All states have laws that protect children from trouble. Emergency child custody is a type of child custody arrangement that is granted in certain emergency situations where a child is in danger. In those instances, courts can step in and issue temporary custody orders to ensure that someone else takes care of the child and the child is safe. These are known as temporary guardianship, in which a non-parent is granted custody of a child for a short period of time until it is safe for the child to return home.

Why Place a Child in Emergency Custody?

There are a number of reasons a child may be placed in emergency custody, but it is typically granted in extremely urgent cases. The general rule is that a child can be placed in emergency custody if she is in immediate danger and needs protection. Below are some examples, not a complete list, of circumstances that necessitate emergency child custody:

  • Allegations of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse;
  • Threats made by parent to child;
  • Abandonment of the child;
  • Neglect;
  • Allegations of substance abuse which puts the child in danger;
  • The child is at risk of being kidnapped; and/or
  • Both parents die or are suddenly incapacitated.

How Can I File for Emergency Custody?

If a child is in immediate danger or harm and you believe she needs to be physically removed from her situation, you can seek an order for child custody. Each state is different, but generally, you need to fill out the appropriate paperwork for emergency child custody. Your paperwork should include specific examples of abuse, threats, or alternate reasons for requesting emergency custody. Police reports, records of previous convictions, and records from child protection services agencies are good examples of evidence that are considered by judges or judicial officers when considering granting temporary child custody.
Follow your court’s local rules when asking for emergency child custody. Typically, you need to inform the court that you have informed the parents from whom you seek temporary custody about your request. Finally, file the appropriate paperwork with the court clerk’s office and you may have to pay a filing fee.

How is Emergency Custody Granted?

Emergency custody is granted by either a judge or judicial officer in a hearing. The judge hears preliminary evidence of child endangerment and addresses the emergency situation. She can enter a temporary order granting relatives, grandparents, foster parents, step-parents, or other persons who are qualified to hold third party custody rights. These parties typically hold temporary custody rights, but may be granted permanent guardianship if agreed upon.

Where Does the Child Go After Emergency Custody?

If a police officer takes a child into emergency custody, the child may be seen by medical professionals to assess any physical or emotional harm. The child may even be seen by a behavioral treatment facility for evaluation.
If the court determines there is no immediate threat of abuse or neglect, the child can be returned to her home after being placed in emergency custody. If the child’s home is still unsafe, the child can go to an emergency guardian, designated by a parent, after being placed in emergency custody.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me File for Emergency Child Custody?

Emergency or temporary custody orders often require immediate action and attention. You may need to hire a child custody attorney if you need prompt assistance regarding child custody issues. Your attorney near you can advise you on how the custody process works, and can also help you resolve any issues that might arise during the legal process.