If you and your child’s other parent do not live together or decide to separate or divorce, you must file a petition asking for custody. Without a formal custody order, both parents retain their rights regarding the child. A court is the only entity that can modify or revoke a parent’s legal rights.

In most cases, a parent files for custody. First, the other parent is served with papers and has a chance to respond. Then, the court schedules a hearing, and the parties argue their cases before a judge.

However, there are times when custody needs to be decided quickly and without formal hearings. In those cases, a parent can file a motion for temporary custody. Then, the court will schedule an ex-parte hearing to decide if temporary custody should be granted.

What Is an Ex-Parte Hearing in Family Court?

An ex-parte hearing is an order granted by the court quickly and without giving the other side a chance to respond. Ex-parte hearings are reserved for emergency motions. In most cases, the judge’s order is temporary because a formal hearing is scheduled to allow the other party to respond to the allegations.

Parents and other interested parties file emergency motions seeking temporary legal and physical custody when the best interest, safety, or well-being of the child is at risk. 

Examples of situations in which a party might file a motion for an emergency hearing seeking full custody include:

  • To stop a child from being the victim of parental kidnapping
  • To protect the child from physical abuse or sexual assault
  • To remove a child from a home where domestic violence is taking place
  • A family member seeks custody because the parents have abandoned the child
  • To remove a child from a parent with a substance abuse problem, such as using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol 
  • To remove a child from an unfit parent
  • To protect a child from being exposed to dangerous individuals who have moved into the home or have become partners with the child’s custodial parent
  • To allow a party to be heard when it would be dangerous for them to be in the courtroom with an abusive partner

The judge only considers child custody matters at an ex-parte hearing if the child is in immediate or imminent danger of being harmed. Judges do not grant ex-parte hearings or emergency orders lightly because they have not heard from the other party.

After the hearing, a copy of the emergency order, motion for custody, and hearing date are served on the other party. The hearing is usually held as soon as possible to prevent prejudice against the other party. The court wants to ensure that the other party is given the right to appear in court to refute the charges in the emergency motion. 

Procedure for Petitioning the Court for an Emergency Ex-Parte Hearing

Georgia Code §19-9-64 gives the court temporary emergency jurisdiction of a child within the state if they have been abandoned or it is necessary to protect the child. However, each county has its own procedure for handling these hearings. 

Generally, the party seeking emergency relief must petition the court. In the petition, the party needs to explain why the emergency relief is necessary and provide the court with enough information that a judge can determine that an ex-parte hearing is necessary to protect the child.

Before filing a motion, you should seek legal advice from a Lawrenceville child custody lawyer. You need to determine if your situation warrants an emergency hearing. Judges are not pleased when a parent tries to use an emergency hearing to prevent the other parent from being heard on the matter.

Additionally, temporary custody could impact the final outcome of the case. Working with an experienced child custody attorney in Lawrenceville can improve your chance of obtaining the relief you desire. 

How Does a Judge Decide Whether to Grant Temporary Relief at an Ex-Parte Custody Hearing?

The “best interests of the child” doctrine is used to decide all matters related to a child, including the relief sought at an ex-parte hearing. Georgia Code §15-11-26 lists the factors a judge should consider when determining the best interest of the child. However, a judge can consider other relevant factors not listed in the statute. 

The party filing for emergency relief has the burden of proving that the relief requested is in the child’s best interest. Therefore, you must be prepared to provide sufficient evidence to convince the judge that the child would suffer harm if the court does not act immediately. 

Contact the Family Law Lawyers at Crystal Wright Law To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.