By: Martinette Jennifer, Esq.
Here are four essential things to know about emergency and ex parte custody proceedings in Maryland.
1. What is an ex parte child custody hearing?
In most custody cases, which often arise during divorce proceedings, a parent will file in Court requesting either sole legal and physical custody, joint legal and physical custody, or some variation of the two regarding a minor child. Afterward, a court issues a date for a court hearing on the matter of child custody. The timeliness of the court proceedings varies by County. However, an ex parte child custody hearing differs from an ordinary custody proceeding. Ex parte refers to court proceedings where often only one party might be present, and often the other party is given short notice of the court proceeding. In an emergency ex parte custody proceeding, the parent asks a judge to issue a temporary order of custody in their favor. Due to the emergent nature of the request, and the lack of advance notice to the other parent, these types of hearings are not taken lightly by judges, and the movant must take specific steps to ensure that a judge does not find against them in their request for emergency temporary custody.
2. How do you request an emergency ex parte hearing?
As previously stated, not all circumstances qualify as emergencies. For example, suppose you and the other parent cannot decide on a pediatrician for your child. While this may be a frustration between you, it is certainly not an emergency that requires a judge’s immediate action. Although there is no enumerated list of circumstances that qualify for emergency relief, the moving party (the one filing the pleading) must demonstrate that you or the child are at risk for the immediate danger of irreparable harm. One important thing to remember is you must have an open custody case when you seek a temporary emergency order. If there is no open custody matter, you must establish one before filing your pleading for emergency relief or simultaneously with that filing. The moving party (the parent seeking emergency relief) will need to prove that the child is located in Maryland and has been neglected or abused (or threatened with such) or that a custody issue requires immediate relief.
3. What happens if waiting for a hearing is not an option?
In some situations, waiting days for a contested hearing and providing the other parent with notice of a hearing might cause harm to the child before a judge could grant temporary emergency custody. If that is the case, a judge may rule based on the testimony of the moving party alone. If that occurs, the Court will schedule the matter for a full hearing to allow the other parent to present their evidence later.
4. The judge granted temporary emergency custody. How long is my order effective?
If the judge decides to issue a court order awarding temporary emergency custody to a parent/guardian, this order will be effective for the time specified in the order. The effective period will vary. Generally, parties can expect to return to court for a future hearing date, with both parents/guardians present, where a judge will hear evidence and determine whether to end the temporary emergency custody, modify it, or allow it to remain effective.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to request an emergency custody order, hiring a lawyer and obtaining legal advice regarding your particular situation will allow you to have the best chance of having a court hear your case as soon as possible and increases the likelihood of a judge granting your request for emergency relief. Don’t hesitate to contact the experienced family law attorneys at Andalman & Flynn, who are ready to assist you today with your child custody matters.
About Andalman & Flynn, P.C.: Founded in 1998 in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Andalman & Flynn has forged a distinguished reputation for legal excellence. The Firm practices family law, estate planning, and probate throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, and represents individuals seeking disability benefits throughout the country. The Firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone and is there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. The Firm has provided legal analysis on national and local television and radio, and its attorneys often testify before legislative bodies and are routinely invited to contribute to prominent legal publications. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit the website at andalmanflynn.com or call 301.563.6685.