What to Expect in a Child Custody Case: Emergency Ruling

What to Expect in a Child Custody Case: Emergency Ruling

In a child custody case, emotions are intense. You might be struggling with the other parent to have as much parenting time as you can.

The judge wants to have hearings and you feel like hearings are a waste of time. You want someone to do something. If you have an attorney you may start to get angry with them.

Time Ticks By So Slowly

It is important to know that when you are going through a child custody case that the wheels of justice turn slowly.

It is important to be informed that there are several things to keep in mind if you are unsure about whether your case is going the way that it should:

What you believe is an emergency situation may not be to the family court.

Let’s say your child’s father has a new girlfriend and you think the girlfriend is a bad influence on your daughter because she drinks a lot. You don’t want “a drunk” around your daughter. It sets off alarm bells for you, but is it an emergency in the eyes of the court?

Let’s say you often smell alcohol on the girlfriend’s breath when you meet at her father’s house to exchange the child?
The court wants to know, What evidence do you have that the alcohol that you smell on the girlfriend’s breath is having an effect on your child that is emotionally or physically harmful?

The types of facts that show that an emergent situation exists are:

  • Video that shows some severe behavior like seeing your child intoxicated.
  • Your child’s father admitting that your child watches his girlfriend become abusive and violent when she drinks, which makes your daughter scared to go back to her father’s house.
  • You start to notice that your child is acting out her stress by cutting herself.
  • Your child has told you that she doesn’t like going to her father’s house when his girlfriend is there, that’s why she cuts herself. You see your daughter cut herself when you ask her if she’s ready to visit her father. She repeats this to the doctor when you take her for an appointment.


The evidence in these scenarios that are most likely to be persuasive are: (1) clear audio and visual on video, (2) an admission by the other party to the case (your child’s father/mother), and(3) the doctor’s testimony about the medical examination.

You would likely have a hearing (like a trial) the same day unless all judges who hear emergency cases have left for the day. If your judge is persuaded by the facts and evidence that you present in court then the judge would likely award temporary (sole) custody to you.

Here are some additional scenarios—consider only the facts in the question:

  • What if your child is playing with her father in the next room while his girlfriend is drinking?
  • What if you don’t like the girlfriend and don’t think that your child should be at her father’s house when she is there?
  • What if a babysitter comes to take care of your child while her father and girlfriend are out at dinner?
  • What if the academic year is about to start and your child custody hasn’t been decided, and you don’t know if you can enroll her?

None of these situations would be deemed emergencies by a judge. You would not be able to keep your child from her father’s house based on these reasons.

You might now be mad at the judge, your attorney (if you have one), and madder at your child’s father. This result has happened to many parents in a child custody case.

Some parents can accept the result and the way the justice system works—this is great! Other parents want to change the way the court works and will let the judge know how mad they are at every hearing—this is bad and detrimental to your case. Another kind of parent will lie and make up an emergency situation—also bad. Not just because it is wrong, but also the lie will eventually come out and judges and attorneys are good at spotting lies; we just might not tell you that we know you are lying.

I hope this information helps you have a better understanding of how one aspect of family court works.