Emergency Hearings for Child Custody Matters
Most child custody or child support-related hearings are scheduled weeks or even months in advance. Concerned parents can, however, petition the court for emergency hearings in some cases. Whether requesting this type of hearing is appropriate will depend on the specific facts of the case at hand, so if you are concerned about your child’s well-being, it is important to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer who can walk you through your options.
When are Emergency Hearings Appropriate?
Under Florida law, parents are allowed to request emergency hearings to obtain temporary custody of their children in certain situations. This option is only available, however in very limited cases, including when there is:
- An immediate and real threat of physical harm to the child; or
- A credible threat of abduction.
Recent child abuse or neglect, evidence of extreme substance abuse on the part of one parent, or one parent’s conviction of a serious or violent offense are often enough to justify an emergency hearing. It’s important to note that minor disputes about visitation don’t typically meet the threshold that is necessary for emergency relief. Similarly, finance-related matters, including child support, are rarely deemed to qualify as an emergency. In those cases, parents can still request a hearing, but will most likely be required to go through standard contempt of court proceedings.
If a matter is ruled not to be an emergency, the judge will issue an order declaring that decision. In these cases, individuals can still file their request as a regular motion and ask for a hearing date on the matter. If, on the other hand, a court grants a request for an emergency child custody hearing, a judge will be assigned to hear preliminary evidence provided by the petitioner, such as live testimony from an eyewitness, medical records, and police reports. At this hearing, the court can either deny or grant the request for relief. In some cases, this will take the form of issuing a temporary order that provides custody to one parent until the matter can be more carefully assessed. In situations involving allegations of child abuse, a judge could also order supervised visitation or order a parent to attend parenting classes. Typically, these orders will only last for a limited amount of time, either until a certain period of time has passed, or until a final order is issued in the case.
Even when temporary emergency orders are issued, they can be modified or terminated later on at trial, where the petitioner will be required to resubmit evidence, as well as any additional proof obtained since the initial hearing. The accused parent or guardian will also have the opportunity to defend him or herself at this time.
A Dedicated Florida Child Custody Attorney
If you believe that you have legitimate grounds to request an emergency child custody hearing, please call experienced child custody lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. for help deciding on your next steps. Initial consultations are offered free of charge, so please don’t hesitate to call our office at 954-945-7591 or send us an online message today.