Many individuals call our law office hoping to gain emergency custody of their child. Clearly, this is a process that can be abused by the public in general. In North Carolina, Judges often refuse to enter an emergency custody order unless the facts give rise to a situation that is extremely dangerous. Therefore, the court will review the alleged facts carefully to determine whether an emergency exists that requires immediate action. Briefly, a temporary order, ex parte emergency in this case, which changes the living arrangements of a child or changes custody shall not be entered ex parte and prior to service of process or notice, unless the court finds that the child is exposed to a substantial risk of bodily injury or sexual abuse or that there is a substantial risk that the child may be abducted or removed from the State of North Carolina for the purpose of evading the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Courts.

If a party qualifies for an emergency custody order then the order can be entered through an ex parte hearing. An ex parte hearing is when one party informs the court of their emergency without the other parent or guardian being present. Ex Parte communications are typically not permitted and only rarely allowed, such as in the situation of emergency child custody. If this ex parte order grants temporary emergency custody to the parent seeking such, then the court will set a hearing, typically within 10 days, to allow the other parent to present and defend their case.

During this hearing, the judge will hear both parties’ arguments and consider admissible evidence in order to determine whether an emergency existed and whether a temporary custody order needs to be put into place. These hearings typically take about one hour, but can go longer if necessary. The outcome of this hearing can have a substantial impact on your case moving forward and all necessary preparation must be done in order to protect you and your child.

Quick Note: Jurisdiction is a necessity in any law suit, including child custody matters. What if there is an “emergency”, but North Carolina does not have jurisdiction over the child? Unfortunately, some people find themselves in this situation. However, temporary emergency jurisdiction may be available.

Please understand that each North Carolina County may handle Emergency Custody matters differently and it is important to speak with an attorney that is experienced to handle such cases. Please call an attorney at Moretz & Skufca, PLLC if you believe your child is in a dangerous situation that requires an emergency order.