If you have been following our blog, you know that there are many reasons to modify a custody agreement: a job change, an increase in financial obligations or changes in the health of a family member. Typically, the court will amend custody agreements if changes have occurred that are considered substantial, permanent and unanticipated.

But what if the change to custody needed to be implemented immediately? In situations where the child’s health and safety are in immediate danger, it is possible to obtain an emergency custody order. Here are some facts you should know before you begin the process to acquire this document:

1. What is an emergency custody order?

Parents apply to receive emergency custody when they feel their child’s well-being is at risk. Scenarios that would qualify for a temporary shift in custody include a recent episode of child abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, child neglect or the presence of a sex offender in the home. Disagreements over child support or visitation rights do not qualify as exigent circumstances.

2. How do I obtain the order?

Typically, the concerned parent files a petition with the local court. In situations where parents reside in different counties, the court of county in which the child primarily lives would process the petition for emergency custody.

Upon obtaining a hearing, parents present evidence establishing the need the for shift in custody. The type of evidence provided may include medical records, witness testimony or files from child services. Additionally, the parent requesting the hearing may include information that supports his contention that his supervision would better support the health of child. References to conflicts unrelated to the urgent circumstances are not considered at this time.

3. What is the long-term impact of this order?

If the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child for the alteration in the custody agreement, a temporary custody order will be put into effect. The duration of this order depends on the emergency that warranted the hearing. At a later point in time, the outcome of a trial will determine if the custody change will remain permanent.

As with many legal issues, the process of obtaining an emergency custody order can be complicated. It is recommended that concerned parents speak with a knowledgeable attorney if they feel their immediate circumstances require obtaining this decree.