Family Law

Establishing Temporary Child Custody

Talk to a Local Child Custody Attorney

In any divorce involving children, you should consider seeking a temporary child custody order. You can ask for temporary custody in the divorce petition or shortly after you file.

Reasons for Temporary Custody

A temporary custody order serves two main purposes:

  • Stability during the divorce process
  • Preventing a parent from moving with a child, or even "child snatching"

A divorce, including deciding custody issues, can take a long time. A temporary order gives both you and your children stability during your case.

Parents essentially start off with complete freedom when it comes to the custody and care of their children. A parent is generally free to take a child unless there's a custody order setting other terms and conditions. A temporary custody order provides a legal means for you to enforce your custody rights to your children.

Getting a Temporary Order

Generally, you can get a temporary custody order while your divorce is pending. Make the request in the divorce petition, or shortly after it's filed. A court can also address temporary custody in a proceeding that is separate from the divorce case. These proceedings may also cover:

  • Support issues 
  • Contempt (violations of a court's order)
  • Enforcing visitation
  • Changing a final custody order
  • Issues pending an appeal
  • Domestic violence protection
  • A court's review of the validity of a foreign divorce decision
  • Deciding issues arising from short-term unavailability of a custodial parent

Custody issues are vital, so the law gives you rights to notice and to be heard when a court will decide temporary custody issues involving your child. These are called due process rights. Courts tend to be more liberal in applying evidence rules at these hearings than in cases involving permanent custody issues.

The type of evidence can vary, too. Most courts allow you to state your case using written statements called affidavits rather than live witnesses. However, it's the court's decision, and live testimony may be required.

Temporary Custody Factors and Strategies

There are certain factors to think about when seeking temporary custody. The judge might have a past history of stressing certain factors in deciding temporary custody. The best interest of the child standard also applies to temporary custody. Your lawyer is your best guide in reviewing the aspects of your case to stress to win the judge's support.

Give due attention to all issues at a temporary custody hearing. Temporary rulings are often key in the final decisions regarding custody, visitation and support.

Losing Temporary Custody

If you lose temporary custody, it's all the more important to get ready for the final custody hearing. Some important factors include:

  • Visitation and support
  • Record-keeping
  • Demonstrating stability

Keep up with child support and visitation before the final hearing. Showing your support and involvement in your children's lives can make a difference in the outcome of your case.

Keep organized records on your visits with your children and the money spent on them. This can help persuade the court to rule in your favor on custody at the final hearing.

In order for the court to award you permanent custody, you need to show that you offer your children a stable and secure environment. Your conduct while a temporary custody order is in place can do just that.

Temporary custody may just be one part of your divorce case, and it's important to work and cooperate with your divorce lawyer for the best outcome in your case.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • When should I seek temporary child custody?
  • Do I need a temporary custody order if my spouse left us?
  • My ex-spouse is sick and I want temporary custody. How will permanent custody be affected later on?
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