Child custody hearings can be a gruelingly slow process. But sometimes, there may be justification to file for an emergency hearing if there's reason to believe the child may be in danger.
Emergency relief is fairly rare and the reason for the relief must be a really good one because it deprives the opposing party of their rights. As such, you must be able to show that the child is in imminent danger from an immediate threat of irreparable harm or injury and that the child's right not to be threatened in that way outweighs the parent's rights.
Emergency relief shouldn't be used for minor disputes over existing custody arrangements. It's intended for circumstances in which the child is in jeopardy or danger. What constitutes a legitimate reason for an emergency hearing varies from state to state, but is usually very strict. In Florida, these reasons include (but are not limited to) things like recent evidence of child abuse or neglect or threats of the same, abandonment of the children and substance abuse.
How to Get an Emergency Hearing
In order to get emergency relief, someone has to petition the court for a hearing. Most often, the other parent does this, but other family members may be allowed to file in some circumstances. To know for sure, you'd have to discuss it with an attorney. If you're the child's father, but haven't established paternity, you'll also want to contact an attorney immediately. In general, we recommend using an attorney for these petitions regardless because the point is the welfare of your children, so a lawyer gives you the best chance.
What you should not do unless the child is in immediate life-threatening danger is simply take the child or you may find yourself in hot water too. If you do feel you need to take the child, it's recommended that you contact the police for assistance rather than putting yourself or your children in more danger. Even if they determine the threat isn't as immediate as you believe it to be, you'll at least have a police report.
What Happens at a Hearing
An emergency hearing for temporary relief of an immediate problem. The court will not hear all custody-related matters. Instead, your lawyer will present your evidence that the other parent is putting the child in danger. Evidence may include police reports or reports from child protective services, medical records (for the child or the accused parent), testimony from witnesses and anything else your lawyer believes prove your case. The court may also request a more thorough investigation by having psychologists or other experts interview or examine the child and make recommendations. Every case is unique.
Rulings and Temporary Orders
When all the evidence has been presented, the court may issue a temporary order pending a full trial if it's in the best interest of the child. That order's contents will depend on the situation. It may include transferring custody to another parent or family member, ordering parenting classes or anger management and whatever else the judge thinks is relevant. Note that this ruling is temporary. That doesn't mean you'll lose custody, only that the court may later determine the threat no longer exists. The offending spouse may even be given visitation during the temporary order depending on the nature of the allegations.
What to Expect at the Full Trial
Once the full trial occurs, the temporary order will be terminated, changed or modified in accordance with the court's decision. For example, if you obtained temporary sole custody due to your ex-spouse's drug habit and your ex can provide compelling evidence that they've received treatment and are now clean, the judge may allow joint custody or visitation rights. Remember that in the state of Florida (and any other state for that matter), what's in the best interest of the child is what's at issue when the decision is made. Unless doing so would pose a serious danger, it's typically considered to be in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both parents.
How to Know If an Emergency Hearing is the Right Move
Simply put, contact a family law attorney. As we mentioned, emergency relief is rare and it's best to have an expert on your side if you truly believe your child is in danger. If that's the case, contact the Kissimmee, Florida child custody lawyers at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.