Emergency changes in child custody are emergency modification petitions that are used to alter terms of custody to account for emergency circumstances –primarily to protect a child from immediate threat or danger. Every state within the United States has a legal procedure to protect children in the event that the child is being placed in harm’s way. Events that may make an emergency change in custody necessary may include: parental kidnapping, abuse of the child, neglect of the child, sudden death of a parent/ both parents, etc. The court allows for this type of hearing to take place to make sure that the children are removed from danger and are provided for until a permanent custody ruling can be established.

Jurisdiction Rules
In compliance to federal law each state must comply with the terms of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This act requires for the parents to file for custodial pleadings including emergency pleadings within the state and county in which the child has lived for the last six (6) months. However, in the event of emergency custody in a fleeing situation from danger the rules of jurisdiction may be altered. In the event that you are fleeing with the child from an alleged abuser then the new state in which the child resides obtains emergency jurisdiction and has the authority to establish a temporary custody order until a hearing and permanent order can be issued.

Emergencies Require Immediate Orders
Only emergencies of immediate danger require temporary changes of custody. County and state laws may determine whether or not you will have to physically appear in court to acquire temporary custody. In some situations a hearing may be ex-party meaning that only the filing party will be present and testify to the court to determine if an emergency change is necessary. If the court finds that the change is necessary then the court will place the child in the filing parties custody until another more permanent hearing and examination of evidence can be established. In most cases a secondary hearing is scheduled for both or either parent shortly after the emergency hearing is granted—to permit the parent(s) the ability to present their testimony to the judge.

I’m not a Parent Can I File?
Even if you are not a parent you may still file for emergency custody as long as you are an adult. If you believe that the child is being subjected to abuse or neglect by a parent then you can file a report to the county’s Department of Child and Family Services. If you desire to have the children removed from their situation DCFS may assist you in filing the correct paperwork to have the children placed in your care on a temporary basis—via a modification petition for an emergency change of custody. If you wish to pursue custody on a more permanent basis to permanently remove the children from the parents care it will be necessary to have an attorney with family law experience assist you in your case. During the time that the child is placed in temporary protective custody the court may address the other parent in fixing the home environment, addressing the emotional / physical problems, or addressing any illicit drug substance dependencies in terms of court deadlines for reform. Even in the presence of issues the courts ultimate goal is to reunify the child with the parent or parents and in a situation that is not dangerous.

Plan Ahead
In some situations an emergency custody hearing is necessitated because there is not a legal representative put in place to care for minor children if both parents are killed or unable to care for the children. In this event most states allow for parents to previously determine an emergency guardian of the children. If an emergency guardian is not previously established then an emergency hearing is necessary so that an emergency guardian can be appointed to care for the children. An emergency temporary guardian can be established until a permanent guardian can be appointed or until the parents are fit to care for the child again.

Do I Need a Family Lawyer?
Custody law is complicated especially when dealing with complex situations including emergencies. Each family law case is unique and may therefore require unique legal applications to resolve and settle the particular case—which requires a lot of family law experience. It is advisable that you seek some form of legal advice or to hire an attorney during your court case for emergency custody. Filing the correct paperwork in an emergency situation can protect a child from: physical or sexual abuse, threats of physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, protection of custody award to a convicted sex offender, and substance abuse that places the child in danger.

Filing an Emergency Custody Petition
When a modification / emergency petition for custody is filed the petition must include specific examples of the abuse or danger that is taking place in the child’s current custodial arrangement. The petition may make mention of such dangers or abuse and may also be supported through attachments of evidence. The evidence attached to the petition may include: police reports, arrest records, prior convictions, prior protection orders, records from child protective services (DCFS), medical records, dental records, psychological evaluations of children, etc. Failures to support your petition with factual evidence may result in a court dismissal and false allegations may be dismissed and punishable.

If you need assistance in filing an emergency motion for a change of custody then you can call 770-609-1247 to speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys at Coleman Legal Group LLC. Our attorneys and legal representatives have experience in family law cases and emergency motions and will be able to assist you in your case. Please contact our office for a legal consultation to begin assessing your case.