Emergency Custody and Special Relief

What do you do when, without your permission, the other parent pulls your child out of his or her school and enrolls him or her in a different school district?

What do you do when you fear for your child’s physical safety and well-being during his stays at the other parent’s residence? For instance, maybe mom’s new boyfriend is violent and abusive? Or, perhaps, dad is losing his struggle with substance abuse and, as a result, leaves a small child unattended while he sleeps it off or is out tending his habit?

What do you when the other custodial parent exhibits signs of mental illness that call into question his or her ability to adequately parent the child, to meet the child’s basic needs, and to make sound parenting decisions?

What do you when the other custodial parent simply fails to return your child to you at the end of his or her period of custody?

In Pennsylvania, the answer to these questions may come in the form of a Petition for Special Relief; sometimes referred to as an Emergency Petition. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure No. 1915.13 provides parents with the ability to quickly obtain an order which can do any or all of the following:

  • award the petitioning parent temporary sole physical custody of the subject child; or,
  • prohibit a parent from relocating the child to a new school district or even a new county or state; or
  • direct that a parent undergo a psychological or mental health evaluation to determine that parent’s fitness and ability to effectively rear his or her child.

A Petition for Special Relief can be a useful tool for obtaining other kinds of relief, as well. It is important, though, that you make a decision about whether or not file a Petition for Special Relief with the advice and counsel of an experienced custody attorney. A wrongly filed Petition can damage your entire custody case. On the other hand, not filing a Special Relief Petition when you should file one could leave your child in a vulnerable position. Careful consideration of all available options is necessary.

One of the ground rules for filing a Petition for Special Relief is that there must already be a custody case pending or, if there is none, that the Petition for Special Relief be filed at the same time as the initial Custody Complaint.

If you would like to discuss your custody case with me, I would be happy to do so. The first consultation is free and there is no obligation. I serve parents in central Pennsylvania; including the counties of Cumberland, Perry, Dauphin, Juniata, to name a few. Feel free to call 717-582-0400 to arrange for your free consultation.

Sean Potter
Attorney and Counselor at Law

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