It can be terrifying when you think your child is in danger, is being neglected, lives in a harmful environment, or risks being taken out of state against custody orders. You need to act quickly to ensure the safety and well-being of your child, and filing for emergency custody should be your first step.
Filing for emergency custody and for it to be granted, there must be grounds for the change. This article will explain emergency custody in Tennessee and how to file for an emergency custody order.
Emergency Custody in Tennessee
Either parent can file for emergency custody to protect the child. When getting a temporary emergency custody order, it can be done “ex parte,” which means that no notice of petition or hearing will be sent to the other parent, meaning they won’t have a chance to tell their side of the story.
When filing for emergency custody, you must provide evidence to the judge to prove that the custodial parent isn’t fit to take care of the child. You should also have a temporary parenting plan ready outlining how you plan to care for the child, including healthcare, education, socialization, and potential therapy if the child has experienced trauma. You have to demonstrate that you have given this thought and are ready to take on the responsibility of the child.
The court has fifteen days to review the emergency order. If the order is granted, the requesting parent is awarded custody until the formal court order is issued. This is when the other parent will have the opportunity to present their side of the story and evidence as to why they should get custody back.
How is an Unfit Parent Defined in Tennessee?
When granting a change in custody, especially in emergencies, the court has to agree that the parent who the child is being taken away from is an unfit parent. They can determine the parent is temporarily or permanently unfit.
Some scenarios in which the court may find a parent unfit may include the following:
- The child has been abandoned by the custodial parent.
- The child has been abused (physically, sexually, or emotionally) by the custodial parent.
- The custodial parent has neglected the child’s basic needs, which has been detrimental to their daily life.
- Alcohol or drugs have affected the custodial parent’s ability to parent.
- The custodial parent has been convicted of a sexual offense or another offense prohibiting them from caring for the child (i.e., having to serve jail time).
Who Can File for Emergency Custody in Tennessee?
Either child may file for emergency custody in Tennessee. In some cases, someone who knows that the child is being abused or is in danger can file for emergency custody. The person filing doesn’t even have to know the child well, but it’s typically another family member, close friend, or neighbor.
Emergency Custody Hearings
Before the custody hearing, parents may be required by Tennessee DCS (Department of Children’s Services) to take a drug test, undergo educational programs, and interview with the caseworker. This information will be presented to the court by the caseworker.
During an emergency custody hearing, the judge will determine the emergency custody as well as visitation rights of other family members. The caseworkers from DCS will also explain what they have learned about the case.
What Happens to the Child If the Court Issues an Emergency Custody Order?
Typically, the child will be placed with you if the court agrees that they are in danger. However, in some cases, the Tennessee DCS may place the child with a friend or family member suitable for temporary custody, or the child may be placed in a temporary home until the case is settled.
The adults in these temporary homes must pass drug screenings and background checks. And while it may be unsettling to be apart from your child, it may be the best option, especially if the child is being taken from a parent who may kidnap them.
Hunter Fowler, a Murfreesboro Attorney Who Cares
Understanding your legal rights and options as a parent can be challenging, especially if this is all new to you. If you believe your child is living in unsafe conditions or may be in danger, these concerns must be addressed immediately. Working with an experienced child custody lawyer will know how to protect your rights, while keeping your child’s best interest at the forefront.
Attorney Hunter Fowler knows that you want what’s best for your child. That’s why he makes your needs and your family’s needs his number one priority when working with you on child custody laws. Hunter will walk you through the legal process and help you find an outcome that serves everyone’s best interests.
Contact us today and talk to an attorney who genuinely cares about you.