When a situation that threatens the well-being of your child arises and you need to seek emergency custody, Arizona law provides a specific set of guidelines to follow. Here’s how to get emergency custody in Arizona.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
What is an Arizona emergency child custody order?
An emergency custody order is also called a temporary order. This temporarily grants one parent or another party sole physical and legal custody of the child in question. In some cases, the State may even get custody (as per Title 25-1034).
This order gives all decision-making power to the person or party with physical custody for a limited timeframe until the full case can be heard in court. The court generally only puts these orders into place in cases where a child faces the possibility of significant and irreparable harm.
Do I qualify for emergency custody?
It is not easy to get emergency custody. The burden of proof lies with the person making the petition for a temporary order. This means that a person asking for it must present substantial evidence to document the emergency situation. Typically, it’s best to work with a family law attorney during this process.
As the Maricopa County website puts it, you can file for a temporary order if “someone is about to cause serious, immediate bodily harm to another person, or the health, safety, and welfare of a person is otherwise in serious and immediate jeopardy.”
To qualify, you must also be filing another petition that would affect child custody, such as divorce paperwork or a request to modify parenting time or legal decision-making. You might have already filed that paperwork or you might be filing it at the same time.
Penalties for false claims
Courts take these petitions very seriously, but there are penalties for filing one when there isn’t a real emergency. For example, a parent cannot file a petition simply because they are angry at the other parent.
In fact, the Maricopa County court website clearly outlines the penalties for this, noting:
“If it turns out that what you said is not true or filed without good legal reason, the judge may find you in contempt of court, order payment to the court or to the other party for costs or damages resulting from the wrongful filing of this Motion, or impose other sanctions.”
How long does emergency child custody last in Arizona?
As noted in Title 25-404 of Arizona law, emergency child custody orders are only in place until the court schedules a hearing to determine a more permanent situation. In some cases, this can be in as few as two weeks, though the timeline depends on the court’s calendar.
How to file for emergency custody of a child in Arizona
Under Rule 48, Arizona law clearly states that emergency custody may be granted without notice to the other party only if two conditions are met:
- It is clear that the person requesting emergency custody or the child will be harmed by giving notice to the other person
- Notice has been attempted but has been unsuccessful
To file for temporary custody, follow these steps.
1. Fill out the paperwork
You can find the required forms and detailed instructions online for Maricopa County if you are in the process of separating, divorcing, or establishing custody or if you are requesting to modify custody. The Pima County court website also has self-service forms.
The paperwork clearly outlines why you need the order, including the parties involved and the nature of the emergency. What is it about the situation that makes it an emergency? As this form is only for emergencies, it is important to make sure the situation is truly an emergency. You will need to include as much detail and evidence as possible. Working with an attorney can be vital during this process.
You must sign and date this form in front of a notary public. You can do this at the court itself.
2. Make copies of the paperwork
You must make three copies. In total, you will have four versions, your original and your three copies.
3. File the papers at the court
Take your original paperwork and your three copies to the court clerk for filing. Find your county’s court website to determine where to go to file your paperwork or to ask more questions about the process.
The clerk will file your paperwork and direct you to the judge who will hear your case.
What happens in an emergency custody hearing?
The court schedules the initial hearing very quickly and typically holds it without the other parent present. You will present all of the evidence you can gather. This might include medical records, photographs, sworn statements, and testimony from Child Protective Services.
If the judge believes there is enough evidence, they will issue an emergency order. This order will remain in place until a second hearing is scheduled where the other party can be present to defend against the allegations. The timeframe until the hearing varies from court to court based on the court’s calendar.
If the judge does not believe there is enough evidence for an emergency order, they may limit parenting time with the other parent, or they may require supervised visits.
At a time when emotions are running high and your child’s safety is at stake, navigating this process can be very challenging. At Arizona Legal Center, we offer free legal aid to people who need it. If you need advice and support regarding emergency custody, get in touch today.
Disclaimer: The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.