Mother neglecting childThis is the next post in a series of articles addressing specific circumstances in which a Melbourne parent may seek an emergency change to a Florida child custody order. Our previous article discussed situations in which criminal activity by a parent may justify such a modification. For obvious reasons, if a parent exposes a child to dangerous criminal behavior, a judge will likely modify such parent’s custody rights on an emergency basis. In this article, we will discuss when a parent’s neglect of a child will be considered an emergency justifying a custody change. If you need assistance with a custody matter, contact our office to speak with an experienced attorney.

Generally speaking, in order to request a change to an existing custody arrangement, the requesting parent must demonstrate to the court that there has been a change in circumstances and that, as a result, the current arrangement is no longer in the child’s best interest. Under normal conditions, this process may take several weeks or months to complete. As discussed throughout this series, however, when a parent’s behavior places their child at risk of imminent harm, a judge may determine that custody should be modified on an emergency basis. A parent’s ongoing and serious neglect of a child commonly justifies an expedited custody change. In this context, neglect does not mean ordering pizza several times a week versus cooking dinner. To constitute an emergency, the parent’s neglect must be such that the child is at risk of imminent harm. For instance, failing to provide any food for the child, complete lack of supervision for a child who is not old enough to care for themselves, or keeping residence in unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.

Parents who believe their child is in serious danger of imminent harm due to the neglect of their co-parent should contact law enforcement immediately. As soon as possible thereafter, it is important to discuss your case with a family attorney to determine whether to seek an emergency custody change. When appropriate, your lawyer will file a Motion with the court to modify custody on an expedited basis. Depending upon the seriousness of the neglect, the judge may immediately modify the arrangement to remove the child from the dangerous situation. Typically such a change is temporary pending a more formal hearing to determine if the modification should be permanent. Commonly in cases involving extreme neglect, child protective services will be contacted to monitor the situation to determine if the child can be safely placed back in the parent’s care. If the parent has been charged criminally, the judge may require the resolution of the criminal case prior to issuing a permanent decision.

Seeking a custody modification on the basis of child neglect should not be taken lightly. Neglect is a fluid concept that many parents disagree about. Obviously, in extreme situations where the child is in danger, it is important to take swift action for their protection. When the situation is less clear, however, a concerned parent should discuss the matter with an experienced attorney prior to initiating legal action. Judges do not look favorably on unfounded or exaggerated accusations of neglect. Our Melbourne attorneys have experience assisting parents with custody change requests and are ready to assist you. Contact us today to speak with a lawyer.

We also serve the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.