Ohio Emergency Child Custody Laws

By Beverly Bird

Updated October 19, 2019

Little girl future


It’s possible to get emergency custody of a child in Ohio, but the Franklin County Law Library bluntly states, “Emergency custody orders are strongly discouraged.” That said, the law library also notes that there are circumstances under which such orders are necessary, and that the court will consider them under certain circumstances.

Irreparable Harm to the Child

Ohio courts will issue emergency custody orders when irreparable harm would come to a child if action isn’t taken immediately. This isn’t a means to claim that you should have had custody all along. There are other legal channels for that.

You must prove to the court the nature of the actual danger you think the child faces. Evidence can include school records, police reports of incidents that have occurred, statements from social workers or sworn testimony from eye witnesses of events.

Circumstances that might lead to irreparable harm include abuse and neglect, or even just the threat of abuse to either the child or to the custodial parent by a third party. Abandonment can be cause for an emergency custody order, as can drug or alcohol abuse by a parent or someone else living in the household, sexual abuse, or the custodial parent or another resident of the home being designated as a registered sex offender.

Possible Outcomes When Seeking Emergency Custody

The court might take one or more of several actions when you’ve established proof of an emergency. It can award temporary custody to the petitioner – the individual who filed the necessary paperwork seeking an emergency custody order – or to another individual. It might place the child with state services, limit or prohibit parenting time or visitation with a parent, or require that a parent leave the child’s residence. The court can also order counseling.

When a Child Is Placed With the State

The state must make an additional motion to be granted temporary custody of a child who has been placed in foster care. This is usually a last resort when circumstances in the child’s home are so egregious that the child can no longer safely live there, and no other appropriate adult is available to assume care. The state agency is obligated to serve notice within 30 days of removal of the child from his or her home to all the child’s known adult relatives that it has taken custody.

The Initial Ex Parte Hearing

The petitioner most likely won’t have the luxury of time in an emergency situation, so Ohio law provides for procedures called ex parte actions in these situations.

The court will make an initial ruling immediately, possibly based only on the petitioner’s appearance before a judge. This type of custody order is for a very limited period of time – either 72 hours or until the end of the following business day, whichever comes first. It’s designed to simply get the child out of harm’s way until the situation can be more thoroughly investigated and a full hearing can be held.

In cases where the judge does not permit an ex parte hearing, the matter must be scheduled for a full hearing within 10 days.

Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem

The court might also appoint a guardian ad litem for the child at the initial ex parte hearing. This is an impartial legal representative who will perform an evaluation of the situation and submit a written report of findings along with a custody recommendation to the court before the full, final hearing. In the meantime, law enforcement can be ordered to remove the child from his or her current custodial home.

Where and How to File for Emergency Custody

Ohio counties provide form packets for filing the necessary documents seeking temporary emergency custody, but this can be a complex legal proceeding.You might want to consider seeking help from an attorney or from legal aid if you can’t afford a private attorney.

Your signature on the paperwork must be notarized. You should also mail or deliver a copy of the paperwork to the custodial parent, if possible.