With several factors to consider, it may take a couple of months before a court issues a child custody order. However, urgent situations may warrant an expedited, although temporary, custody order to protect the child’s health and well-being. The most common of these situations is domestic violence.
No time to waste: Petition for Special Relief
In Pennsylvania, a parent or a concerned party may request the court to immediately intervene, remove a child from the harmful environment and temporarily place them either in the other parent’s or another person’s custody until the court sorts out the concern. This request is called the Petition for Special Relief and can be filed at any point of the custody hearing.
What qualifies as an emergency?
On top of the usual forms of domestic abuse, such as physical, mental and sexual abuse, other changes in a child’s domestic situation that pose an immediate risk may also be a ground to file the petition. This includes the imprisonment of the custodial parent, relocation without permission from the other parent and the court and unbearable living conditions.
Accordingly, the petitioning party must pursue this emergency request with founded grounds and not merely suspicion. Solid evidence of the emergency is critical especially since the accused parent will also have the opportunity to defend themself.
Time is of the essence when a child’s safety is involved
Children are among those most vulnerable in our society, and abusers take advantage of this. Failure to act on these abusive behaviors could result in health concerns, trauma and other adverse consequences on the child. Parents or other concerned individuals should bring the issue to court as soon as they discover the abuse or indications thereof.