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When is there a need for Emergency Intervention in Child Custody Cases: What IS and IS NOT an Emergency

The Family Law Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC understand that co-parenting can be tough no matter what custodial arrangements are in place. When issues arise, it is often difficult for parents to determine when it is necessary to seek legal assistance and/or court intervention. It is important to know what circumstances do and do not constitute an emergency in child custody, child support, and other family-related matters. Although every case is unique and should be assessed on case-by-case basis, it may be helpful for parents to make a preliminary assessment regarding the urgency of an issue through considering four factors: (1) Person affected; (2) Manner affected; (3) Impact; (4) Duration. Each of these have been outlined in further detail below.

Who is the issue affecting?

  • My child(ren)
  • Myself
  • My immediate family (siblings, spouse)
  • My extended family (grandparents, or other relatives)
  • Other person(s)

How, or in what manner is the issue affecting me, my family, or another?

  • Emotionally
  • Mentally
  • Psychologically
  • Physically
  • Sexually
  • Financially
  • Legally

What is the current or future impact on the safety, well-being, or interests of the person affected?

  • Abuse, abandonment, neglect, and/or harm to child
  • Relocation or removing child from state
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Access to or time-sharing with child
  • Domestic Violence; parental safety issues
  • Breach in parenting plan terms

What is the durational impact of the issue or issues involved?

  • Single/Isolated incident
  • Past/Previous issue(s)
  • Continuous, repeated, ongoing issue(s)
  • Potential, anticipated, or imminent risk of future issue(s)

In evaluating the factors above, it is also important to take into consideration your own estimations, beliefs, opinions, and observations based upon your prior or present interactions, relations, or involvement with the other parent. In most child custody cases, particularly those arising out of a divorce, one parent has already developed a fairly good understanding of the propensities and tendencies of the other parent. Let’s explore some examples of what the court commonly recognizes as emergency and non-emergency scenarios…

Issues that are (generally) considered to be emergency:

  • Child has been physically, mentally or emotionally abused by the other parent
  • There is an imminent risk the child will be abused in the future
  • Child was abused or neglected by a cohabitant, caretaker, or another person while in the custody of the other parent, or is in imminent danger of future harm.
  • Parent is legally entitled to access to or time-sharing with child, but other parent refuses to allow contact, or otherwise abide by terms of court-ordered custodial arrangements
  • Other parent removes the child from the state (i.e. wrongful relocation), or has threatened to remove the child, such that there is an imminent risk of the other parent removing/relocating with the child
  • A parent, or other person has serious concern over their safety or well-being (i.e. domestic violence)
  • Any issues involving Child Sexual Abuse

Issues that are (generally) considered to be non-emergency:

  • Insignificant, negligible and/or inconsequential breach in parenting plan;
  • Minor disputes between the parents regarding unanticipated, or newly arising issues, or other matters that were not included with the parenting plan
  • Other issues that the parents are reasonably capable of resolving on their own
  • Parent is late in paying support, or has missed a (single) payment, but that parent has always, or nearly always, abided by their support obligations in the past
  • Issues regarding interpretation of time-sharing plans over upcoming holidays

It is important to keep in mind that every family’s circumstances are different, and in some cases, a seemingly non-emergency situation may actually be more appropriated handled through early intervention. If you are a parent, and have a question or concern regarding child custody, child support, or a related family law issue, contacting an experienced attorney is often the best approach to attaining peace of mind for you and your children. A family law attorney experienced with the judges in your area usually has the best idea what each judge considers an emergency and how best to approach the judge to obtain emergency action.

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