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How to File an Emergency Custody Order in Florida


Is it possible to submit a motion for emergency custody in Florida, and what is the procedure for filing an emergency custody order in the state?

Wondering if you can file a motion for an emergency custody order in Florida? Here’s how you can determine if your situation qualifies. Emergency custody orders can be filed if there are indications that the child is in immediate physical danger, experiencing abuse, or at risk of being taken out of the state. If you believe these circumstances are met here’s how to file an emergency custody order in Florida.

Steps on how to file an emergency child custody order in Florida:

  1. Determine what emergency motion works best for your situation. Florida courts generally grant two types of emergency motions: ex-parte and regular emergency motions with notice to the other side. An ex-parte emergency motion is filed and sent directly to the judge without informing the other party.
  2. Contact an experienced family lawyer in Florida – The attorney will evaluate your case to understand what has occurred and how they should describe the situation when filing the emergency pleadings with the Court. 
  3. File a motion with the judge.
  4. Work with your attorney to get ready for Court. 


One very common issue that divorce attorneys in Florida deal with is the situation where emergency action must be taken to protect children’s physical or emotional safety by seeking emergency custody. Many different terms can describe this process, including an emergency motion for custody, temporary emergency relief, an emergency motion to suspend contact, etc. Regardless of what you call it, a few common threads will be present in every situation that a child custody lawyer in Florida can help with. Important to note: if someone is in imminent danger, contact law enforcement immediately. After contacting them, contact us.

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Temporary Emergency Custody

Florida law § 61.517 Temporary emergency jurisdiction begins with:

“A court of this state has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this state and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.” (source)

Therefore, the main reasons courts in Florida allow emergency custody typically include:

  • Child abandonment
  • Child abuse or mistreatment (actual or threatened)
  • Domestic violence (actual or threatened) to a sibling or parent of the child

Two Types of Motions For Emergency Custody in Florida

Florida courts generally grant two types of emergency custody order motions: ex-parte motions and regular emergency motions with notice to the other side.

1. Ex-Parte Motions

An ex-parte emergency motion is filed and sent directly to the judge without informing 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 few situations 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 one with notice to the other party. This is a more traditional type of motion served on the other party and offers the other party an opportunity to make objections, present arguments, and put evidence/witness testimony in their defense.

What You Need to Show To Get Emergency Custody

how-to-file-for-emergency-custody-order-in-FloridaNot only is it important for child custody 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. These cases can get complicated which is why we suggest hiring a family law attorney to represent you in family court Orlando for child custody cases.

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 too quickly will have a lower chance of success because it may leave out important facts that the judge needs to know to exercise their emergency powers.

How to Get Emergency Child Custody in Florida

Important: if someone is in imminent danger, contact law enforcement immediately

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

  1. First, you will start by contacting an experienced family lawyer in Florida. The attorney will evaluate your case to understand what has occurred and how they should describe the situation when filing the emergency pleadings with the Court. The outcome of your requests relies heavily on a well-written emergency motion. 
  2. Second, the motion is filed, and a copy is delivered by email or hand to the judge’s office. 
  3. Third, in terms of the timeline, you may be wondering how long does an emergency motion take? 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. Lastly, if the judge decides an emergency custody motion is warranted, they will issue a temporary order granting the requested relief and set an expedited hearing. 

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

Suggested Next Steps

If you have questions about filing a motion for an emergency custody order in Florida, we’re here to help. Our team can assist you in determining if your situation qualifies for an emergency custody order. If you believe your circumstances align with these criteria, we can guide you through the process of filing an emergency custody order in Florida. If you are going through a divorce near Orlando and think emergency custody might be your next step, contact our office and speak to a divorce attorney today. Our 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.

Reviews of Sean Smallwood, P.A.

how-long-does-an-emergency-motion-takeThese are just some of our 67+ Google reviews.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Highly recommend! I cannot say enough good things about Sean Smallwood and his team! They were amazing to work with! They always put my best interest and my daughter’s best interest first. They took the time to talk to me and understand my situation to formulate a strategic plan of action. I’m so grateful for this firm!” –Jennifer R. B.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Sean and his team were a blessing, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to be a part of my children’s lives, I will forever be grateful for them. I went from being able to only see them a few hours a week to 50/50 custody. Thank you so much.” –Kurt E.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Sean Smallwood is someone I would highly recommend if you’re going through a custody case. His team is dedicated and share the same vision…. The end result was more than I had expected in a great way. I would definitely refer him to friends and family.” –Charlie C.

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