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When and How to Request an Emergency Custody Order in Canada

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What Can You Do if You Believe Your Child’s Safety or Well-Being is in Danger Under Your Current Custody Order?

Following a divorce or separation, the family court will put in place temporary or permanent custody orders that define the parenting time and decision-making responsibilities of each parent. While the court does its best to make orders that are in the child’s best interests, circumstances can change, and you may feel that your child is now at risk from the other parent’s actions. If this occurs, the typical court process for changing custody orders may be too slow to prevent potential harm. In this case, emergency custody orders may be necessary.

Emergency custody orders are legal decisions made by a court to temporarily alter parenting arrangements to ensure a child’s safety. These orders are typically sought when there’s a credible threat to a child’s well-being, such as imminent danger of abuse, neglect, or abduction. The urgency of these situations means that the standard process for modifying custody arrangements is expedited to provide immediate protection for the child.

When is an Emergency Custody Order Warranted?

Emergency custody orders can be made as ex parte motions, which means the court hears the motion without the other party present. Because the order may be granted without the other party getting a chance to tell their side of the story, the court strictly limits the use of emergency custody orders to prevent their misuse. Emergency custody orders are only available in situations where:

  • There’s an immediate threat to the child’s safety or health.
  • The child is likely to be permanently removed from the province or country.
  • Serving the other party with notice of the motion could result in harm or serious consequences to the child or the applicant.

What Steps May Be Involved in Requesting an Emergency Custody Order?

The specific court process and forms required for an emergency custody order vary by province. However, the following is a general outline of some essential stages in the process:

  • Consult a lawyer: If possible, discussing your case with a skilled child custody lawyer is highly recommended before beginning the emergency custody order process. They can evaluate your case and ensure it meets the ex parte motion criteria. This step is crucial because filing an unnecessary motion without notice can result in penalties, such as having to pay the other party’s legal fees. If your lawyer determines that an emergency custody order is warranted, they can guide you through the legal process, help organize your motion, and ensure it’s supported with adequate evidence.
  • Prepare and file your forms: You must fill out specific forms to petition for an emergency custody order. These forms typically require detailed information about the child, the nature of the emergency, and the desired outcome. You will submit your completed application to the appropriate court. For more information on the process for bringing a motion without notice in Ontario Family Court, see the province’s online court procedures guid
  • Attend the hearing: You’ll need to attend a court hearing where you outline your case. Because the other party has not been informed of the hearing, they will not be present. The judge will consider your evidence and decide whether to grant the emergency custody order. In urgent situations, the hearing date is typically expedited to ensure the safety of the child/children involved.
  • Follow-up: If the emergency custody order is granted, it’s usually temporary. You’ll likely need to return to court within 14 days for a subsequent hearing to determine long-term arrangements. The other party will be informed of this later hearing and will have an opportunity to respond to your evidence and plead their case.

What Are Key Considerations Involved in Undertaking Emergency Custody Order Proceedings?

Requesting an emergency custody order is a serious step taken to protect a child’s immediate safety. It’s essential to understand the legal requirements and to act swiftly but thoughtfully, ensuring that all actions are in the child’s best interests. Some of the issues you should consider when requesting an emergency custody order include:

  • Evidence: You must present sufficient evidence to support your claims that your child could be in danger if they remain in the custody of the other party. This may include police reports, medical records, or affidavits detailing the threat to the child’s safety.
  • Impact on future custody decisions: The outcome of an emergency custody order can influence future custody arrangements. However, receiving an emergency custody order does not guarantee that you will get sole custody in the future. Courts prioritize the child’s safety but aim to involve both parents in their lives unless evidence strongly suggests it would not be in their best interests.
  • Personal safety considerations: If you have serious concerns about your ex causing harm to yourself or your child before or after the emergency custody order hearing, you should contact local authorities immediately. You may need to obtain a restraining order or make safety plans to move to a secure location until the situation has been addressed.

How Can Our Law Firm Assist With a Canadian Emergency Custody Order?

Given the complexity and urgency of these matters, having legal representation is crucial to navigating the emergency custody order process effectively and efficiently. Our experienced and compassionate lawyers at Anthony Family Law can guide you, helping you understand your legal rights and the specifics of emergency custody orders. We can explain the process, the likelihood of success, and what to expect at each step of your unique situation.

While emergency custody orders can be vital in addressing immediate issues, they are not a long-term solution. Our lawyers can help you determine the best path for moving forward with your custody case and will provide support regarding any necessary follow-up actions. We know it can be frightening and overwhelming when your child is in an emergency situation, so we strive to provide clear and comprehensive legal advocacy. Contact our Ontario law firm today at 647-933-2397 to schedule a free case evaluation.

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