Child custody matters are often arduous and may take weeks, months or even years to fully resolve. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you, your spouse and your child need to endure an ongoing battle. A temporary custody order can establish rules for custody and care of your child while you’re going through the divorce process.
In this article, we discuss temporary custody orders, how to get one and what happens after you obtain a temporary order. We also go over how to transition from temporary to permanent custody.
How courts determine child custody
A child custody order is a court-ordered arrangement regarding the custody and care of a child.
When making child custody decisions, courts take into account a number of factors. What matters most is the best interest of the child. Other factors may include the:
- Child’s age and maturity level
- Child’s emotional, educational and social needs and preferences
- Child’s relationship with each parent
- Ability of the parents to effectively communicate and cooperate with each other
- Existence of any history of abuse or domestic violence
- Physical and mental health of each parent
- Geographic proximity of the parents
- Work schedule of each parent and their ability to adequately care for the child
- Stability of each parent’s home life and environment
What is a temporary custody order?
A temporary custody order is an order of the court that establishes a temporary arrangement for the care of a child during a pending divorce or paternity proceeding.
A temporary custody order can address various aspects related to the custody and care of a child, such as:
- Where the child resides
- Visitation or parenting time rights of the noncustodial parent
- Decision-making authority regarding the child’s healthcare, education and social activities
- Child support obligations
- Travel restrictions
Sometimes the parents are able to cooperate and work together to reach a mutual temporary custody agreement that can be adopted by the court as the temporary custody order. In other instances, the court establishes a temporary custody order after taking all the relevant considerations into account.
Since temporary orders are a formal order of the court, even if either party doesn’t agree to all aspects of the order, they must strictly comply with it or risk facing consequences such as fines, court sanctions or jail time.
Purpose and benefits of a temporary custody order
A temporary custody order helps ensure that the child is afforded a certain level of structure and stability until the conclusion of the divorce proceedings. This may help support a child’s emotional and physical well-being and also provide the parents with clear guidelines.
How to win a temporary custody hearing
The temporary custody order process generally begins with the filing of a petition or motion for temporary orders. Then the court schedules a temporary custody hearing where both parties have an opportunity to present their evidence and arguments in support of their respective requests for temporary custody.
Preparation and organization may help you prevail in your temporary custody hearing. Below are some tips to consider.
- Gather evidence such as school records, financial records, witness statements and any other relevant materials that can help support your position.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your child’s emotional, developmental and physical needs and how your proposed custody arrangement best supports those needs.
- Show that you can remain cordial and cooperative with your child’s other parent.
- Be prepared to show what you’ve historically done to care for and support your child.
- Aim to show the court that you can put your child’s needs first by focusing your arguments on the best interests of your child rather than what you want for yourself.
If you have questions or want to discuss the process in more detail, consider speaking with a family law attorney licensed in your state.
What happens after entry of a temporary custody order?
After the temporary custody order is entered, the divorce process continues until the conclusion of the case. While the divorce is pending, unless the temporary order is modified, the parties must comply with all terms of the temporary custody order.
Differences between temporary custody and permanent custody
While temporary and permanent custody orders address the same types of issues and arrangements, there are a few key differences between the two.
Some of the defining characteristics of a temporary custody order are as follows:
- Temporary duration
- The best interest of the child is taken into account but only based on the information available at the time of the temporary custody determination
- May be more freely modifiable if new facts and evidence are discovered and provided to the court
Conversely, a permanent custody order is more appropriately defined by the following characteristics:
- Provides a long-term solution that establishes an ongoing custody arrangement after the conclusion of the legal proceeding
- Takes the full scope of available evidence into account, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the best interest of the child
- Less frequent court involvement after entry of the final custody order
- Modification is typically permissible only if there’s a material change in circumstances
Note that the specific differences between temporary and permanent custody orders vary depending on the laws and jurisdiction governing your particular matter.
Transitioning from temporary custody to permanent custody
The parties to a custody dispute typically handle the transition from temporary to permanent custody differently based on their individual goals and motivations.
For example, from the perspective of the person who was granted temporary custody, there may be nothing that needs to be changed between now and the entry of the final custody order.
On the other hand, the person not granted temporary custody likely sees things differently. They may want to modify the temporary custody order to:
- Become the custodial parent
- Increase visitation time
- Change authorized holiday or vacation scheduling
- Address decision-making authority
- Modify child support obligations
In either case, each parent must gather additional evidence and prepare arguments supporting that their position is what’s in the best interest of the child.
When to talk with an attorney
There’s no legal requirement that you must hire an attorney to represent you in any custody matter. Nevertheless, a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can provide a number of benefits for your case.
For example, a family law and custody attorney can help you:
- Evaluate a temporary custody order and determine whether and to what extent any modifications should be sought prior to the entry of the final custody order
- Gather evidence to help support your legal arguments
- Locate and prepare potential witnesses to testify on your behalf
- Prepare any necessary legal filings and appear on your behalf in court
- Advocate on your behalf and in the best interest of your child throughout the custody process
Custody battles are often complex and emotionally draining. If you’re not sure where to begin, speaking with an attorney may be a good first step to take.