The timing with which the divorce process unfolds varies widely. In many cases, the process proceeds in an orderly and efficient fashion. In others, the case is slowed down by factors beyond the parties’ control, by unrealistic expectations, or by a difficult marital dynamic. In a few situations, however, a divorce starts with an emergency that requires immediate action by a court in order to protect one of the parties or the parties’ children.
With regard to the parties, the emergency might be created by domestic violence within the relationship. When it comes to the children of the marriage, an emergency might be created by a parent’s failure or inability to protect the children from the risk posed by the parent’s alcoholism or mental health issues, or the risk posed by an abusive step-parent.
If you are facing a divorce and believe that you may have such an emergency on your hands, what should your course of action be?
First, it is important to avoid “self-help” which means taking unilateral action to address your concerns. You need to keep in mind that it is difficult for you to be objective about the situation and about the other party’s actions, and you may therefore mis-judge the reality of the situation. And exercising self-help may prejudice a judge’s assessment of you if you do end up in Court.
Rather, identify and consult with an experienced family law attorney who has the expertise, the availability, and the back-up to handle a time-sensitive and time-intensive emergency. Rather than formulating and implementing your own strategy, work carefully with your attorney to establish the facts, to assess the risks both of taking action and of failing to take action, and to develop a strategic approach that addresses both the immediate and the long-term objectives of your case.
Getting before the Court to seek emergency relief in a family law case is likely to be an expensive proposition and not one to be undertaken lightly. But taking prompt action to invoke the Court’s emergency powers may be the only way to protect important interests in certain cases. Be clear-headed and clear-eyed and get professional help in determining whether it is necessary for you to take this path.