Experienced South Florida


What constitutes a family emergency in a Florida divorce? Part 1

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2022 | Child Custody, Divorce, Visitation and Time-Sharing

How can I get a hearing in my divorce case when the problem affecting my child is urgent?

Dangerous situations can evolve during or after divorce that may put children at risk. The parents have moved to different homes, usually dividing parenting time and sharing parental responsibilities, but sometimes things can go south for the children of the marriage when their safety is threatened. Potential emergency situations include:

  • When kids could be subject to physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse
  • When a parent fails to provide adequate medical or personal care, or is otherwise neglectful
  • When a parent exposes their children to people who might harm them or who may engage in inappropriate behavior in their presence
  • When a parent threatens to take a child out of town, county, state or even country
  • When a parent struggles with addiction or has a mental health crisis
  • When a parent faces hospitalization or jail
  • And others of similar seriousness

Understandably, a parent may be upset when the temporary or permanent custody and parenting time orders in the divorce case give the other parent times of complete responsibility for the child during which potentially unsafe conditions could evolve. The concerned parent may ask the court for an emergency hearing and request a change in the existing custodial arrangements to protect the child. In a true emergency the judge may issue orders to protect the child even if the other parent has not received notice of the hearing.

Emergency hearings

The administrative orders of the local Florida circuit court dictate the applicable procedure and standards for a parental request for an “emergency hearing or emergency relief.” For example, in Palm Beach County, the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit has an Administrative Order that requires first that a judge decide if a true emergency exists.

The judge must deny the request for emergency hearing unless the parent presents “sufficient allegations to establish … [either] [a]n imminent risk of substantial physical harm to a minor child; or … [a] child is about to be illegally removed from [the] Court’s jurisdiction.” If the allegations of emergency are sufficient, the court “shall schedule a hearing, enter any ex-parte order deemed necessary, or take any other appropriate action.”

An ex-parte order is one made without notice to the other party to present their side of the dispute. For example, the judge might order a temporary change in the custody arrangements. After an ex-parte order, the parent who did not appear at the hearing could seek to appeal the order or ask the court to dissolve the order at a hearing where both parents can appear.

The court must always treat a child pick-up request as an emergency in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. A pick-up order would direct a law enforcement officer to remove a child from someone (including the other parent) who does not have the legal right to possess the child and return them to the parent who does have that right.

The administrative order also provides that asking for child support or alimony payment, or for visitation “usually do not meet the standard for emergency relief.”

In part 2 of this post, we will discuss emergencies involving children that can become subjects of these hearings.


The LAW OFFICES OF FORREST & Forrest, PLLC represents individuals in Fort Lauderdale in high-asset divorce matters. Daniel Forrest is board-certified family lawyer and mediator serving the South Florida area.

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