Help! I’m in the middle of a divorce and I need to protect my children
Article provided by Arthur S. Kallow
You’ve probably heard about orders of protection which parents often obtain from a court to protect their children after the other parent harms the child or the parent. However, there is other relief that divorcing parents can seek when their children’s health or safety are at imminent risk. In such a case you can file a motion for an emergency hearing to seek a change in residential possession of your children. Illinois state law generally accepts the following as valid concerns to support such a request:
- A dangerous home situation. This option can be available if the other parent is a risk to the child or is living in a home with another individual who could present a risk to the child. This could include someone who has a criminal history indicating possible danger to the child or is otherwise likely to cause harm to the child.
- A move. The court will often consider an emergency order to prevent the other parent from moving the child far away in the near future, such as to another state, without agreement or a prior court order.
- Medical concerns. Perhaps one parent refuses to provide medication or seek necessary medical care. Depending on the details, such dangerous negligence could qualify as an emergency.
- Lack of supervision. Depending on the age of the child, leaving the child home alone without supervision for long periods of time could also result in an emergency order being granted for a change in residential possession of the child.
Whether or not the situation will be considered an emergency often comes down to judicial discretion or whether the judge believes the child is at risk of harm.
How is an emergency order for residential possession different from a divorce judgment dividing parenting time?
Final parenting plans are usually agreed to by the parties or ordered by the Court as part of the divorce process. These arrangements generally go into effect when the divorce is finalized. An emergency order of possession can serve as a stopgap when you have urgent concerns for your child’s wellbeing before the divorce is finalized.
How do I get an emergency order for residential possession?
For example, in Illinois, a parent who wishes to get an emergency order of possession can file a petition with the court. The exact process may vary depending on local rules.
Although the court may not hold a full hearing, the requesting parent will likely need to present evidence to establish that the child is at risk of immediate harm. The rules of evidence are very technical, and you should be represented by a highly skilled, experienced attorney to make sure that you are zealously represented and that the needed evidence is obtained, presented by your attorney and admitted by the judge at the hearing.
What if the other parent claims I am the one putting my child at risk?
It is important to take false allegations that you are putting your child at risk very seriously. Emergency temporary possession orders are powerful legal tools. When used wisely, they help keep children safe. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous spouses may try to use this tool to wrongfully separate fathers from their children.
The importance of the role of fathers in their children’s lives cannot be overstated. Positive interactions with a father figure are important for a child’s development and mental health. In a recent example available in more detail here, Jeffery Leving discussed how Deion Sanders is a prime example of a father figure, not just for his own children but also the young men he coaches.
It is imperative for fathers to know their worth. Whether considering filing for emergency orders for possession or finding yourself on the receiving end of a request for such an order, do not take any attempts to separate you from your children lightly. Take the matter seriously and prepare to fight back to safeguard your children. It could be the fight of your life for your children’s lives.
Arthur S. Kallow is an attorney and litigation director in the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd. Jeffery M. Leving is founder and president of the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving Ltd., and co-authored the first real Illinois joint custody law and other laws. In addition to “How to Be a Good Divorced Dad,” he is the author of “Fathers’ Rights” and “Divorce Wars.” Leving is the recipient of President Biden’s 2023 Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award. Also in 2023, the Illinois Senate issued a Certificate of Recognition thanking him for his “efforts in assisting fathers all over the country.” To learn more about Jeffery M. Leving and his latest court victories, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.