Emergency Temporary Custody in Texas

The worst feeling a parent can have is worry about the wellbeing of their children, especially if their child is not in their current custody.  When parents reach a custody arrangement, this order dictates when a parent has custody of their child, and when the other parent has custody time.  However, when one parent, legal caregiver, or legal guardian, believes that the child is in danger at the other parent’s home, an emergency custody order is available.

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What to Expect When Filing an Emergency Custody Order in Texas

For an emergency custody order to be filled, a legal caregiver must believe that their child is in danger.  We will outline what actually is required in order to claim an emergency is taking place later, however, what is most important to know at the beginning is that the process can be highly emotional.  

Whenever children are believed to be in a dangerous situation, it is understandable for a parent or caregiver to feel alarm, anger, fear, etc.  It is also very difficult to guide your way through the process of obtaining emergency custody because there are many forms that must be filled out correctly and a hearing must take place.  

Hiring a family law attorney in Texas is recommended to help you through this process.  Due to high emotions and the complexity of the filing requirements, having the advice and years of experience from a family law attorney can be invaluable and reassuring.  Your attorney will attend the hearing with you in which case, the judge will decide what is in the child’s best interest.  Your attorney will help you prepare and provide evidence to help you ensure the safety of your child.

What Constitutes an Emergency?

While Texas Family Law Code does not specifically state what an emergency is, what is most important in the eyes of the court is the “safety and welfare” of the child.  Whenever the safety and welfare of the child are threatened, the parent is within their right to request a motion for an emergency temporary custody change. Some potential safety and welfare issues include:

  • Child abandonment
  • Child neglect
  • Unsafe environment
  • Lack of access to food
  • Homelessness
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Violation of a restraining order
  • Truancy
  • Lack of necessary medical care

These are just a few examples, however, this list is not exhaustive. There are unfortunately other situations children can be in that affect their safety and welfare negatively.  Your family law attorney is the best resource to help you identify your concerns, prepare your case, and possibly find other cases like yours to help support your claims.

Do I Need Evidence to File for Temporary Custody?

This is one of the most valuable actions your attorney can do for you: helping you prepare your evidence for the court in order to illustrate your concerns.  

How to File for an Emergency Child Custody Petition in Texas

There are two forms that your family law attorney will review with you and answer any questions you may have.  The first form is the Request to Order an Emergency Temporary Order.  This form will outline what custody rights need to be changed and will be accompanied by a declaration by the moving party.  The declaration will outline why the emergency temporary order needs to take place immediately and refer to exhibits, or evidence, that substantiates your claims.

The second form your family law attorney will help you file is an Order to Appear.  This form is filed with the court and the court clerk assigns a department, date, and time that the emergency order will be heard.

In an emergency custody situation, according to Cornell University’s School of Law, the emergency order can be served by police officers where custody is immediately transferred to the party filing for an emergency custody hearing.  The child or children will remain temporarily in the petitioner’s custody, usually a few days, until the hearing can take place.  This ensures the safety of the children and what the courts feel is in the child’s best interest. 

After Filing Your Temporary Custody Petition

There are several steps that will take place after your family law attorney files the emergency temporary custody petition.  The other parent or caregiver must be told of the upcoming hearing and you will go to the hearing before a judge with your family law attorney.

Notice Requirements for Your Case

Once your attorney files the initial two forms with the correct district court, the other party must be given notice.  Notice is given when the other party is served with copies of both forms by an individual that is not a party to the case.  This is usually a process server that your family law attorney typically uses regularly.  Once the either party is aware of the filing and has the hearing date and time, the notice is complete.

Preparing for Your Hearing in Texas

Your family law attorney will help prepare you for the hearing. You will have an opportunity to speak before the judge.  Advice your family lawyer can give you includes:

  • Explaining how the law applies to the facts in your case 
  • What the judge expects and needs to hear
  • Review strategies for your case
  • Help you choose the best evidence to present
  • Prepare you to speak before the judge and testify
  • Help you choose the best witnesses to present for your case
  • Help you reach a settlement or agreement prior to the hearing if possible
  • What questions to ask your witnesses when they testify
  • Preparing and writing proposed orders for the judge to sign at the hearing

The judge reviews the evidence, documents, and testimony once both parties speak and will make a temporary order.

Hiring a Qualified Family Law Attorney

Navigating the emergency temporary custody process in your state can be difficult and confusing.  When it comes to something as important as your child or children, having an experienced and skilled lawyer in your corner can be very helpful.  At our firm, we know the emotional turmoil a family can go through when they sense their child could be in danger.  There is no one more committed to your advocacy than our team.  Not only do we strongly work on your behalf, but we also help ensure the wellbeing of your child during the process.  

Hiring a family law attorney in Texas is not just helpful when preparing for the case, it also helps with communication between the parties.  In emergency temporary cases, feelings can become heated and communication breaks down.  Knowing you have a reasonable and intelligent attorney representing your interest can help ensure the safety of your child in a timely manner.  

Article by Megan Thompson

Megan Thompson is a legal writer at Lawrina. Megan writes about different law practice areas, legal innovations, and shares her knowledge about her legal practice. As a graduate of the American University's Washington College of Law she is an expert of law in Lawrina's team and has a slight editing touch to all content that is published on the website.

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