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How to Get Emergency Custody in Florida and What to Watch Out For

Emergency Custody in Florida

One very common issue that divorce attorneys in Florida deal with is the situation where emergency action must be taken in order to protect the physical or emotional safety of children by seeking emergency custody. There are many different terms that can describe this process including an emergency motion for custody, temporary emergency relief, emergency motion to suspend contact, etc. Regardless of what you call it, there are a few common threads that will be present in every situation.

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Two Types of Emergency Motions in Florida

There are generally two types of emergency motions: ex-parte motions and regular emergency motions with notice to the other side.

1. Ex-Parte Motions

An ex-parte emergency motion is one that is filed and sent directly to the judge without providing notice to the other party.

Some examples of instances where an ex-parte emergency motion may be appropriate are where there is a high risk for a parent to remove a child from the jurisdiction if they become aware of the motion being filed, or if immediate harm is a possibility for a child if the other parent becomes aware that a motion has been filed.

Ex-parte emergency pleadings are rare because there are few situations that are so serious that they rise to the level where the other party should not receive notice of the motion, the hearing, or the fact that the judge is considering the motion without having a chance to be heard or present their side of the story.

2. Regular Emergency Motions With Notice to the Other Side

The second type of emergency motion is a normal emergency motion with notice to the other party. This is a more traditional type of motion that is served on the other party and offers the other party an opportunity to make objections, present arguments, put on evidence and witness testimony in their defense.

What You Need to Show To Get Emergency Custody

You might be wondering how to get emergency custody in Florida. The first requirement for an emergency motion for custody to be granted by a judge is the situation must rise to the level that the judge feels that unless immediate action is taken irreparable harm will come to the child involved.

Not only is it important for divorce attorneys to identify what types of fact scenarios will rise to this level, but attorneys must also understand how to properly talk about and describe the situation when they write emergency pleadings to be filed with the Court.

This is because the judge is going to usually make a decision whether or not to grant an emergency motion based on a quick reading of the motion and not taking an argument from either parent.

For this reason, a poorly-written emergency motion or one that is written in too quickly will have a lower chance of success due to the fact that it may leave out important facts that the judge needs to know in order to exercise their emergency powers.

The Emergency Custody Process in Florida

In Florida, the most common course of events for a party seeking an emergency custody order is as follows:

  1. A parent learns of a situation where the child’s safety is in immediate jeopardy.
  2. That party files an emergency motion for temporary custody and provides a copy of the emergency motion directly to the judge by email, or, by hand delivery to the judge’s office.
  3. The judge will review the motion on the same day and make an immediate determination as to whether the allegations contained in the emergency motion rise to the level that would permit the matter to be heard on an emergency basis.
  4. If the judge deems that it is a true emergency, the judge will issue a temporary order granting the requested relief and setting an expedited evidentiary hearing to hear from both parents and to make a more definitive decision on the issue.

Use Emergency Motions for Custody Sparingly

Attorneys must reserve filing for emergency custody in Florida for only the most extremely rare situations. This is because Florida Family Court judges keep track of which attorneys file an excessive number of emergency motions and which attorneys file them only rarely.

Judges will admit to you that attorneys who file emergency motions excessively usually do not receive the same level of seriousness as do lawyers who the judge knows only file this type of pleading in true emergency situations.

Suggested Next Steps

If you are facing a situation where you believe you should seek emergency custody in Florida, then contact our office today to schedule a no-obligation consultation. Our divorce and family law attorneys can advise you as to whether your situation rises to the level of a true emergency in the eyes of the court.


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