Something bad has happened. Your kids’ other parent has put them in jeopardy or is threatening to take them out of state. There’s got to be something you can do to help your kids, right?
There is. If your children are in imminent danger of bodily injury or sexual abuse, or if your ex is threatening to take them away, North Carolina’s family courts consider that an emergency. You can petition for emergency custody through an “ex parte” order.
However, the process isn’t perfect, and it’s important to be realistic about what to expect.
In some cases, you won’t be able to get your kids the same day you discover the problem. Although the emergency custody process is relatively straightforward, each step takes a bit of time.
Here’s how the process works:
- You meet with your lawyer
- Your lawyer drafts and files a petition for emergency custody
- Your lawyer sees the judge to provide evidence of the need for emergency custody
- If the court agrees, it issues an emergency (temporary) ex parte custody order
- You obtain possession of the child or children immediately.
- A second hearing is held within 10 days to consider the ongoing temporary custody arrangement.
Your ex doesn’t get a chance to attend the first emergency hearing. (That’s what “ex parte” means.) However, the other parent DOES get to appear and respond to your claims at the second hearing.
The second hearing is held to determine what changes if any, there should be to your custody arrangements. For example, the court might change your custody order so that your ex no longer has unsupervised time with the children. Or, the court might put things back the way they were. The decision will be made by considering your children’s best interests and whether there is an ongoing emergency at the time of the hearing.
The process may be straightforward, but a lot is on the line. The courts are reluctant to grant an unnecessary emergency order that separates a family, so you will have to prove that the order is necessary. Depending on your exact situation, this could be relatively simple or quite complex.
I can’t even get an immediate appointment with my lawyer. How long will this take?
Among the most frustrating aspects of emergency custody orders is that they take time – sometimes, a significant amount of time. The first hurdle is generally that your lawyer may not have an appointment available immediately.
Rest assured that we do understand the urgency. We will work to get you in as soon as possible.
It’s essential to have a meeting with your attorney about drafting the emergency petition. After that, it takes time to draft the petition and locate a judge to consider your request.
Each of these requirements can take time but if your lawyer is experienced in these matters, it will help the process move as quickly as possible.
Don’t add to the delay by waiting until the last minute
Ultimately, you need to address the threat to your kids as soon as possible. If you’re not sure whether to ask for help, talk to your lawyer. Don’t put it off until it’s too late.
Parents, we really do understand how hard this is. We will go the extra mile to expedite everything we can.