Temporary custody refers to where the child will be allowed to reside from when you begin litigation for sole or joint custody. The first step you will take in your custody case is to file a request for temporary custody. This will be decided by the court, like any other court-ordered custodial arrangement, based on the best interests of the child. To be clear, this is NOT an initial award of custody, but rather is a short-term arrangement so that the child has a set place to live while you wait for the court to begin hearings on the ultimate disposition of custody.
The goal of a temporary custody decision is to immediately create some semblance of stability in the child’s life. Legally, this decision is to have no impact on the final custody decision. But in reality, the situation is not nearly so ideal.
A party may ask the court for a temporary parenting arrangement if there is a pending claim for custody. It is in the judge’s sole discretion as to whether the claim justifies an award of temporary custody. The party seeking a temporary child custody order may use an ex parte motion to obtain a temporary custody order if it is an emergency situation where the child is at risk or if the other parent is planning to leave the state to avoid jurisdiction. An ex parte motion is often heard by the judge without notice to or argument from the adverse party. However, ex parte motions for emergency custody should only be used in real emergencies and should not be used to gain leverage in a custody case.
The general rule is that no testimony is taken at the temporary relief hearing. Rather, the Court decides the issues of temporary custody, etc., on the basis of parties’ respective motions and affidavits, and on the arguments of counsel made at the hearing. It is extremely important to take the time at this stage to get affidavits and documentation from as many people as possible who have relevant knowledge.