A California emergency child custody order is an ex parte order.  This means it is issued in the absence of the other parent.  This is because it is an emergency hearing and order based on evidence that a child is at immediate risk of danger or abduction.

Emergency child custody orders are not permanent custody orders.  Instead, they are temporary child custody orders.  They are limited to those situations that cannot wait for the next available hearing date on the court’s regular calendar. 

These hearings must prove a true legal emergency exists such that the court is justified in foregoing the usual notice requirements afforded the other party and giving the other party an opportunity to file a response to your request for an immediate change in child custody.

What to Do if You Think Your Child is in Immediate Danger 

If a parent has reason to believe their child is in immediate danger, there are two options readily available to that parent.  These include: 

  1. Trying to reason with the child’s other parent.  Try to appeal to the other parent and ask for a temporary, informal change in the parenting plan until the situation resolves; or
  2. Petition the court for an ex parte emergency order, granting a temporary change in custody.  

A temporary change in custody is a short-term solution but can have an impact on a long-term final order. 

Situations that Constitute an Emergency Change in Child Custody

Only those situations that endanger the welfare or health of a child warrant an emergency child custody hearing in California.  These include the following:

  • A parent’s arrest for drug use, drunk driving, or another serious crime;
  • Allegations that the other parent is suffering from a physical or mental illness that could endanger the child’s safety;
  • Indications that there is domestic violence in the other parent’s household;
  • Allegations that the child is the victim of sexual abuse;
  • Allegations that the child is being physically abused or neglected; and
  • Indications that there is a sex offender in the other parent’s home.

A parent must prove one of the above situations exists to effect a temporary child custody change.  

How to Get an Emergency Child Custody Order in California 

At the emergency child custody hearing, the requesting party has to prove the child involved could be immediately harmed or removed from the state without issuing emergency court orders.  The judge will only hear evidence regarding the potential immediate harm or removal of the child from the state.  No other evidence is allowed at the hearing.

At the hearing, the court may do any, or none, of the following: 

  • Hear evidence on the emergency situation;
  • Appoint a guardian ad litem, child psychologist, or minor’s counsel to investigate; and
  • Issue a temporary order.

If emergency orders are made, they remain in effect until the next hearing.  Both parties may present evidence at the next hearing, which occurs within twenty days.  At this hearing, any temporary orders may be terminated, modified, or extended. 

An Experienced Attorney Can Help You 

If you think your child’s welfare is in danger, act immediately and with the help of an experienced child custody attorney like those at Fernandez & Karney.  The Los Angeles family law attorneys at Fernandez & Karney can ensure your emergency custody case is complete and carried out as dictated by California law, not leaving any details to chance that could further endanger your child’s welfare.

Contact Fernandez & Karney today and schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your child custody issues.  We want to help you achieve the best possible relationship with your child while safeguarding their security and overall well-being.