What Constitutes Emergency Custody in California?

What Constitutes Emergency Custody in California?

Navigating the intricate legal landscape of child custody can be a stressful part of any divorce. In California, parents have the right to petition for an emergency custody hearing in family court under certain circumstances to protect their child from imminent harm. However, understanding what constitutes emergency custody can be complicated.

In this blog, we’ll review what an emergency custody hearing is and how to petition or prepare for one in the Golden State.

Understanding Emergency Custody Hearings

An emergency custody hearing or "ex parte" hearing is a special court proceeding designed to handle urgent issues related to child custody. Emergency custody hearings can be necessary when there's an immediate risk or danger to the child's safety or well-being. Anyone who has legal custody or claims to the child, such as parents, guardians, grandparents, or relatives, may file for emergency custody.

However, keep in mind that these hearings aren't meant to resolve regular non-emergency custody disputes, but reserved for emergency purposes only. Seeking sound counsel from an experienced lawyer with extensive knowledge of family law is imperative to ensure you have valid grounds to petition for emergency custody and fortify your claims with relevant evidence.

What Is the Purpose of an Emergency Custody Hearing?

The purpose of an emergency custody hearing is to provide immediate, temporary custody arrangements for the child when their well-being is endangered, such as in situations involving physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or exposure to dangerous environments, such as substance abuse or domestic violence. In some cases, an emergency custody hearing may also be necessary if one parent threatens to take the child out of state without permission from the other parent or court order.

Here are some legal grounds to petition for emergency custody in California:

  • Child abuse or neglect: If you suspect your child is being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused or their basic needs aren't being met, you can file for emergency custody.
  • Immediate danger: If your child is in immediate danger due to domestic violence, drug abuse, or criminal activity in the home, you may be eligible to petition for emergency custody.
  • Parental abduction: If one parent takes the child without the other parent’s consent, this may warrant an emergency custody order.
  • Parental incapacity: If a parent is unable to care for their child due to severe illness, mental health issues, or substance abuse, emergency custody may be granted to protect the child.

How Long Do Emergency Custody Hearings Take?

In California, emergency custody hearings will take place within 10 days after being granted to the petitioning parent. During the family court proceedings, the judge will hear evidence related to the emergency, appoint a guardian ad litem or child psychologist to investigate the allegations, and issue a temporary order to protect the child's safety.

How Do Courts Make Emergency Custody Decisions?

In California, family courts are obligated to prioritize the best interests of the child. The court may take numerous factors into consideration to determine whether emergency custody is in the child's best interests, such as:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s health
  • The child’s living arrangements
  • The quality of each parent-child relationship
  • Any history of child abuse or domestic violence

Importance of Hiring Skilled Representation

As a parent, you’re willing to go to any lengths to protect your child’s health and well-being. If you suspect your child is at risk due to parental abuse or other dangerous conditions, petitioning for emergency custody is essential to restore your child’s safety and prevent further harm.

Partnering with a seasoned attorney is important to follow each step of the legal process meticulously to avoid delays or denials. Your lawyer can also assist you with strengthening your case with relevant evidence, such as medical records, digital correspondence like texts and emails, reports from police or child protective services, and sworn statements.

Contact a Board-Certified Lawyer in Orange County

At Family Law San Diego, our dedicated advocates have over 200 years of combined experience and extensive knowledge of family law to prioritize your best interests. Our board-certified attorneys represent clients throughout Orange County in a wide range of family law disputes, from alternative dispute resolution to high net-worth divorces.

Our compassionate, collaborative approach empowers our clients to make fully informed decisions in life’s most challenging seasons, allowing families to turn the page and start a new chapter after tremendous financial and emotional hardships. If you’re preparing for family court in San Diego, look no further than our firm for the knowledgeable advocacy you need.

Preparing for an emergency custody hearing in Orange County? Call (619) 577-4900 to schedule a free consultation with our board-certified attorneys.