Understanding Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claims

Child custody matters can be complex and emotionally charged. In some situations, immediate action may be required to protect the best interests of a child. When faced with emergencies, a legal avenue available to parents or guardians in North Carolina is the Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claim. What is an emergency ex parte child custody claim, when it can be filed, and how does the process work to help you understand your legal rights and options?

What Is an Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claim?

An Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claim is a legal request made to the court for temporary custody or changes in custody arrangements on an expedited basis, without providing prior notice to the other parent or guardian. “Ex parte” means that only one party is involved in the initial hearing without the presence of the opposing party.

When Can You File an Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claim?

Emergency ex parte child custody claims are typically reserved for urgent situations where the child’s safety or well-being is at risk, or the child is at risk of being removed from North Carolina for the purpose of evading the jurisdiction of North Carolina courts. Common scenarios that may warrant such a claim include:

1.            Physical Abuse: When there is evidence or credible information that the child has been physically abused or is in immediate danger of harm.

2.            Neglect: If the child is being neglected or exposed to unsafe living conditions.

3.            Parental Substance Abuse: When a parent’s substance abuse poses a direct threat to the child’s safety.

4.            Domestic Violence: In cases where domestic violence in the child’s presence is occurring or has recently occurred.

5.            Abduction or Flight Risk: When there is a credible fear that the other parent may attempt to abduct the child or relocate them without consent.

How Does the Process Work?

1.            Filing the Petition: The process begins by filing a petition with the family court. This petition outlines the emergency situation and the reasons for seeking an immediate change in custody.

2.            Ex Parte Hearing: After the petition is filed, the court may schedule an ex parte hearing, usually within a short timeframe. During this hearing, the petitioner (the party seeking the emergency custody order) presents their case to the judge.

3.            Evidence and Documentation: It is essential to provide compelling evidence and documentation supporting the emergency request. This may include witness statements, photographs, medical records, or police reports.

4.            Temporary Order: If the judge finds that there is an immediate risk to the child’s safety, they may issue a temporary emergency custody order. This order can include provisions for custody, visitation, and protective measures.

5.            Notice to the Other Party: Typically, after the ex parte order is issued, the court will schedule a follow-up hearing where both parties can present their arguments. The other parent or guardian is given notice of this hearing and has an opportunity to respond.

6.            Full Hearing: A subsequent hearing will be held to evaluate the circumstances further. During this hearing, both parties present evidence, and the court determines a more long-term custody arrangement.

Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claims are a legal recourse available to protect children in immediate danger or facing harm. It’s crucial to remember that these claims are reserved for genuine emergencies, and the court takes the best interests of the child into account when making decisions. If you find yourself in such a situation, consult with a qualified family law attorney who can guide you through the process, help you gather necessary evidence, and ensure that the child’s safety remains the top priority throughout the legal proceedings.

Attorney Tyler W. Williams is based in the Wilmington office of Law Firm Carolinas. While he practices statewide, Tyler has a focus on divorce, child custody, and family law matters in the Wilmington, NC, area and surrounding counties, including New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender. If you believe that you may need to file an ex parte child custody claim or need assistance with any family law or other legal matter, reach out to Tyler today.

Family Law