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Florida Child Custody: Emergency Change in Circumstances


No child custody agreement is every truly finalized. Florida courts always retain the ability to alter agreements in any case where it is deemed necessary or to be in the best interests of the child to do so. This is known as a post-judgment modification and it can be sought for a variety of different reasons. Though, under Florida law a child custody modification will only be granted if a material and substantial change in circumstances has occurred. Of course, the ordinary legal process is sometimes too slow to be used in emergency situations. In these types of cases, there are other options available to help parents protect the health and safety of their children.

What are Emergency Child Custody Hearings?

The state of Florida allows parents to seek an emergency hearing to obtain temporary custody of a child. To be clear, this hearing can only be used in a very limited number of cases. Emergency hearings are not for ‘normal’ disagreements. They can only be used in cases where a true emergency exists. If a court determines that no emergency exists in your case, your motion will be automatically denied. Courts are very strict about this rule. The reason that emergency requirements are so strict is because, by their nature, emergency hearings deny ordinary levels of due process. In most Florida family law cases, each parent has:

  • The right to receive advanced notice of the hearing; and
  • The right to state their side of the case.

However, in emergency situations, there may not be enough time to go through that process. Therefore, a Florida court is empowered to grant immediate, but temporary, relief at an emergency hearing. This relief could come in the form of a restraining order or parenting plan arrangement.

What Action Qualify for Emergency Relief?

As was mentioned, emergency relief is designed to be rare. Courts will only give emergency relief in the event that there is immediate and real threat to the health, safety or psychological well-being of a child. Some specific examples of actions that could warrant emergency child custody relief include:

  • Recent child abuse or serious child neglect;
  • A credible threat being made to abduct the child;
  • Serious substance abuse by the other parent; or
  • Another major change in circumstances that puts the child in real danger.

Ultimately, if you believe that your child is facing an immediate threat, you need to call an experienced Orlando child custody attorney right away. There is absolutely no time to waste. Your attorney will be able to jump into action and will help you aggressively pursue temporary custody of your child. From there, your attorney can keep help you try to make any new child custody rights permanent.

Do You Need Legal Help?
The compassionate family law team at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. can help. We have extensive experience handling a wide variety of child custody cases. To learn more about what we can do for you, please call our Orlando office today at 407-521-7171 to schedule a fully confidential review of your case. We serve families throughout Central Florida, including in Lake County and Seminole County.



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