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Emergency Custody in Ohio: Exploring the Options

You may know of or even be close to a child whose circumstances bring about concerns about their safety and livelihood. With that, you may also wonder what, if anything, you can do to intervene. Ohio law allows for Emergency Temporary Custody. The court process for changing custody of a child can be lengthy, especially if contested by one or both of the child’s parents. Sometimes, a custody action is brought about because the child is in danger or is being abused. In these circumstances, no one should have to wait months before being able to legally remove the child from their current environment. Emergency custody in Ohio will grant a person Legal Custody of a minor child immediately, on a temporary basis, while the full court proceedings for permanent custody are pending.

There are two circumstances where someone may obtain emergency custody in Ohio:

  1. The child has been abandoned, and
  2. The child has been a victim of or is in danger of being abused.

In most counties in Ohio, Emergency Custody will only be granted if the petitioner shows the court that irreparable harm will befall the child if action is not immediately taken.

So, what kind of proof is needed to petition for emergency custody in Ohio?

Unless the child has been abandoned, an important thing to remember about emergency custody is that it is meant to remove the child from an environment where they are in immediate danger. While sometimes evidence of past incidents can be helpful, generally, the more recent actions or records are what should be focused on.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, there are many forms of evidence that could be used to support an emergency custody action. To name a few:

  • Records showing that the child’s parents have not had any contact or attempted contact with the child for over one year,
  • Police or children services reports,
  • Doctor or medical records showing the child has been physically abused,
  • Pictures or recordings of injuries the child has sustained caused by a parent or someone in the parent’s household,
  • Text messages or recorded conversations where a parent or someone in the parent’s household has threatened to cause the child harm,
  • Past or present convictions of domestic violence where the child was the victim or was present during the altercation.

How does the process work?

An overview of the emergency custody process would be simply put in two phases. The first is the emergency custody phase and the second is the permanent custody phase.

Emergency custody actions are heard by a judge or magistrate usually within a week, or the same day that they are filed if they are ex parte (only one party is initially heard). This is then quickly followed by a full emergency hearing where the responding party can appear to defend themselves against the allegations in the emergency custody motion. If the party seeking custody can prove that the child has been abandoned or is in danger of harm, then emergency custody will be granted on a temporary basis until is it modified or made permanent in the custody hearings that will follow.

Does the party seeking custody need to be related to the child to get emergency custody in Ohio?

No, the petitioner does not have to be related to the child to obtain emergency custody, although the courts will generally not award emergency custody unless they are related or have a preestablished familiar relationship with the child or their family.

Does CPS need to be involved?

Child Services (or Children Protective Services) does not need to be involved for an emergency custody action, although they often can be the ones to bring an emergency custody action if they believe a child is being abused, neglected, or dependent, requiring State intervention. If you believe a child may be in danger but you are not in the position to try to obtain custody yourself, getting Children Services involved may be a good option.

Be prepared that the process can be very complicated and often emotional for everyone involved. The emergency custody process is ideally handled with the assistance of an Ohio attorney who has experience in these kinds of cases. Having a professional help you understand the law and guide you through the steps is imperative not only for your case, but also for your peace of mind.