Virginia Emergency Child Custody Laws

By Stephanie Smith

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There are times when children must be placed in emergency custody for their safety and well being. In Virginia, child abuse, abandonment and other dangerous situations provide courts with the legal right to appoint temporary custody. State law determines the protocol for emergency custody, including transfer procedures and duration.

Basis for Emergency Custody

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Virginia Code Section 20-146.15 governs emergency custody procedures. A court can issue a temporary order of protection when it is determined that a child was subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse. This includes abandonment, abuse, threats of mistreatment or abuse and child endangerment. The child in question need not be a resident of Virginia—simply being present in the state and subject to harm is sufficient grounds to grant Virginia courts jurisdiction in this matter.

Read More: How to Get Emergency Custody of Children


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Virginia's temporary emergency jurisdiction over a child is affected by the existence of any other custody order. For example, the custody order of another state with jurisdiction prevails, if it exists. In this situation, Virginia would impose a reasonable amount of time for a party to enforce an existing order to obtain custody of the child. If no other custody determination is made or initiated, Virginia's order becomes permanent.


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A court only has the authority to issue an emergency custody order if the child is physically in the state. The child also must have been abandoned or otherwise subjected to mistreatment or abuse.

The court must also hold a full hearing to determine whether emergency custody is justified. In advance of the hearing, all relevant parties must be notified and given an opportunity to appear in court. In advance of the hearing, the court may issue a temporary custody order to protect the child's well being.

If another court has original authority, the court with emergency authority must contact the original authority and both courts must decide on the best way to protect the child.