Divorce and co-parenting with an ex-spouse is often challenging, but when you believe your children may not be safe with the other parent or are in an unsafe situation when in the custody of your ex-spouse, it’s particularly distressing and requires immediate action. Colorado courts place the best interests of a child as their highest priority in any ruling, including in matters of child custody.
If you believe your children are in immediate danger, call the police to report the circumstances at once. However, if you know that they are safe for the time being but face an unsafe situation while in the other parent’s custody, it’s time to take legal action to ensure their well-being. A Denver family attorney can help you take your case before a judge to change an existing custody order, including issuing an emergency order for child custody.
What is Emergency Child Custody?
If you have valid reasons to believe your children face imminent danger when returned to the other parent for court-ordered parenting time or custody, a skilled child custody lawyer can ensure that a court hears your evidence in as little as 24-48 hours. With proper cause, a court can issue an emergency restriction on the other parent’s custody and grant you a temporary emergency custody order to begin immediately after the hearing. This emergency custody order typically only refers to physical custody, though in certain circumstances the court may also temporarily restrict the other parent’s legal custody as well. Legal custody refers to decision-making authority over important legal considerations such as medical and educational decisions.
An emergency child custody order typically remains in place until a full hearing takes place with both sides presenting evidence for the judge to make a new custody ruling. Hearings are typically scheduled about 14 days after the court issues an emergency child custody ruling.
What are Valid Grounds for Granting Emergency Child Custody?
The Colorado family court takes claims of imminent danger to children very seriously. A parent should never attempt to file for emergency custody under false or frivolous grounds such as because they don’t like their ex-spouse’s new romantic interest because he/she wears leather and has body piercings or because they don’t like a co-parent’s parenting style. Instead, emergency child custody orders are for just that—emergencies. False accusations and groundless motions may result in penalization for the petitioning parent. Viable grounds for a request for emergency child custody include the following:
- The physical or sexual abuse of a child by the other parent or their new spouse or partner
- A parent who regularly abuses alcohol or drugs to the point of incapacity or unconsciousness during their parenting time
- A parent who drinks and drives with the children in the vehicle
- A parent with serious mental health concerns that pose a danger to the children
- Previous parental kidnapping or threats of kidnapping
- Serious neglect of a child’s basic needs
- Leaving young children unattended for significant amounts of time
A court may consider any of the above situations as grounds for an emergency child custody order.
Filing for Emergency Child Custody in Colorado
To gain emergency temporary child custody, the petitioner must file a motion in the court of their jurisdiction. A matter of this urgency is best handled by a qualified attorney who can help ensure prompt, diligent filing of the motion within the correct jurisdiction and can facilitate a swift hearing. Your attorney will help to gather convincing evidence of your claim including:
- A child’s medical records
- Photographs or videos showing abuse or neglect
- Emails and other communications with educators or daycare centers
- Communications with doctors or other medical or mental health experts
An experienced lawyer will represent your child’s best interests throughout the procedure for filing for emergency custody in Colorado and then defend your claims in court for a permanent ruling on child custody.