Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC


(603) 707-4800

Emergency Child Custody Modification

Nothing is more important to parents than keeping their children safe and out of harm’s way. Child custody proceedings can take weeks to months, depending on the family’s situation. The process typically begins when partners who share children divorce or separate. To initiate the child custody proceedings, the court requires both partners to try and work together and to submit a parenting plan. Once a child custody arrangement and order are in place, if one parent is concerned the children are at risk of harm, that parent may wish to petition the court for an emergency child custody modification order. While these orders are only available for cases in which the children face a real threat of immediate harm, when there is evidence that your children are in severe danger, you have the right to take legal action. Contact a seasoned New Hampshire family law attorney at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, for help with an emergency child custody petition by calling (603) 707-4800.

New Hampshire Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

When parents are separating or divorcing in New Hampshire, the family courts require they file a parenting plan to address child custody, support, and visitation. According to the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated 461-A, the parenting plan will become part of the court order directing both parents’ legal rights and responsibilities. While the courts prefer that parents find a way to co-parent and work together for the children’s best interest, that is not always possible. When problems arise, especially those that place the children in danger, a parent may need to petition the court to request an emergency modification of the custody arrangement.

How Do I Get an Emergency Court Order?

An emergency child custody court order will only be granted in extreme situations. Unless there is evidence that the children are at risk of immediate harm, family court judges will typically deny the requests. The hearing for an emergency or ex parte petition usually happens as quickly as the court can schedule them. That is because the children are at risk of imminent harm, and prompt intervention is necessary for their protection and safety. Such hearings often occur within a few days of filing the petition and take effect immediately. However, the orders are temporary.

Getting an Emergency Custody Order

In most legal custody processes, parents have the right to dispute arguments and present evidence to establish their innocence. If the family court judge decided custody arrangements based on one parent’s opinions, they would deny the other parent many of their legal parental rights. However, an emergency child custody modification, or ex parte, is sometimes necessary to protect a child’s physical or psychological safety, health, and well-being.

According to the New Hampshire Judicial Branch, the legal procedures for emergency orders are only available for cases in which children are at severe risk of harm unless the judge takes action immediately. The parent requesting ex parte must petition the court and provide evidence supporting emergency court intervention. Supporting evidence may include medical records, doctor’s notes, or arrest records.

How Long Does a Temporary Custody Order Last?

When a crisis or sudden change of circumstances puts children’s safety at stake, there may be cause for an emergency court order to modify custody. The parent seeking the emergency modification must petition the court and prove to the judge that the children are in imminent and immediate danger or threat of severe harm. The filing could request a modification for reasons including mistreatment of the children, physical and emotional abuse, or addiction and drug abuse. The temporary order may last a few days or extend until the next court hearing. The terms of the modification will be at the family court judge’s discretion, and the judge will provide instructions when they release their decision.

When Your Children Need Immediate Legal Protection

When children require immediate protection from a parent, the other parent or guardian can file an ex-parte for the judge to review immediately. A lawyer at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC could answer questions about emergency child custody proceedings in New Hampshire.

Emergency Custody Order in New Hampshire

While it is not common, there are times when family court judges will approve requests for emergency child custody arrangements. Concerned parents should remember that such petitions are only for emergencies, and when there is no evidence supporting the petition, the judge will deny the request. Some of the reasons to request the emergency orders include the following: 

  • The recent violent or drug-related arrest of a parent
  • A child psychologist’s evaluation regarding abuse 
  • New reports from child protection agencies 
  • A physician report or determination of abuse of the children 
  • When children witness violence, abuse, addiction, or any risky behaviors
  • Where there are arrests or a court finds a parent guilty of abuse of another child 
  • Evidence that a parent is leaving children without supervision for extended periods of time

Emergency custody is temporary and will remain in effect for a specific, limited time frame. They may be accompanied or succeeded by the assignment of a court-appointed guardian ad litem, who will conduct a thorough investigation of domestic arrangements in order to provide the court with an assessment regarding what form of permanent child custody arrangements might be in the best interests of the child. Therefore, the parent who has requested the emergency modification should begin working immediately to prepare for a long-term resolution after the judge grants a temporary order. They may grant the emergency order for a few days or until the next custody hearing. Whatever the case, if a long-term modification is necessary, taking action to prepare is crucial.

How To File for Emergency Custody

In order to file for emergency custody in New Hampshire, the individual who wishes to request the emergency child custody modification must petition the family court. They will file an ex parte with supporting evidence for the judge to review. Once filed, the clerk of court will ensure the judge sees the petition promptly. The parent filing the petition must provide detailed specifics, supporting evidence, and documentation to establish the cause of the emergency order and demonstrate the urgency of the situation and the severity of the harm the child or children may suffer if the emergency modification is not granted.

Schedule a Consultation With an Experienced Child Custody Attorney

If your children’s health and safety are at risk, you have every right to take action to file for an emergency child custody modification and protect them. While most custody arrangements, or parenting plans in New Hampshire family courts, can take time and ongoing court hearings, there are options for emergency child safety situations. A compassionate family law attorney at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, at (603) 707-4800, could answer your questions regarding the process for emergency child custody.


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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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