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Emergency Child Custody in Washington

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Posted By Cohen Family Law | May 3 2022 | Uncategorized

If you require emergency assistance with a child custody matter, contact our office immediately at (360) 953-5000. We can help you file for an ex parte emergency child custody order in Washington right away.

Emergency child custody is a temporary order that is granted by a judge if there is evidence that a child is in immediate danger under the current custody arrangement – such as a risk of child abduction by your ex-spouse. Also referred to as an ex parte order, an emergency child custody order in Washington can help you protect your child against an immediate threat by temporarily taking custody away from your ex-spouse.

When Is Emergency Child Custody Granted in Washington?

Emergency child custody is available in urgent situations where one parent has reason to believe that a child is not safe in the care, custody or supervision of the other parent. If a judge grants an ex parte order, a temporary modified child custody order will go into immediate effect. This allows the filing parent to keep custody of a child even if his or her original custody order stated that it is the ex-spouse’s parenting time.

The courts in Washington will grant an emergency child custody order in several situations if there is proof that the child is at risk of harm, such as:

  • Parental neglect or abandonment
  • Failure to care for a child’s basic needs
  • Neglect due to drug or alcohol use
  • Child abuse, including emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Acts of violence
  • Threats of parental kidnapping (child abduction)
  • Other reckless or threatening behavior
  • A parent’s sudden illness or death

The courts in Washington do not allow parents to seek emergency custody orders unless they have a family law case that has already begun or filed a family law case at the same time as the Motion for Emergency Order. An attorney can help you understand this rule in more detail during a free consultation. If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for an emergency child custody order, a lawyer can help you understand your other options for protecting your child.

How Long Does an Emergency Child Custody Order Last?

It typically takes at least 24 hours for the courts to arrange an emergency hearing after you file your request for emergency custody. If the courts grant your request, the order will go into effect immediately and last until the date of your return hearing. This is typically about two to four weeks. The hearing will resolve the issue with a more permanent solution, such as a modification to a child custody arrangement if the courts believe that a child is in danger of irreparable harm with the current custody order.

Is Emergency Child Custody the Same as a Restraining Order?

No. An emergency child custody order only gives a parent the right to retain physical custody of a child. It does not force the parent to stay a certain distance away from the petitioner or stop all contact. If you believe you or your child is at risk of harm or bodily injury from your ex-spouse, you can file a separate request for a restraining order or emergency protection order. These court orders can keep you and your child safe from your ex.

How to File for Emergency Custody in Washington

If your ex-spouse is presenting an immediate danger to your child, file your request for an ex parte emergency child custody order in Washington without delay. Do this by visiting the family courthouse in your county or contacting an attorney for immediate assistance. You will need to provide evidence to support your claim, such as witness declarations or photographs.

You will next complete the required forms and submit them to a judge. Once the judge has reviewed your evidence, he or she will sign the ex parte order if the judge agrees that emergency child custody is justified. The emergency order will then remain in place until your family attends the hearing.

For more information about obtaining emergency child custody in Washington, call (360) 953-5000 to speak to an attorney at Cohen Family Law, LLC for free today.

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