When a child comes to the attention of a family court judge, they can expect an elevated level of protection. Minor children, particularly those involved in a divorce or other domestic situations, are thought to be in a vulnerable position. In some cases, the parents or a parent may not be doing enough to protect them. Read on to find out about how this protection works when it's needed most.
Report and Verify
Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, or a concerned friend, you won't get far with the family court system unless you have more than allegations of wrongdoing by a parent. That means you must report issues like parental kidnappings, any type of abuse (physical or psychological), exposure to criminal behavior, etc. to law enforcement first. Judges will be far more likely to take your testimony seriously and take action when you can back up your statements with police reports. It's not necessary that the parent be charged with a crime for you to take action, but you should gather as much evidence and assemble as many witnesses as possible to bring to court. In most cases, your family law attorney can advise you on what to do and how to file for an emergency hearing.
The Judge Issues Temporary Orders
When something occurs to disturb the welfare of a minor child, the judge moves decisively but with restraint. Most judges are very reluctant to alter the parenting plan that has, up to then, been working. That means that temporary orders may be issued first, giving everyone time to adjust to any changes. Temporary orders may mean a change in visitation or in child custody. The goal is to protect the child from bad influences. Custody can be awarded to the non-custodial parent, a grandparent, or other suitable relatives.
Permanent Changes to the Parenting Plan
Temporary orders usually have an expiration date but they can be extended indefinitely. In certain rare cases, though, a permanent change to custody or visitation can be made by a permanent order. The reason why permanent changes are rare is that judges want to keep children with their biological parents and will do everything possible to make that happen. If a parent needs parenting classes or drug rehabilitation, they are often provided with that chance. At this point, social services can enter the picture to provide investigations and evaluations to the judge.
To find out more about making changes to protect a child, speak to a family law attorney like those at Scott & Scott, PC.