Your parenting plan has been virtually set in stone for a while now — but you’re genuinely concerned about your child’s safety while they’re with their other parent for some reason.

What can you do? Normally, any kind of modification to an existing custody order and parenting plan requires some complicated legal wrangling in front of a judge while both parties are present. It can take weeks — or months — to get a hearing. If your child is genuinely in danger right now, that’s not an acceptable option.

Here are some possible choices:

  1. Try to reason with your child’s other parent. If you have a reasonably decent relationship, you may be able to appeal to their better nature and ask them to agree to a temporary, informal change in the parenting plan until the situation resolves.
  2. Ask for an ex parte order that grants a temporary change in custody. California Family Code Section 3064 allows parents to seek an emergency change in custody on a temporary basis without waiting on a full hearing. (A full hearing will have to be held at a later time, at which point your child’s other parent can try to refute your case.)

Some of the situations that could warrant an emergency order include:

  • Indications that there is domestic violence in your ex’s household
  • Allegations that your child is the victim of sexual abuse
  • Allegations that your child is malnourished, neglected or otherwise mistreated
  • A parent’s arrest for drug use, drunk driving or another serious crime
  • Allegations that the other parent is suffering from a physical or mental illness that could endanger your child’s safety

If you think that one of these situations may apply, get experienced advice before you take the next step. As difficult as it may be to seek a modification of custody during this time, it’s essential to protect your child.