What is an emergency to one person is not important to another. Consider the 11-year-old, who feels that a forgotten school lunch box is a life-altering emergency requiring calls to Dad and interrupted work schedules. Emergency child custody, similarly, is a matter of interpretation. What could your ex-wife do that would possibly constitute an emergency?
1. Illegal Drugs
Virginia, like many parts of the country, is withering under a methamphetamine epidemic, as described recently in the New York Times. If your ex-wife is putting your children in danger from her use of illegal drugs, overuse of prescription drugs, or efforts to sell any kind of drugs, you have cause to seek emergency child custody.
You have to provide your lawyer with some kind of documentation, beyond your suspicions, that your ex-wife is endangering your children. This is true with any reason for seeking child custody. Examples include:
- Arrest records
- Police reports
- Medical records, including child psychiatrist evaluations
- Protection from Abuse orders
- Records from Virginia’s Child Protective Services (CPS)
2. Allegations or Evidence of Abuse
A mother who threatens—or is alleged to have threatened—physical or sexual abuse, or who actually commits either, is endangering her children. This is an important reason to seek emergency child custody. Abuse, it must be noted, is not the same as neglect (more on that later). An abused child suffers from active interference by the parent. A long and gruesome list of abuse is available from Virginia’s Department of Social Services (DSS). Here is a brief sampling:
- Abusive head trauma
- Cuts, bruises, abrasions or welts (as from sharp instruments, concrete, or belts)
- Exposure to sale or use of illegal drugs
- Fractured bones
- Impairment of bodily functions
- Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome—The parent projects a series of illnesses onto the child and demands treatment for each, though the child is not sick at all
- Risk of injury or death, a condition or environment created by the parent
- Sexual abuse—Exploitation; exposure to inappropriate materials, acts or persons; solicitation; molestation; actual intercourse or sodomy
3. Allegations or Acts of Neglect
A neglected child cannot even take solace in the notion that the parent cares enough to show them the attention (however perverse) that an abusive parent shows. The neglected child is reason to file for emergency child custody. Signs of neglect (also from Virginia’s DSS):
- Physical neglect—Abandonment; inadequate supervision, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, or food; malnutrition; failure to thrive; leaving the child with a known sex offender
- Mental neglect (and abuse)—Overprotection, ignoring evident mental health problems; indifference; rigidity; apathy; living a chaotic lifestyle, or other behaviors related to the caretaker’s own mental problems
- Medical neglect—Refusal to provide emergency medical treatment; failing to provide necessary medical, dental, or mental health care; refusal to provide treatment for a life-threatening condition
If you suspect your ex-wife is subjecting your children to any form of neglect, talk to a lawyer right away. Some issues are harder to prove than others. Abandonment from your perspective could mean she left for a long weekend, leaving your children in the questionable care of your 18-year-old daughter and the neighbors. From your ex-wife’s perspective, three days away with a plan in place to feed, clothe and shelter your children may not seem like abandonment.
You may feel her conversion to a fundamentalist religious sect that does not allow for pain medications is medical neglect, but Virginia law does allow parents wide discretion regarding sincerely held religious beliefs. What the law does not protect is abuse or neglect by a parent who then uses her religion as a convenient excuse.
Some neglect is easy to prove in court. If you can show, through school records, doctor’s records and other sources that your ex-wife is not feeding, clothing or housing your children adequately, you and your lawyer can put together sound reasons for the emergency child custody.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA)
The UCCJA is enshrined in the Code of Virginia, Title 20, Chapter 7.1, and can be one of your go-to arguments if your ex-wife is not responsive to rational discussion.
The UCCJA protects Virginia children who are abruptly taken out of state by the parent with legal, physical custody, but it also protects children brought into Virginia and who are subjected to any of the described threats to their well-being.
If your ex-wife thinks she can evade you and your attorney’s legal efforts to get custody of your children by leaving Virginia, she will find the UCCJA working against her in just about every other state.
File for Emergency Custody Now with The Firm For Men
If you suspect your ex-wife is creating a dangerous environment for your children, contact The Firm for Men immediately online by calling our offices at 757-383-9184. We can connect you with an attorney who can work quickly to help you gain emergency child custody and remove your children from harm.