The process of asking the court for an emergency custody or visitation order is straight forward in California. Yes, courts do prefer to keep families together. If a child’s health or safety is in danger, however, the court will be inclined to grant an emergency custody or visitation order. Read on to learn more about the grounds for an emergency custody or visitation order in California.

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Clearly, most parents would do anything to protect their children. This often occurs when a parent believes their child might be hurt. At the same time, when a couple’s relationship has gone bad, children often are caught in the middle. For example, a parent’s anger can spill over from the broken relationship, ofter triggering bad parenting behaviors. In other words, the problems between the parents can cause a parent to act with unusual physical aggression towards their children.

Keep in mind, there are many different ways a parent could act with unusual physical aggression towards a child. For example, a parent could give a child an unreasonable or harsh punishment. Alternatively, a parent could respond with hostile anger and verbal abuse. As you can see, there are many different ways a parent’s actions could create an unsafe situation for a child. Under these circumstances, the court may grant emergency custody or visitation order. When a parent’s actions affect negatively the health, safety, and welfare of a child, the court can intervene and make emergency orders.

Legal Basis for California Emergency Custody or Visitation Order

In California, the court can make an emergency custody or visitation order under several different situations. The most common cases involve domestic violence or child abuse. At the same time, the court can also intervene when a parent has threatened to take a child and not return them.  In other words, a court has the discretion to grant emergency custody or visitation if the court feels a child is in danger.

The minor’s parent threatens to leave the state or hide the child away from the other parent. The threatened parent can get an ex parte order preventing the other parent from taking the child outside the local area.


Tonya was angry Angelo filed for divorce. Because of this, Tonya purchased one-way plane tickets to Mexico for herself and their child. She intended to take an extended stay to Mexico to visit her parents. Angelo found out about Tonya’s intentions to leave to Mexico and requested for the child to stay in California. Tonya told Angelo to get lost. In this situation, Angelo can request an emergency custody or visitation order to prevent Tonya from taking their child to Mexico without his consent.

One parent refuses to provide consent to his child receiving urgent medical treatment. The other parent can request an ex parte order asking the judge to allow the medical treatment without the other parent’s consent.


Billy’s son, Nate,needed a kidney transplant. Nate’s condition was getting worse and he had been on the transplant list for over three years. Billy was scared for his son to undergo a kidney procedure. He refused to grant permission for Nate’s doctors to do the surgery. Melissa, Nate’s mother, understood the benefits the kidney transplant would provide to her son. Melissa can ask for an emergency custody or visitation order to get court permission for the kidney transplant.

The other parent has been charged with child abuse or molestation.


Sara is known to abuse prescription drugs. One night, she took several different prescription drugs and passed out. Her son, Billy, came and woke her up because he was hungry. Sara slapped Billy on the face and yelled at him to leave her alone. Billy’s father, Ted, heard about what happened. Ted can file for an ex parte emergency custody or visitation order and get a temporary change of custody and/or visitation. In addition, Ted can also file a child abuse claim against Sara.

Keys to a Winning Strategy

The court decides on ex parte matters based on the content of the paperwork filed. In fact, a judge may not even talk with the parties at the hearing. That is to say, in these matters the judge often makes their decision “behind closed doors.” This means that neither party has a chance to speak or give the judge additional information. For this reason alone, it is very important that the filed documents provide clear and understandable grounds and reasons for your emergency custody and visitation request.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information. California Rules of Court Rule 5.151 reviews the process for requesting temporary emergency (ex parte) orders and the required documents. A People’s Choice can help you complete the forms needed to get an emergency court order. We can also help you file and serve the forms on the opposing parent. A People’s Choice has over 40 years of experience helping people in these types of matters.  In fact, we have helped thousands of people get their “story” in front of a judge. Furthermore, we have seen that, when asking for an emergency custody and visitation order, how you present your story can often mean the difference between the court granting or denying the motion. Call us today at 800-747-2780 for immediate help.

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