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What Can I Expect at an Emergency Custody Hearing?


Even in the best of circumstances, a custody hearing can be a difficult and emotional process. An emergency custody hearing can be even more overwhelming due to the grave nature of the complaint. Emergency hearings for child custody typically involve dangerous or time-sensitive issues, such as suspected child abuse or neglect. If you are part of an emergency custody hearing in Colorado, learn what to expect from the legal process.

Petition for an Emergency Custody Hearing

An emergency custody hearing can garner results and protect a child much faster than a traditional custody hearing. A judge will push an emergency hearing to the front of the schedule rather than making a petitioner wait for the next available court date. The first step of an emergency custody hearing is the filing of a petition by a parent who is concerned for the welfare of his or her child.

One parent must petition the courts for an emergency hearing with his or her reason and the type of relief sought. To justify the need for an emergency custody hearing in Colorado, the petitioner will need to claim circumstances such as abuse, neglect, a sex offender in the child’s home or substance abuse by the custodial parent. The parent will also list the type of relief sought, such as temporary custody or taking away the other parent’s visitation rights.

Preliminary Evidence Submitted and Reviewed

The parent filing the petition will need to submit evidence supporting his or her belief that the child is in danger. During an emergency hearing, a judge will only consider the evidence connected to the emergency. A judge will not look at future custody issues during an emergency hearing, such as more permanent custody arrangements. Instead, the judge may arrange a later court date if you wish to modify your custody agreement or make other changes that are not directly connected to the emergency.

If you are the person filing the petition, you will need to support it with evidence of why you believe your child is in danger. Common types of evidence used during an emergency custody hearing are police reports, domestic violence reports, child protective service documents, statements from people who witnessed the abuse or event, a child’s medical records, and reports from a child psychologist. A judge will not rule in your favor unless you can prove using evidence that the child is in danger where he or she currently resides.

A Judge’s Decision

Each district in Colorado has its own emergency custody hearing process. For the most part, a judge will assess the evidence submitted and make a decision the same day. At the end of an emergency custody hearing, a judge in Colorado will either grant the petitioner the relief sought or deny the claim. If a judge agrees that the child is in danger, the judge may issue a temporary order that grants custody to the filing parent based on the evidence presented. A judge will always rule according to what he or she believes is in the best interest of the child.

A judge’s decision during an emergency custody hearing is often not the end of a case. In many situations, a judge will follow up by appointing a child psychologist or welfare agent to continue investigating the family and the child endangerment allegation. A judge may also order the parent who was in the wrong to attend mandatory anger management, substance abuse or parenting classes, depending on the situation.

Follow Up With a Full Trial

Temporary orders won during an emergency custody hearing may not be enough to protect your child in the long term. You may need to follow up with a full custody trial. A judge may or may not agree to reinstate the abusive parent’s custody or visitation rights at a full custody hearing based on the results of an investigation. Hire a child custody lawyer in Colorado for assistance with a full custody trial. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence of child abuse or endangerment to submit to a judge during an emergency hearing. Then, your attorney can help you follow up with a full custody hearing for a more permanent solution.

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