Every state has laws in place to protect children who are in trouble. That trouble might come in many forms - a parent kidnapping her own child, parental neglect or abuse, or even the sudden death or incapacity of both parents. Courts can step in and make sure someone will safely provide for the child until a more permanent solution can be worked out.
States Have Jurisdiction Rules
According to the terms of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, parents can only file for custody in the state where the child has lived for the past six months. The UCCJEA includes provisions for emergency custody, however. If you flee your home state because your child is in danger from her other parent, the new state can use emergency jurisdiction authority to issue a temporary custody order until a more permanent solution may be addressed.
Emergencies Require Immediate Orders
The court in the county where a child lives typically has local jurisdiction in emergency custody matters. If your child is in danger from her other parent, you can go to your county courthouse and request emergency temporary custody. Depending on the laws in your county, you may or may not have to appear before a judge. The court may place your child with you on a short-term basis. Her other parent doesn't have to be present when the court issues a temporary emergency order. However, courts usually schedule hearings relatively quickly after granting such an order so both parents have an opportunity to present their side of the story to a judge.
Any Adult Can Get Involved
Emergency custody doesn't apply only to parents. If you know that an adult is neglecting or abusing a child, you can report the situation to your county's social services and file paperwork with the court to have the child placed with you on a temporary emergency basis. Taking a child away from her parents or caregiver is a complicated matter, however, and you would probably need the help of a lawyer. While the child is living in your protective custody, the court usually works toward fixing the problems in the child's home. The goal is to reunify the child with her parents so she can eventually return to them.
Occasionally, an emergency custody situation occurs because there is no one in place to legally care for a child if her parents are killed in an accident or hurt so badly that they're unable to care for her. Some states allow parents to plan ahead for such an emergency by naming a standby guardian. The guardian receives immediate custody until the court can appoint a permanent guardian or until the parents are able to care for their child again themselves.
A Custody Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding children and custody is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a custody lawyer.