How to File an Emergency Petition for Custody

By Natalie Smith, Ph.D.
Temporary custody is designed to protect children from immediate harm.

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When a child is in immediate danger of physical or emotional harm resulting from abuse or negligence, the noncustodial parent or a representative of the state can file an emergency order for temporary custody. The duration of the temporary custody order varies by the state, as does the specific criteria for issuing the order. Some common criteria include sexual abuse, incarceration of the parent and child abandonment.

File a petition for emergency custody at the clerk of the court's office.

Ask the clerk if you need to fill out additional paperwork, such as a Domestic Relations Information Sheet, which is required by the state of Pennsylvania to gather information about the household before the order is issued.

Pay the fee required by the court. If you cannot afford the fee, ask if you can request for the fee to be waived.

Wait for the judge's instructions. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, you will go to court the day that you file to get the temporary order. In other states, such as Kentucky, you are granted temporary custody for 72 hours until the judge can hear the case with both parents.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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