How And When To Obtain Emergency Child Custody And Visitation Orders

how and when to obtain emergency child custody and visitation

Child custody and visitation orders are legal documents that stand strong in the eyes of the family law court. That said, there are situations when parents or potential legal guardians can apply for and obtain emergency child custody and visitation orders.  

Legally and technically speaking, it is illegal to violate the court’s child custody and visitation orders unless and until a judge has ordered otherwise. Of course, if a child’s physical and/or emotional wellbeing is seriously in jeopardy, California family law courts often make exceptions while the case is moving through the courts.  

If you are concerned that the custodial parent is jeopardizing the child’s safety or wellbeing, or is a threat to him/herself and others, contact a local family law attorney ASAP to learn more about your options and to create a plan of action. 

Grounds For Obtaining Emergency Child Custody And Visitation Orders 

Domestic abuse 

If your child expresses the s/he has witnessed or overheard domestic abuse in the form of physical or verbal/emotional abuse, you can apply for an emergency order. This includes both scenarios where a custodial parent is either the abuser OR the abused. 

In either case, the court will be inclined to suspend unsupervised visitation or child custody in an abusive household while social workers assess the situation and render their observations and conclusions. In the meantime, if the child desires it, the courts may require supervised visitations with the co-parent, with which you must legally comply. 

The child is a victim of abuse or their custodial parent is charged with abuse 

If a child reports any type of abuse – physical, sexual, verbal – in the custodial household, it is grounds for getting an emergency child custody and visitation order. If the perpetrator is the parent, the child is typically removed until the investigation is complete. If the offender is someone other than the parent, the courts might agree to remove the child from that household until they have done further research, but they might not if the custodial parent is 100% cooperative and agrees to protect the child from further contact with the suspected perpetrator. 

For example, in cases where the reported abuse wasn’t done by the custodial parent, the courts may not grant the emergency order if the custodial parent agrees to remove the potential offender out of the house or to prevent the child from coming in contact with the suspected offender (such as a neighbor, relative, or babysitter). In this case, the parent’s word might be enough and the court will follow through on the case.  

If the suspected perpetrator is not a member of the household, and the child expresses that s/he feels safe with the parent as long as s/he’s kept away from the suspected abuser, the courts will probably uphold the current custody/visitation order with specific promises on the custodial parent’s behalf. 

A parent threatens to take a child away or withhold visitation 

As mentioned above, the standing court order is always the “legally binding agreement” between parents and the courts. If, however, a parent threatens to take a child away, to not return a child on the date specified, or to remove the child across state lines without your consent, you can apply for an emergency order. 

As always, this is to protect the child but not to support tension or animosity between exes. So, if the child’s custodial parent wants to take the child across the state/country borders to visit family or for normal vacation, it’s typically best for you to agree. And, your application to the court may backfire on you if the judge feels it had more to do with your ex than supporting your child’s health and safety. It is only when evidence looks like a parent is trying to take a child away or play manipulative games that the court would issue the emergency order. 

One parent is refusing to agree to a necessary medical procedure 

If your child requires a necessary medical procedure and one parent won’t agree (typically out of fear of the results), the courts may grant a temporary, emergency legal child custody agreement. This allows the parent supporting the medical procedure to make the decisions in the best interest of the child. In that case, California courts call in social workers and legal professionals who analyze all of the information, including medical records and the doctors’ input/recommendations, to form an opinion that is shared with the court.  

Co-parenting during COVID-19 sheltering-in-place may be grounds for emergency child custody and visitation orders

Most recently, we have had calls from parents who are afraid their co-parent is not following COVID-19 social distancing and is putting their child at risk for contracting the virus. This is newly chartered terrain, but there may be grounds for obtaining an emergency child custody or visitation order in this case. The cases moving through the courts today will help to set the stage for future years if/when we’ll need to shelter in place to avoid the spread of an epidemic. Again, consulting with a family law professional is your best resource. 

We’re Here To Help You When You Need It

Do you need swift support and counsel to move forward with the application for an emergency child custody or visitation order? Contact us here at the Law Office of Gerald A. Falzone and we’ll do whatever we can to facilitate your case as swiftly as possible.