Filing an Emergency Motion

I want to talk to you a little bit about emergency motions and what happens when a parent files an emergency motion. Primarily, these emergency motions are about custody and visitation. So I want to give you a couple examples as to what the law says.

The most common type of emergency motion is one where a parent asks the court to suspend or restrict the other parent’s parenting time. A lot of people say, “Can a judge do that? Can a judge restrict my parenting time?” The answer is yes. A court has the authority to do that. Primarily, what you see in those cases is that the child’s physical, emotional, or developmental well-being has been significantly impaired by a parent’s behavior or conduct.

I can give you quite a few examples of that, but the one that most comes to mind is a situation where a parent presents a danger to a child. This is called the Endangerment Standard. When this happens, of course, a motion has to be filed, and the court, upon receipt of the motion, will set the matter for an emergency hearing. Until the emergency hearing is set, parenting time will be suspended. That means that there won’t be contact between the parent who has visitation and the children pending the hearing.

At the hearing, the court has to go through a test to see if endangerment exists. Is the child’s safety at issue because of a parent’s drinking of alcohol in excess, drug addiction, or other kinds of behavior like domestic violence perpetrated against the other parent? If the court finds that a child is being endangered, that there is a safety issue of some kind, then the court can set the parameters for visitation.

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