Home » Blog » How to Get Emergency Custody in Florida and What to Watch Out For
How to Get Emergency Custody in Florida and What to Watch Out For
Judges in Florida make child custody decisions on what is in the child’s best interest. In some cases, it might be necessary for the court to grant emergency temporary custody to protect a child. Filing for emergency custody in Florida begins by calling an experienced Orlando child custody lawyer.
Florida Emergency Motions for Custody
Florida Statute §61.517 gives the courts temporary emergency jurisdiction of a child present in the state if the child:
Has been abandoned
Is subjected to or threatened with abuse or mistreatment
A parent of the child or sibling has been threatened with abuse or mistreatment (domestic violence)
A judge can issue an emergency custody order in Florida to protect the child. There are two ways that you can obtain an emergency child custody order.
Florida Ex-Parte Motions for Emergency Custody
Motions filed with the family court are typically served on the other party after filing. The party has an opportunity to respond before a hearing.
However, an ex-parte motion is an emergency motion sent directly to the judge after filing. “Ex-parte” means one party. In a family court action, it means that the judge can rule on a motion without waiting for the other side to respond.
Typically, judges only grant ex-parte emergency custody motions when there is credible evidence that:
The child is about to be abducted and removed from the state;
There is a high likelihood that the child would be removed from the state if the parent found out about the motion; or,
The child is in danger of immediate physical harm.
Ex-parte orders are rare. Judges reserve ex-parte motions for the most serious cases. They deprive the other party of being heard, and the judge must make a decision based on evidence from one side.
File a Regular Motion for Emergency Custody
If the facts do not support an ex-parte order or the judge denies the request, you can file a regular motion for emergency custody in Florida. The motion would have to be served on the other parent. The parent has the opportunity to respond to the motion, appear at a hearing, and offer evidence in defense of the allegations in the motion.
What Do You Need to Know About an Emergency Motion for Child Custody in Florida?
A judge generally makes emergency custody decisions based on the pleadings filed with the court. The judge might not hear oral testimony from the parties.
Therefore, the motion for emergency custody needs to be thorough and compelling. The motion must contain sufficient evidence of the allegations to convince the judge to grant emergency custody.
Reasons why a parent or guardian petitions for emergency custody in Florida include:
Severe child neglect
Evidence of recent child abuse
A parent’s severe substance abuse
Threats of harm to the child
Risk of child being removed from Florida
Allegations of sexual abuse
An experienced child custody lawyer understands how to write a motion that includes the important facts the judge needs to know about the case. Furthermore, an attorney understands what situations justify an ex-parte motion versus a regular emergency motion.
What to Expect After an Emergency Child Custody Hearing in Orlando?
When a judge orders temporary emergency custody, the court schedules a hearing. The temporary custody order remains in place until the final hearing.
The parties have time to build a case supporting their allegations. Evidence could include, but is not limited to:
Testimony from the parents
Opinions from expert witnesses
School and medical records
Testimony from teachers, coaches, and other adults in the child’s life
Police reports of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect
Reports from Social Services
Recommendations from a guardian ad litem or custody evaluator
At the final hearing, the parties present their case. The judge might leave custody as it is, or the judge could change custody.
After a final custody hearing, the custody order remains in effect until the court modifies it or the child is emancipated. If you need to change an existing custody order, you can petition for a modification of child custody. An attorney can review your case and advise you of your options.
How Do Judges Decide Child Custody Cases in Florida?
The overriding concern for judges when deciding custody cases is the best interest of the child. The judge might consider a parent or child’s wishes. However, the child’s best interest guides all custody decisions.
Florida statute §61.13(3) lists the factors affecting a child’s welfare and interests that judges should consider in custody cases. Those factors include, but are not limited to:
The physical and mental health of the parents, including the parent’s moral fitness
The time the child has spent in a satisfactory, stable environment
The capacity of each parent to honor visitation schedules and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent
The reasonable preferences of the child
The geographic feasibility of the parenting plan
Each parent’s capacity to care for the child’s needs
The child’s school, community, and home record
The capacity of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child and be informed of the circumstances impacting the child
Evidence of child abuse, domestic violence, child neglect, sexual violence, or child abandonment
A judge can consider any evidence they deem relevant to the custody case. You might be required to complete a psychological custody evaluation as part of the custody case. If your ex-partner alleges substance abuse, you might be subject to drug and/or alcohol tests.
Negotiating a parenting plan is often in the best interest of the entire family. However, that might not be possible if your child is in danger or your ex-partner is fighting custody because of revenge or to gain an advantage in a divorce action.
What Should I Do if My Child Is in Danger?
It is terrifying when your child is in danger. Call 911 if you believe your child is in imminent threat of harm. Then, contact an Orlando child custody lawyer as soon as possible to discuss petitioning for emergency custody.