Emergency Custody Hearings:
What To Expect
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What Can I Expect at an Emergency Custody Hearing?


Updated Jan 2024

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, learning what to expect from the legal process can help prepare you for the proceedings.

Petition for an Emergency Custody Hearing

In Colorado, an emergency custody hearing can garner results and protect a child much faster than a traditional custody hearing. A judge will prioritize an emergency hearing over regular cases, addressing the urgent matter promptly. The process starts when one parent petitions the court, expressing concern for the welfare of their child. This petition must detail the emergency circumstances, such as abuse, neglect, or immediate danger due to the custodial parent’s behavior, like substance abuse or presence of a sex offender in the child’s home. The petitioner also needs to specify the relief sought, which could range from temporary custody to suspension of the other parent’s visitation rights.

Preliminary Evidence Submitted and Reviewed

The success of an emergency custody hearing hinges on the evidence presented. As the petitioner, you must provide substantial proof of the alleged danger. Acceptable evidence may include police reports, domestic violence records, child protective services documents, eyewitness statements, medical records, or assessments from child psychologists. Remember, the judge will focus exclusively on the emergency at hand, setting aside broader custody issues for a later date.

A Judge’s Decision

Colorado’s districts each have their own procedures for handling emergency custody hearings, but generally, the judge will review the evidence and make a swift decision. If the judge determines the child is indeed in immediate danger, a temporary order granting custody to the petitioner may be issued, always reflecting what the judge deems in the child’s best interest. However, this is often not the conclusion of the matter.

Follow-Up Actions and Full Trial

Following the emergency hearing, further steps are usually necessary. The judge might appoint a child psychologist or welfare agent to investigate the allegations further. Depending on the case, the parent in question might be ordered to attend classes or therapy for issues like anger management or substance abuse.

For long-term protection and resolution, a full custody trial is often required. During this trial, continued representation and evidence gathering are crucial to present a strong case. A child custody lawyer can be instrumental in navigating this complex process, ensuring that your child’s safety and well-being remain the priority.

An emergency custody hearing in Colorado is a critical mechanism for addressing immediate threats to a child’s safety. It requires careful preparation, substantial evidence, and often leads to further legal proceedings to establish a more permanent custody arrangement.

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