What Is An Emergency In Family Law?

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Many of my clients ask me to request an emergency hearing in their family law cases without really understanding what the term emergency means in Family law court. Clients have a different opinion of what constitutes an emergency than attorneys. In turn, judges have a different opinion of what an constitutes an emergency than attorneys. Although family law cases involve serious issues and extremely emotional situations, not every one is an emergency warranting immediate attention. This begs the question then what is an emergency in a family law case?

In the case of Shaw v. Shaw, 696 So 2d 391 (Fla 4th DCA 1997), the Court said an emergency is one in which there is imminent danger, a crisis or a situation requiring immediate and extraordinary action. Emergency hearings are generally held with little or no notice to the opposing party and therefore the Court has to be careful that it does not violate judicial procedure and common fairness. The District Court said in Hunter v. Hunter, said that “the trial court should only order relief in an ex-parte proceeding where there exists an immediate threat of irreparable injury that forecloses the opportunity to give reasonable notice.” Thus a motion seeking ex-parte relief “must demonstrate (1) how and why the giving of notice would accelerate or precipitate the injury or (2) that the time to notice a hearing would actually permit the threatened irreparable injury to occur.” Smith v. Knight, 679 So.2d 359, 361 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996)

Most emergency motions involve threatened domestic violence, minor children, or dissipation of marital assets. However, the Court looks at the facts of each case differently, and you will need to be prepared to show why there will be irreparable harm if an emergency hearing is not held.

To better understand your rights in a Family Law Matter, contact a Florida Family Law Attorney.