Steps for Seeking Emergency Child Custody

A parent may seek emergency custody of his/her child if the parent believes the child is in surroundings that endanger the child which, if continued, will likely subject the child to suffer irreparable harm. In order to seek emergency custody, the parent should ask the trial judge for an order granting emergency custody. An emergency custody order is only a temporary order. If you believe that custody should be permanently changed from a current custody order, you will need to file a motion to modify legal and physical custody.

In Oklahoma, there is no specific definition of what constitutes an emergency situation, but it is generally defined as when a “child is in surroundings which endanger the safety of the child and that if such conditions continue, the child would likely be subject to irreparable harm.” 43 O.S. § 107.4(A). Common examples of emergency conditions are: a child has been physically abused, subject to abuse, or is being left in the care of an adult who is using drugs that place the child at risk; the other parent is in jail; the other parent is in a mental health facility or is having a mental health issues that prevent him/her from providing appropriate care for the child; or the other parent is hospitalized.

The process for applying for an emergency order is as follows:

1. Prepare an Application for Emergency Custody. The application must include:

a. The current status of your case;

b. The terms of any current custody order;

c. The event(s) causing the need for the emergency custody;

d. The relief you are requesting from the trial judge;

e. Attach an independent report, if available, from a police report or the Department of Human Services stating how the child is in a situation that endangers the child and, if continued, may cause the child to suffer irreparable harm;


If no independent report is available, then attach notarized affidavit from a person with personal knowledge that the child is in a situation that endangers the child and, if continued, may cause the child to suffer irreparable harm.

Note: The report or affidavit may contain information that is not permitted to be publicly filed, or that should be redacted from the public record. You should consult the court clerk or your trial judge to determine whether certain information should not be filed or should be redacted.

f. A statement that you notified the opposing party (or the attorney for the opposing party) of the time and date that you will present the emergency application to the trial judge.

2. Notify the opposing party of the time and date that the application for emergency is going to be presented to the trial judge.

3. The application must be filed with the county court clerk, and taken to the trial judge. Also, take a proposed Order Awarding Emergency Custody.

4. The trial judge has 72 hours to conduct an ex parte hearing. Generally, however, the trial judge will hear the application for emergency custody shortly after the application is given to the trial judge. An ex parte hearing means that only one side (the person presenting the emergency) gets to present evidence to the judge.

5. If the trial judge grants the application for emergency custody and enters an order awarding emergency custody, a copy of the emergency order must be filed with the county court clerk and given to the opposing party.

6. The trial judge will set a show cause hearing date where the parent who filed for the emergency custody has the burden to show that the emergency custody order should continue to be in effect. The Order Awarding Emergency Custody will have the show cause hearing date. At this hearing, you will need to provide evidence to the trial judge to prove that the emergency custody should continue. The other parent will then have an opportunity to present evidence to show that the emergency custody should not continue

7. You may consider filing a Motion to Modify Legal and Physical Custody, if you believe that the current order on legal and physical custody should be changed due to the circumstances that led to the emergency.

If the trial judge finds that false information was presented to the trial judge in order to obtain the emergency custody order, the trial judge will require the parent to pay all costs, attorney fees, and other expenses of the other parent incurred as a result of the emergency custody hearing. If these amounts are not paid within 30 days, the trial judge can find the parent in contempt.

An example of an editable Application for Emergency Custody and Order Granting Emergency Custody is available at

[Disclaimer: The information in this article is for only informational purposes. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.]

Pansy Moore-Shrier
624 S. Boston Ave., Ste. 1070
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74119
Voice: 918-592-3001
Fax: 918-794-7149