How to Get Emergency Child Custody in North Carolina

If you believe that your child is in immediate physical danger, you may ask the courts to grant you emergency custody temporarily through an emergency custody order. Due to its serious nature, an emergency custody order is only granted in exceptional circumstances, but if you are concerned about your child's welfare, here is what the process can involve.         

Legal Basis for Seeking Emergency Custody

Under North Carolina General Statute §50-13.5(d)(3), there are only three grounds for obtaining emergency custody:

  • The child is at risk of immediate physical harm;
  • There's a substantial risk of sexual abuse; or
  • The child may be abducted or removed from North Carolina to evade the court process.

If you can prove that emergency custody is necessary to protect the child from imminent harm, you'll be awarded a temporary emergency custody order.

To file for emergency custody in North Carolina, your child must normally have lived in the state for at least six months or since birth if they're under six months old. If the child is in clear physical danger but doesn't meet the residency requirements, a court may still exercise its emergency jurisdiction and hear the case.

Procedure for Obtaining an Emergency Custody Order

While the exact procedure varies by county, you must file a motion or complaint alongside a sworn statement of facts setting out why the order is justified.

The judge will often consider your motion ex parte, meaning the other parent will not be present at the hearing. Since judges normally hear both sides of a case before making a judgment, they will not grant emergency custody unless there's a clear and compelling reason to do so. An experienced attorney can advise you if there are sufficient grounds to move for emergency custody. 

If the motion is successful, you obtain immediate custody of the child in question. A hearing involving both parties will be held within ten days, at which point the opposing party can defend themselves. The court can either extend the emergency custody order or change the terms, depending on the circumstances.

If You Receive Notice of an Emergency Custody Order

If you receive notice of an emergency custody order and lose custody of your child, contact a family law attorney immediately. You only have a short window of time to prepare a defense, so it's vital you receive expert legal advice right away.

North Carolina Family Law Attorneys

The emergency custody process can be highly stressful and emotional for all parties involved. Whether you want emergency custody or you're facing a custody order, our experienced attorneys can offer you comprehensive advice tailored to your circumstances.

With offices in Shelby and Gastonia, the attorneys at Caulder & Valentine Law Firm can assist you with all child custody-related matters in NC. Contact us today for a consultation.