Obtaining Emergency Temporary Custody
A parent may seek emergency temporary custody when the other parent presents an immediate danger to a child. Substance abuse by a parent, abandonment, and other reckless or threatening behavior can constitute grounds for a court to issue an emergency custody order.
If you believe that the actions of your spouse or ex-spouse are endangering your child, what steps should you take to obtain emergency temporary custody?
Requesting Emergency Temporary Custody
To begin the process, it is important to work with an experienced divorce and family law attorney. Your lawyer will advise you on next steps to take as well as the correct court with jurisdiction over your case.
You will need to compile documentation to support your request for emergency temporary custody. Appropriate documentation may include police reports, evaluations from child psychologists and doctors, medical records, criminal records, and others.
Your attorney will assist you in completing a petition for emergency custody. In the petition, you will describe the reasons for emergency custody and backup your request with supporting documentation. Because of the urgent nature of the request, you may not be required to notify the other parent of your intent to seek temporary emergency custody.
Depending on the court where you’ll file the paperwork, you may need to send your petition by certified mail or deliver it to the court in person. After the court receives your petition, you will be notified of a hearing date; your attorney will prepare you for the hearing and will attend with you.
What Happens in an Emergency Custody Hearing?
In a hearing, your attorney will present preliminary evidence in a motion for emergency temporary custody, and a judge will address the emergency situation. The judge may give temporary full custody to only one parent based on the information and evidence presented in the hearing.
The court will not hear requests for temporary emergency custody in situations that are not truly urgent or dire situations. For example, a dispute over regular visitation would not rise to the standard of an emergency. In addition, a violation of an existing custody order typically would not be addressed through an emergency hearing.
Emergency hearings address conditions that immediately imperil the health or well-being of a child. Neglect or abuse, extreme substance abuse by the custodial parent, or a sex offender living with the family all could constitute emergency situations that would warrant a hearing for emergency temporary custody.
Emergency Temporary Custody in Massachusetts
The emergency temporary custody process is not used to change other types of custody orders in Massachusetts. If you currently have a temporary order, your attorney can assist you in filing a motion to request a change.
If you have a final order, known as a judgment, your attorney will file a Complaint for Modification with the Probate and Family Court. You will need to convince the court that the existing order no longer serves the best interests or welfare of your child.
In most states, the temporary emergency custody process is subject to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Under the law, individuals can request temporary emergency custody under certain circumstances in states that do not serve as home to the child. If the child is currently in the non-home state and the child was abandoned or needs protection, a parent can seek temporary emergency custody. Individuals also can seek temporary emergency custody if the child’s sibling or parent is abused or threatened.
However, Massachusetts uses a different law, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, which allows emergency custody only if a child was abandoned, threatened or abused. The law does not apply in cases of abuse or threats directed to the child’s sibling or parent. Your attorney can help you understand the specifics of Massachusetts laws relating to emergency temporary custody.
If you believe that your child is in danger and you need to obtain emergency temporary custody, it is vital that you work with an experienced family law attorney. To speak with an attorney in the Boston, Quincy or Needham areas, please contact Infinity Law Group.