Emergency Temporary Custody in Florida

Parents who are no longer in a relationship, either in marriage or simply romantic partners, can sometimes clash over custody of their children. In a divorce, this is often the most sensitive and delicate item to be decided. Sometimes, these disagreements turn into true animosity. For that reason, parents sometimes do not let the other parent see their children or hand them over when it is their turn to have physical custody. 

When one parent flouts a court-ordered custody arrangement (also called a time-sharing agreement), it can be frustrating and heartbreaking for the other parent. Many parents in this situation want to know whether or not there is an emergency custody order that can be issued by the courts. There are temporary custody orders in Florida that are granted on an emergency basis, but they are reserved for extreme circumstances. 

Ex Parte Petitions

In normal circumstances, a change in time-sharing agreements (officially called a “modification”) is granted only after a judge is able to determine whether the current situation calls for a modification AND both parents have had an opportunity to present their side. In an emergency situation, though, this is usually not possible. Therefore, an “ex parte” petition is needed for emergency custody; that is, one party is not present. 

What Conditions Must be Met?

As we previously mentioned, disagreements between parents are not sufficient for emergency custody to be granted. Generally, courts will only grant this when there is a real, immediate threat to the health, safety, or psychological wellbeing of a child. When a judge receives a request for temporary emergency custody, the first order of business is to determine whether or not the situation qualifies as constituting an emergency. Situations that may qualify include:

  • A credible threat to imminently abduct a child and take him or her across state lines
  • Child abuse or egregious child neglect
  • The other parent engaging in substance abuse
  • Arrest of the other parent

The burden of proof is on the petitioner to prove that the situation really is an emergency. Even if the situation is an emergency but the petitioner lacks evidence, the request will likely be denied. These strict requirements are meant to safeguard against abuse of these emergency orders. Judges keep track of attorneys and their history of filing these types of petitions; if a particular attorney frequently files petitions for temporary emergency custody, the judge may not take future petitions seriously from that counsel. 

Conclusion

Emergency custody is only granted in special circumstances, and the bar to clear for petitioners is a high one. That means you need highly qualified and effective legal representation if you are seeking this type of temporary custody of your children. Our firm is prepared to act with urgency in any family law matter for you. Call us now at 305-227-4030 to get the process started.