration when deciding custody arrangements.

Kentucky State Child Custody Guidelines

For divorcing couples with minor children, determining custody can be a major source of conflict. In Kentucky, state law places the interests of the child above the wishes of the parents, and a court must consider several factors in crafting all custody orders. Once in place, a parent can petition the court for a modification of the custody order in limited circumstances.

The Best Interest of Children in a Custody Evaluation

Understanding the needs of a child is a crucial component to making an informed custody decision. Custody matters are governed by state law; however, every state requires courts to promote the best interests of the child. When parents can work together, a judge is generally inclined to conclude that the parents' agreed upon parenting proposal serves the best interests of the child. If parents cannot agree, the court must make its own determination. In these instances, neutral custody evaluations are often used to provide judges with an opinion from a qualified professional as to what arrangement promotes the best interests of the child.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Non-Custodial Visitation Rights in Massachusetts

Parents filing for visitation are often faced with a dizzying array of pleadings they must file and evidence they must ...

Child Custody & Drug Testing

Custody battles can get heated and, as a parent, you may feel tempted to do anything that would win you more time with ...

How to Prove a Parent Unfit in Child Custody Cases

Judges view parental fitness as an integral part of a child custody decision. Determining what is in the best interests ...

How to Get Sole Custody When Your Ex Is an Alcoholic

Keeping a child out of harm's way is a parent's No. 1 priority. In cases of shared custody, the addictive behavior of ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED