With approximately half of marriages ending in divorce, it's safe to say that child custody is a matter that many Pennsylvanians have tackled or are currently tackling. Most cases involve minor disagreements where resolution is easy, like a missed child support payment or a small visitation modification from time to time. However, in cases when a parent is concerned about the other parent's capacity to keep their children safe, things can get much more complicated. Urgent situations like this often warrant what's known as “emergency custody.”
A parent has the option of filing an emergency custody order when they feel that their child is in immediate risk of harm. To file is to essentially request for the courts to immediately intervene to place a child in either the petitioning parent's custody or someone else's custody until it is safe to lift the order. This is a process that varies from county to county in Pennsylvania, but in every case, people on either end of an emergency custody need an experienced child custody attorney.
When is it Necessary to Place a Child in Emergency Custody?
Pennsylvania's way of addressing any potential threats to a child is by means of an “Emergency Petition for Special Relief” (an emergency custody order). A complaint seeking custody is a process that usually takes months, and a permanent order may not be necessary. So, this petition is a powerful tool that allows your case to jump the line and be immediately reviewed by a judge in a hearing. Emergency custody petitions can be filed at any point of the custody process, and hearings are normally conducted within days of the filing date.
Basically, any drastic changes in a child's domestic situation that could potentially threaten his or her welfare are grounds for an emergency petition. Some circumstances in which an emergency petition has been granted are (but not limited to):
- The custodial parent is in police custody, jail, or has been imprisoned
- A child has been taken to another state or country without the permission of the other parent and/or the courts
- A child has been physically or mentally abused by the parent or anyone staying at, or with access to the home
- A child has endured an adverse change in the livability of the home (i.e. the termination of utilities, flood damage, eviction, etc.)
Mere suspicion of risk or danger isn't enough to justify an emergency custody filing. Instead, the petition must be based on facts that can be objectively proven. A parent who petitions for emergency custody without good cause is at great risk of this situation backfiring. Being the party who “cried wolf” in the eyes of the judge will not only destroy a parent's credibility, but it will be a situation that will be constantly revisited when a judge makes future custody determinations.
What Happens After an Emergency Custody Order is Granted?
Once a judge orders an emergency custody order, the child will temporarily go into designated custody. This will happen quickly - whether it be the day of the order of a few days afterwards. The child will remain in designated custody until the date of a full trial.
At a full trial, the case will be reviewed again. The petitioning parent will be responsible for presenting the issues and supporting evidence mentioned in the emergency order. The only difference is that the defending parent will have the opportunity to defend themselves. The judge will hear both sides and ultimately make the proper steps moving forward. In these cases, the temporary order is removed and replaced with a new custody order that is dependent on the findings of the full trial. As always, judges will make these decisions based on the child's best interest.
Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney Today
If you're concerned about your child's wellbeing, or you have had your child removed from your home unjustifiably, hiring an experienced child custody attorney to take over the process is a necessary move. The existence of an emergency order is a serious business that should never be taken lightly. Contact the Lento Law Firm today for a consultation at 888-535-3686.