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Emergency Custody Petitions: What Are They, and When Do We Need Them?

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It has been said that evil wins when good people stand by and do nothing. This rings true in the realm of child custody as well. Unfortunately, children everywhere live in homes where they are abused or neglected. Luckily, Tennessee law provides a process for others to intervene and secure custody of those children. One way to accomplish this is via emergency custody petitions.

Emergency situations that warrant a child’s protection include circumstances that cause fear of immediate harm to the child if they remain in the care of that parent(s). Examples include:

  • dangerous home environments
  • neglect of the child
  • physical abuse of the child
  • other threats to the life or safety of the child. (For example, if one parent unlawfully flees the state with the child, removing them from the court’s jurisdiction.)


First, emergency custody petitions are commonly filed “ex parte.” Here, that means that the person(s) from whom custody of the child is removed is not given notice of the petition. It will include a list of ways that the child is being endangered, abused or neglected. So, this list helps the Court justify allowing the child to come into the petitioner’s custody.

If the emergency petition is granted the Court will issue a temporary emergency custody order.

Then, the Court must hold a review hearing of the order within three days of it being issued. At that hearing, both sides will provide their evidence and testimony.

Finally, the Court will determine whether to continue the order or terminate it.

Keep in mind that emergency custody petitions have serious implications. Therefore, you should not take them lightly. However, if you are considering taking this action, or if someone else has taken emergency custody of your children without just cause, call Held Law Firm at (865) 685-4780. Our team of experienced attorneys can help you and the children get the justice you all deserve.

The information in this blog is accurate as of the time of publication. However, laws often change. Therefore, it’s important to hire an attorney who keeps up with these changes. Contact us today.