What is an emergency custody (temporary) order?

An emergency custody order would put an order in place immediately without providing notice to the other party. The most common types of emergency orders deal with minor children.

How do I get an emergency custody order for my child?

First, you must make sure you file an underlying petition. For example, the petition may be for a divorce, establishment, or modification. You can file the petition simultaneously with your emergency motion.

Your emergency motion will be the document that will get you the temporary order. You will need to include in your emergency motion what the emergency is and why the judge should sign it without notifying the opposing party.

If the emergency motion is for a minor child, it is necessary that you state in your motion why the child is in immediate danger and harm and that if the opposing party is provided with notice, the child could be harmed.

What types of things would the court consider as “immediate danger and harm?”

Keep in mind that this will be a discretionary decision for the judge. There is no law that states what counts as danger or harm. Usually, judges will find that significant drug and alcohol abuse may cause harm or danger. Additionally, the judge may think there is danger or harm if the child is being physically abused. Usually, emotional abuse will not count.

What should I bring to show the judge there is immediate harm or danger to my child?

Evidence is going to be the most important factor in the judge’s decision whether to grant you the emergency order. If you have no proof, you will not get an emergency order. Have reports, photos, text messages, or anything else that relates to the situation.

After I have drafted my petition and motion and gathered all my evidence, what do I do with it?

You will need to go to one of the Superior Courthouses. Once there, go to the clerk’s counter and file the documents. Make sure you bring originals of the documents and a few copies. The clerk will stamp your documents, file the original, and give you your copies back. The judge will then send you to an office-like room. You will hand a copy of your filed documents to the person working in the office. They will then tell you where to go.

Usually, you will be directed to a courtroom and told to sit outside of the room. Sometimes you could be sitting for hours. It will depend on the judge’s availability. One of the judge’s assistants will come out of the judge’s chambers to pick up your documents. You then wait until the assistant returns. He or she will let you know if the judge signed your emergency order and what will need to happen next.

The judge granted my emergency order. Now what?

The order goes into effect immediately. You will also be given a document with your upcoming hearing date. The order will only be in place till that hearing date. At that time the opposing party is given an opportunity to defend him or herself. You must make sure that you serve the new emergency order and the order to appear for the hearing date to the opposing party. You then should make sure you are prepared to testify and present evidence at your hearing, which could be in less than two weeks.