Custody battles are often long and drawn out and can take anywhere from months to years to settle. Unfortunately, there are some circumstances in which a parent or, more accurately, the child, cannot wait months or years, such as one parent is physically violent, absent, negligent or addicted to drugs. In these situations, it would go against the child’s best interests to continue seeing said parent. To protect the child from dangerous situations, the state of North Carolina allows for emergency custody orders.

According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, an emergency custody order, commonly called an “ex parte order,” is a temporary and immediate custody order that a judge creates to grant sole custody to the petitioning party without first hearing from the respondent. Grounds for an emergency custody order include circumstances in which the child may be at risk for bodily harm, neglect, sexual abuse, abandonment or removal from the state.

If a parent files a motion for an emergency custody order, the state will step in and help recover the child. If the respondent denies the allegations, whatever they may be, the courts will schedule a hearing during which both parties can explain their situations.

According to the University of North Carolina School of Government, many parents operated under the assumption that ex parte orders expired after 10 days. The case Campen v. Featherstone, 150 NC APP 692 (2002), however, abolished that assumption by setting a new precedent. North Carolina’s temporary orders do expire after 10 days. An emergency order, however, will remain in effect until a trial court either replaces it with a new order or terminates it for good.