Cases concerning children are some of the most difficult that come into family court. Deciding child custody issues can be a heartbreakingly slow process, but in some circumstances, there simply isn't time to wait for the full resolution of your case. If the safety and well-being of a child is at stake, there may be justification to file for an emergency hearing.
While emergency relief is fairly rare, if you have good reason to believe that your child is in imminent danger it may be necessary to seek emergency relief from the court. The reason for the hearing must be a clear, provable danger to the child-- since emergency hearings may deprive the opposing party of their right to see the child, courts only grant emergency relief if a high standard is met. 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 should not be sought 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 do I get an emergency hearing?
In order to get emergency relief, a party must first 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. If you're the child's father, but have not yet established paternity, you'll also want to contact an attorney immediately to ensure that your rights to your child are recognized and preserved.
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.
Rulings and Temporary Orders
At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence, 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.
How to Know If an Emergency Hearing is the Right Move
If you're facing an emergency issue with your child, contact an experienced family law attorney. While emergency relief is rare, it sometimes is the only option to insure the safety of your child. Contact the lawyers of the Bulger Firm at 904-608-3694 for immediate assistance with your case.