How Can I Get Emergency Custody of My Child in California?

If you believe a co-parent is engaging in behavior that makes them a danger to your child or unfit to act as their caretaker, then you may want to seek emergency custody of your child. Understanding the process for seeking emergency custody can help you take the necessary steps to protect your child.

To schedule a consultation with our team and receive a consultation from an experienced attorney, contact us online or via phone at (310) 455-8364.

When Can I Get an Emergency Ex Parte Custody Order?

An "ex parte" court order is one obtained without a party's knowledge. For example, in domestic violence cases, a party suffering from domestic violence may be able to get a temporary ex parte restraining order that protects them from their alleged abuser, without the alleged abuser being present at the time the temporary restraining order is issued.

In California, parents can request an emergency ex parte custody order if doing so would "help prevent an immediate danger or irreparable harm to a party or to the children involved."

It's important to note that the standard of proof for emergency custody orders is high. The court will need to believe that the evidence you supply proves beyond a reasonable doubt that your co-parent does represent an immediate threat to your child to justify issuing an emergency custody order.

If you believe your co-parent is abusing or neglecting your child and have evidence to support those allegations, consider filing a report with Child Protective Services, and file an emergency custody request with your county court.

Once the court receives the request, if it examines the evidence and agrees that your co-parent represents a danger to your child, it will issue an emergency custody order, enabling you to obtain custody of your child until the court can set up another hearing that both parties attend and present evidence at.

What If I Don't Have Concrete Evidence?

If you lack evidence, you may want to file a report with Child Protective Services (CPS) detailing your concerns. A CPS professional will investigate and determine whether the alleged party does indeed represent a threat to a child under their care.

You can also file a request for a custody modification. However, it's important to note that custody modification hearings can take weeks or months to set up, depending on the court involved.

What Type of Evidence Can I Use to Support an Emergency Custody Request?

The following types of evidence may be enough to warrant an ex parte emergency custody request:

  • Evidence the co-parent was recently arrested for substance abuse, assault, or some other serious crime;
  • Evidence that supports the co-parent is suffering from mental illness in a way that could endanger the child's safety, such as a report from a psychologist verifying those allegations;
  • Evidence of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse, including witness and medical testimony;
  • Evidence that another party in the co-parent's home, such as their partner, has a record of behavior that could make them a danger to the child, such as a record as a sex offender.

If you make a request for emergency custody, you must notify the other parent at least one day prior to the hearing. If the court agrees that the co-parent represents a danger to your child, they may issue an ex parte emergency custody order, immediately awarding you with custody of your child.

After issuing the emergency order, the court will also set a date for another hearing. At this hearing, your co-parent will have the opportunity to contest claims you made regarding their parenting capabilities, and the court may either revise the type of custody order you have with them, or award you with sole custody, depending on how the hearing proceeds.

At TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP, our attorneys can help you pursue an emergency custody order. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (310) 455-8364.

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