How to File Emergency Custody in Tennessee

Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on February 4, 2021

In Tennessee, there are situations where filing for emergency custody will be necessary to protect the best interests of a child or children. Emergency temporary custody orders are useful in cases of divorce, modification of custody, or for the first step in establishing custody or paternity. In order to file for emergency custody or for emergency custody to be granted, there must be a situation that warrants the change. The family law attorneys of Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC explain how to get emergency custody and more.

What is a Temporary Emergency Custody Order?

In case of an emergency situation, either parent can file for emergency custody and request a temporary custody order to protect the child. This can include situations where one parent is trying to remove the children from an abusive situation or where a parent is neglectful or is living in a harmful environment.

One parent may file for temporary custody to:

  • Prevent the other parent from removing the child from the court’s jurisdiction.
  • Protect the child from a neglectful or abusive parent.
  • Move the child away from a harmful situation.

How to Get an Emergency Custody Order in Tennessee

In case an emergency arises, either parent can file for emergency custody and request temporary custody to safeguard the child from any harm, abuse, or neglect.

Cases that involve filing for temporary custody may be made ex parte, meaning no notice of the petition or hearing is given to the other parent, thereby preventing them from presenting their side of the argument or evidence. Because the other parent is left out of the notice, the court must review the emergency order within 15 days.

In general, a temporary emergency custody order will remain in effect until a formal court order is made. The other parent can present their perspective, arguments, and evidence of abuse or neglect for filing for emergency custody or for a change of custody to occur.

The other parent has the opportunity to share their side of the case during the review hearing. Upon the presentation of evidence and testimony, the judge will either modify or terminate the temporary custody orders.

In other cases, if the custodial parent is in an accident and is required to stay in the hospital for a prolonged period of time, the non-custodial parent may file for a temporary custody order. In other words, the court can order temporary custody during any kind of emergency situation, even after the finalization of the divorce. Not all cases require a parent to be at fault for some reason or another.

Situations Where A Temporary Emergency Custody Order Is Needed

In some cases, the need for a temporary emergency custody order may result from a child being with an unfit parent. In Tennessee, an unfit parent may include one who:

  • Willfully abandons a child
  • Is physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive
  • Has been convicted of a sexual offense
  • Has an alcohol or drug impairment
  • Has criminal convictions that do not allow the parent to care for the child

However, it’s not always as severe. A temporary custody order in Tennessee may be needed as a divorce is in progress or a modification of a custody order. This can be for situations where one parent’s financial situation has changed, job status has been altered, or living arrangements have changed.

In those cases, both parents may agree to a temporary change in custody. If they do not, the parent may still petition the court for a temporary parenting plan. The parent will need to submit not only the proposed parenting plan but also a statement of income.

However, these temporary parenting plans and emergency custody orders can be difficult to obtain and may be met with resistance. Through mediation or court intervention, there may be ways to determine what sort of custody order is best suited for the child.

What Happens in Non-Emergency Situations?

In Tennessee, one or both parents may request a temporary custody order even if there’s no emergency situation. This temporary order can be used to continue with or modify the status quo until the court announces a final verdict.

Often, parents are able to work out a temporary parenting plan in such situations. They may use the temporary child custody order to facilitate consistent decision-making and childcare. One parent can petition the judge to adopt the temporary parenting plan as proposed by them. Whether or not it will be ruled depends on the judge.

Can a Judge Decide Not to Rule on My Petition?

As mentioned, the judge has complete discretion over ruling on your petition. This is often done when the parents agree to take their case forward in a harmonious manner. Temporary custody hearings can take just as much time as the actual custody trial. Hence, the judge may decide to issue a permanent order after trial, when possible.

What Needs to Be Included in a Temporary Parenting Plan?

Tennessee law mandates that any temporary parent plan must comply with the provisions meant for permanent parent plans. In keeping with this, the temporary plan needs to line up with the specific timeframe, and also include a residential schedule.

If only one parent has petitioned the court for a temporary child custody order, and has included a proposed parenting plan along with a substantiated statement of income, the court can choose to adopt it. However,  the court will adopt it only if the plan is found to be in the best interests of the child.

Getting Legal Help Can Be Beneficial

When it comes to temporary child custody orders, parents can have a hard time understanding their legal rights and options. Those who’ve never navigated the legal field before can find it particularly complex. It is recommended to work with a seasoned Tennessee emergency child custody attorney. They’ll know exactly how to protect your rights as well as your children’s best interests.

Your lawyer will support you every step of the way and guide you to draft a petition for a temporary child custody order. Further, they’ll also help you create a robust parenting plan, and provide strong representation in court at any and every hearing.

Emergency Custody in Tennessee: Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC

If you are considering a modification to your permanent parenting plan, or are in need of a temporary emergency custody order, or want to know how to obtain emergency custody, you’re going to need an experienced family law attorney to help you. Contact Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC now to learn more.

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