Emergency Custody Order in Florida

Emergency custody orders in Florida can be granted when there’s reason to believe that a child is being abused, in imminent physical danger, or potentially at risk of being removed from the state. An experienced family law attorney can help you file a petition to have your child removed from the dangerous situation and placed in your care.

Generally, parents in Orlando, Florida, share custody of children until a divorce is finalized. Once a divorce is final, the terms of a time-sharing agreement and custody plan control which parent gets custody and when.

But in any family law case in Florida, the most important thing is the health and safety of children. So, if there’s evidence that a child is in danger, a court can step in and issue an emergency custody order.

So what qualifies as an emergency? When can a court award one parent emergency custody of a child in Orlando or Lakeland, Florida? Here’s what you need to know if you want to file a petition to gain emergency custody of your child.

How to file an emergency custody order

There are two ways to file a petition for emergency custody: ex parte or by providing notice to the other parent.

In an ex parte motion, a judge considers the petition before the parent accused of abuse or removal is notified. This is typically reserved for situations where it becomes more likely that a child will get hurt or be moved if the parent knows that emergency custody is being sought. 

Most petitions for emergency custody must be filed like all other motions with the court. The petition is filed with the court, and the other party to the family law dispute is notified of the legal action and served with copies of relevant documents.

Reasons for Emergency Custody

As a parent, you have the right to file a petition with the court seeking the removal of your child from the custody of another parent or guardian if there is reason to believe that they are in danger.

Under Florida Statute 61.534, an emergency custody order can be issued when a child is likely to:

  • Suffer serious and imminent physical harm, or
  • Be removed from the state.

In other words, you have to be reasonably certain that your child is being physically abused or will be physically abused soon or that they may be taken out of the state without consent.

You should immediately notify the police and then contact a family law and child custody lawyer if:

  • Your child is the victim of domestic violence and abuse
  • Your child has been neglected or abandoned
  • Your child is endangered because of a parent’s substance abuse problem or mental health issue, or
  • There’s been a credible threat to abduct your child and remove them from the state of Florida.
  • Your ex refuses to comply with the terms of your custody agreement, and you firmly believe your child is in danger.

Emergency Custody Hearing

Is there a hearing when an emergency custody petition is filed? Yes, but since the petition is requesting emergency relief because a child is endangered, the hearing is held after the child is removed from the potentially dangerous situation.

Typically, a judge will make a decision about emergency relief based on the facts and arguments of the petition alone. If emergency relief is granted, the petitioner (parent filing the motion) will be granted temporary custody of the child.

The judge will issue a warrant to take physical custody of the child, at which time police officers will be dispatched to the child’s location. The defendant — the parent being accused of endangering the child — must be served with a copy of the petition, warrant, and court order immediately and given the opportunity to relinquish custody of the child. If the parent refuses, the police have the authority to forcibly enter the premises and remove the child.

A hearing must be held the day after the warrant is issued or the first day that it’s possible. Holidays and weekends could potentially push a hearing out for a couple of days.

At the hearing, both parents will have the opportunity to introduce evidence, offer statements and testimony from witnesses, and argue their cases. 

An Orange County or Polk County family law judge will then determine if a more permanent change to the family’s custody agreement is warranted.

Florida Emergency Child Custody Forms

So what steps do you need to take to file for emergency custody of your child, and what forms will you need to file to get the ball rolling?

Here are the steps you need to take:

  • Contact a child custody lawyer near you in Orlando or Lakeland. A lawyer will listen to your circumstances, help you understand your rights, and help you through the process of filing an emergency petition.
  • Complete Family Law Form 19.941(d). Your attorney will know how to prepare your petition, what information you’ll need to complete it, and how to draft it so that a judge is likely to grant your request.
  • File your request for emergency custody with your local family court. A copy will be sent directly to the judge in person by email.

Once the judge receives the motion, they’ll review it and issue a judgment — typically within 24 hours.

Why should I hire a Florida family law attorney if I’m seeking emergency custody of my child?

The judge is going to make the decision to deny or grant emergency custody of a child based solely on the petition in front of them. Mistakes, omissions, or vaguely worded claims can seriously hurt the chances of gaining temporary emergency custody of your child. 

If you believe your child is in danger, you need to make sure that your petition is as strong as it can possibly be. An experienced family law attorney in our Orlando office will know precisely what the judge is looking for and how to convince them that temporary emergency relief is necessary to ensure your child’s safety and well-being.

Don’t hire just any attorney. At the O’Mara Law Group, you’ll benefit from a team with over 35 years of experience and the expertise of a Board-Certified Specialist in Marital and Family Law. We understand that sometimes circumstances in a parent’s life change and can put a child in harm’s way and that the traditional processes for requesting a post-judgment modification might not move quickly enough to keep a child safe. 

We’re here to help you remove your child from a dangerous situation and fight to change the terms of your custody agreement to ensure their well-being for years to come. Contact us at our law office in Orlando or Lakeland to begin the fight to keep your child safe.

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