A smiling parent drawing with their child, a serene moment that represents the peace of mind from securing the child's safety through temporary custody in Texas.

When your child’s well-being is at immediate risk, there’s no time to waste. Texas law provides options for temporary or emergency custody orders to ensure swift intervention in crises. These orders are designed to protect children from imminent harm – whether that’s due to abuse, neglect, or a parent planning to take the child out of state.

Seeking Immediate Protection for Your Child

  • Understanding Emergency Custody in Texas: Emergency orders are granted when there’s clear evidence of imminent danger to the child’s physical or emotional well-being. These temporary orders require a full hearing within a short timeframe (typically 14 days).
  • When to Seek a Temporary Order: Texas law permits temporary orders in cases of abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse, threats of abduction, or a parent’s sudden unavailability due to incapacitation or incarceration.
  • How to Get Temporary Custody: You must file an affidavit detailing the immediate danger to the child, along with a proposed temporary order. If the risk is severe, an ‘ex parte’ hearing may be granted without the other parent present.
  • The Role of Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO): A TRO can prevent the other parent from taking the child out of state, changing their school, or interfering with your access. It’s a crucial tool when immediate restrictions are needed.
  • Your Rights and Legal Options: You have the right to legal representation even in emergencies. An experienced family law attorney can help you present compelling evidence, protect your rights, and strategize for the subsequent full custody hearing.

What Are the Basics of Temporary Custody in Texas?

A parent and child in the midst of an argument, symbolizing the challenging dynamics and basics of temporary custody in Texas.

Temporary custody in Texas is designed to provide a stable environment for children during ongoing legal proceedings or when their well-being is potentially at risk. These temporary orders, or pendente lite orders, are short-term solutions enacted until a final custody order is established. They address a variety of urgent issues such as:

  • Emergency child custody arrangements
  • Parenting schedules
  • Child support
  • Residence in the marital home

Defining Temporary Custody

The term ‘temporary custody’ under Texas law refers to an order that acts as a placeholder until final court decisions are made. It includes aspects of conservatorship, visitation, and child support to ensure the safety and welfare of the child during this period. Temporary orders can also include Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) to address immediate safety concerns of children and property.

The Role of Texas Family Code

The Texas Family Code, a part of Texas law, is the body of law that governs temporary custody arrangements in the state. It empowers courts to make or modify temporary orders for a child’s safety and welfare during a custody dispute, including temporary conservatorship and geographic restrictions. These orders can be made without specifying detailed facts through affidavits or pleadings, except in certain circumstances.

Note that similar to final orders, violations of temporary orders can lead to contempt penalties.

Initiating the Emergency Custody Process

A lawyer meticulously reviews legal documents and evidence, preparing for the critical emergency custody process in a focused setting.

If the child’s immediate safety or well-being becomes a concern, Texas can issue an emergency temporary custody order. An emergency custody order may be issued in urgent situations, such as immediate danger to the child or risk of the child being removed from the state. To initiate this process, one must file a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and temporary orders, accompanied by an affidavit detailing the situation’s urgency.

Recognizing Signs of Immediate Danger

Credible evidence of a child being in urgent or immediate danger is required to obtain an emergency custody order in Texas, as a child’s safety is of utmost importance. This can include situations of:

  • Physical, verbal or emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Hazardous living conditions
  • Physical or emotional harm

In scenarios involving an immediate danger like family violence, including child abuse, securing a Protective Order should be considered as an immediate legal safeguard.

Documenting Evidence for Filing

Evidence substantiating claims of immediate risk to a child’s physical or emotional health is necessary to secure temporary custody in Texas courts. This evidence can include:

  • Police reports
  • Medical records
  • Witness statements
  • Transcripts from the child’s school

Careful collection and organization of this evidence is vital to ensure its readiness for the custody hearing.

Understanding Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)

A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is an emergency court order primarily designed to protect the safety of children until a hearing can be held. The TRO maintains the status quo and prevents immediate harm or disruption to a child’s environment.

Following the issuance of a TRO, the court schedules a date for a temporary orders hearing. The respondent must be served to hold them accountable for any breach of the TRO.

The Protective Shield: How TROs Work

The goal of TROs is to shield the child from additional harm while custody issues are addressed. They may impose restrictions such as preventing removal of the child from school or daycare. Judges only sign TROs in emergency situations, and once served, they must be obeyed. Sometimes, a temporary injunction might be considered an alternative legal measure.

Failure to comply can affect one’s rights at the scheduled hearing.

Enforcing a TRO

Violating an order of temporary custody in Texas carries significant consequences, including fines, loss of parental rights, or other legal penalties. Non-compliance with a TRO is considered a Class A misdemeanor and can result in up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

Upon receiving a TRO or protection order, it’s advised to abstain from interacting with the other party to avoid court contempt or escalating criminal charges.

Navigating the Court System for Temporary Custody

A client engages in a detailed consultation with a family law attorney, seeking advice and guidance on obtaining temporary custody.

The process of securing a temporary custody order within the court system involves multiple steps. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Preparation for a temporary orders hearing is key in understanding legal requirements, compiling crucial evidence, and managing expectations for the proceedings.
  2. You must also be ready for a temporary orders hearing, especially if a settlement is not achieved.
  3. Be aware that many cases may still proceed to a contested hearing.

Setting the Court Date

Upon being served with a Motion for Temporary Orders, it’s important to seek legal counsel and prepare to attend the hearing. These hearings are often the first courtroom experience for disputing parties and serve as preliminary matters before formal discovery and negotiation.

Legal Representation: Partnering With a Family Law Attorney

Partnering with an experienced family law attorney is a vital step in the process. They can:

  • Prepare clients for temporary hearings
  • Advise on courtroom demeanor
  • Respond to questions more effectively
  • Provide up-to-date knowledge of legal changes
  • Comprehend local court practices
  • Offer a strategic advantage
  • Facilitate efficient case management

Adjusting Temporary Custody Arrangements

Custody arrangements can be adjusted in response to significant changes in the child’s life or upon the emergence of new evidence. This legal process must be initiated through a court proceeding by a party affected by the order or a person with legal standing, and cannot simply be agreed upon outside of court.

Responding to New Information or Changes

Should new information emerge or significant changes occur in the child’s life, adjustments can be made to a temporary child custody order. Substantial changes in circumstances, such as job loss, illness, or changes in the child’s needs, may warrant modifications to custody orders.

Requesting Reevaluation of Temporary Orders

A reevaluation of temporary custody orders requires filing a Petition to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship with the court that issued the current order. This includes details about all involved parties, such as the other parent, guardian, or Child Support Division.

Until a judge signs a new order, the existing temporary order remains in effect and must be followed, even while a modification case is pending.

Protecting Non-Parental Rights: Extended Family and Temporary Custody

Extended family members supporting children

In Texas, relatives such as grandparents, adult siblings, aunts, and uncles are eligible to file for an emergency custody order. They can seek either managing conservatorship, which awards them full legal control over important aspects of their grandchild’s life, or possessory conservatorship, which grants them decision-making authority and visitation rights.

Criteria for Non-Parental Temporary Custody

Extended family members must prove a need to assume temporary custody by showing that the child has been under their custody or control for a certain period before filing. Relatives can file for custody modification if the child’s parents or guardians are deceased, or if the biological parents are absent, uninvolved, or incapable of caring for the child.

Establishing a Significant Relationship and Best Interests

To demonstrate a significant relationship with the child, one must provide evidence of time spent together, participation in daily activities, and records of caregiving and financial support. Regular visitation records and written statements from professionals, such as teachers and healthcare providers, are crucial in evidencing a non-parent’s active role in the child’s life.

Transitioning to Final Custody Orders

Transitioning from temporary to final custody orders involves a final ruling that establishes a permanent legal determination on matters such as custody and visitation, resolving the case fully with no further issues pending before the court. Before issuing final custody orders, Texas Family Code mandates several procedural steps, including a 60-day waiting period post-filing before the court can schedule a hearing for final orders.

From Temporary to Permanent: The Path Ahead

The court may seamlessly transition a temporary order into a permanent custody arrangement after a divorce if it benefits the family. Temporary orders may be modified during the final hearing, offering opportunities for both parties to mediate or further present their case.

Preparing for the Final Orders Hearing

Preparing for the final orders hearing involves establishing a robust support network of family, friends, therapists, or counselors for emotional and practical support throughout the custody hearing process.

Preparing responses to possible questions about parenting abilities and custody suggestions is key in building a solid case for the final hearing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is temporary custody in Texas?

Temporary custody in Texas provides a stable environment for children during ongoing legal disputes or when their well-being is at risk. It is intended to prioritize the safety and well-being of the children involved.

How long does temporary custody last in Texas?

Temporary custody in Texas can last for 14 days or until the temporary orders hearing, whichever comes first. After the hearing, the court may make the temporary order permanent.

How do I get temporary custody of my child in Texas?

To get temporary custody of your child in Texas, you can obtain the necessary forms from the Courts, which your lawyer can assist you with filling out. Then, file the forms with the Court in your child’s county. Make sure to bring originals and copies of any required documents.

How long does a temporary restraining order last in Texas?

A TRO in Texas lasts for 14 days or until the temporary orders hearing, whichever is sooner.

How do I prepare for a temporary order hearing in Texas?

To prepare for a temporary orders hearing in Texas, gather all required documents and be ready with a proposed parenting plan and a summary of the relief you seek from the court. This will help you present your case effectively.

About the Author
Ben Carrasco is a highly skilled family law attorney based in Austin, Texas, known for his extensive expertise in family law and business litigation. While his primary focus is family law, Ben brings a wealth of experience in litigating diverse business disputes, ranging from breach of contract and collections to business torts, fraud, and real estate matters. In his family law practice, Ben navigates all aspects of the field, including divorce, child custody, support, property division, and more, offering clients expert guidance throughout the litigation process. His legal journey began in complex commercial litigation, initially with a global law firm and later with a prominent Austin-based firm. However, driven by a desire to make a direct impact on people's lives and embrace the human element of the law, Ben transitioned to family law, a decision that has proven to be deeply rewarding. A proud Austin native with roots in California, Ben completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before earning his law degree at Stanford Law School, where he excelled in legal writing and served as an associate editor of the Stanford Law and Policy Review.