Mom protecting her children needing help to modify a child custody agreement

Get Help Now: Emergency Motion to Modify Child Custody

As a parent, you care deeply about the health and safety of your child. You will do everything in your power to protect your precious children. If you have been through a divorce in Texas that established child custody, you may encounter a situation where you need to pursue a change.

Perhaps your ex-spouse is endangering your children, or you believe they are neglecting them. If the situation reaches the point where you need to request an emergency motion to modify child custody, we can help.

Once granted, this motion will provide you with the legal support to help save your child from a dangerous environment. Learn more about how you can obtain immediate relief.

Reasons to File an Emergency Motion

At a fundamental level, judges will modify a child custody arrangement to accommodate a change in substantial circumstances.

Some common non-emergency situations include a parent changing their work schedule or needing to relocate for work. In this case, the parents may need to change their custody arrangement. The parents may even agree on the changes and only need a judge to issue the appropriate order.

Sometimes, you cannot plan for a change in circumstances. A fire could destroy a parent’s home, making it impossible for the child to stay with them. A court can handle even these situations on a non-emergency basis. Both parents can appear at the hearing, and a judge can modify the parenting plan to accommodate the change.

But some changes require urgent action. Left unaddressed, a situation may cause irreparable mental or emotional harm to the child. These circumstances may even endanger the child’s health or life. In these cases, a judge must work quickly to remedy the situation.

In most cases, one parent will file the motion to modify the other parent’s custody. However, the petitioner does not necessarily need to be a parent. A grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other responsible adult may seek an emergency order granting custody on a temporary basis.

Let’s take a closer look at the typical situation where you believe your child’s well-being is at risk because of the actions of your ex-spouse.

Filing an Emergency Order if Your Ex-Spouse is Endangering Your Child

You may request a hearing on the path to obtaining an emergency custody order if the other parent is experiencing one of several situations.

1. Suffers From a Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Drugs and alcohol impair judgment, and a parent may engage in risky behavior when drunk or high. For example, the parent may drive while impaired or associate with dangerous people, which will negatively affect your child.

2. Experiences Mental Health Issues

A parent suffering from mental health concerns may be unable to care for the child’s needs. Worse yet, they may behave erratically or violently, placing the child in danger.

3. Neglects, Abandons, or Abuses the Child

A parent may mistreat a child due to substance addiction or mental illness. However, neglect, abandonment, and abuse can happen even without these issues, placing the child in danger.

4. Threatens to Take the Child From the Jurisdiction

Judges typically restrict how far a parent can take a child. For example, the judge may rule that the non-custodial parent cannot take the child outside of the county where you both live. If the other parent continues to violate the restriction zone – especially in a manner that places the child in harm – then you can request an emergency order to modify the custody order.

A judge could issue penalties or fines, reduce parenting time, take away access, and modify the original custody order depending on the severity and frequency of the offense.

How to Get an Emergency Custody Order

Emergency relief has many names, such as a temporary order, a temporary restraining order, or an emergency order. Regardless of the name, the process remains the same.

You and your family law attorney will prepare an emergency motion to modify custody. The motion will set out the requested changes and how they affect the child. Most importantly, the motion must explain why you need emergency relief.

For example, suppose that you became aware of the other parent’s alcohol problem when they were stopped for a DUI with the child in the car. Your attorney would include all the evidence you can uncover about the parent’s alcohol use and its effect on your child. This evidence may include police reports, witness statements, and other records.

The reasons must be compelling enough to persuade a judge to remove the child from the other parent’s care immediately and without notice. This means the motion must demonstrate irreparable harm to the child if left where they are.

The court will conduct an emergency child custody hearing much more quickly than a regular hearing. This hearing could occur the same day or within a few days of the motion’s filing.

Typically, the other parent will not attend this hearing. Only the judge, the petitioner (you), and your attorney will attend. The judge will review your motion and ask questions of you and your attorney. If the judge grants the order, the court will set a hearing within 14 days.

Effects of an Emergency Motion to Modify Child Custody

The issuance of an emergency order has several effects on the other parent.

Suspending the Parent’s Custody

The order will temporarily suspend your ex-spouse’s custody of the child. This means the child will not live with the parent. It also means the parent will lose the right to make decisions affecting the child, including the following:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Religion
  • Extracurricular activities

The order will put the entire law in motion to effectively change custody.

Granting Custody to the Petitioner

After receiving the modified order, the other parent must comply with the terms and surrender their parental rights.

If the parent refuses to comply with the order, the court can enforce its order using any of the following:

  • Law enforcement agencies
  • The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)
  • The court’s contempt power

The new arrangement will remain in place until the hearing date. At that time, the court will hear from both parties.

Setting a Modification Hearing

The other parent will receive notification of a follow-up hearing date. The judge will hear from both parents and their legal teams at this hearing.

Based on the written submissions and the presentation at the hearing, the judge must determine whether to terminate, extend, or modify the temporary order. Then, a final order will be filed with the court modifying child custody.

An Attorney’s Role in Securing an Emergency Modification

A judge will need to see compelling evidence to grant an emergency motion to modify child custody, as outlined in the Texas Family Code. A family law attorney plays an essential role in supporting your case.

A family law attorney participates in the initial motion seeking an emergency child custody order and the full child custody hearing. An experienced child custody attorney knows facts and legal arguments that can support your situation.

At Parker & Aguilar, our family law attorneys are ready to fight on your behalf. We will work tirelessly to protect you and your child from harm by navigating the legal system on your behalf.

We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact our offices ​​immediately to pursue an emergency court order.

You can reach us at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with a local attorney who cares. Let’s get started now on filing an emergency motion. We have experience with modification cases and the skills to advocate on your behalf.