We all know that breaking up is hard to do. But separation and divorce are made even more difficult when a child is part of the equation. You want what is best for your child. In some circumstances, you are what’s best. There are emergency reasons why one parent may need full custody of a child immediately. Let’s look at what a court may recognize as emergency grounds for full custody of a child.

Normal Child Custody Guidelines

Custody issues are complex. A court awards custody based on a family’s specific circumstances. Either parent may receive sole custody. In fact, judges often prefer to give sole custody to one parent and visitation rights to the other. One parent having sole custody may give a child’s life more stability.

Stability is one of the most critical factors that a court will look at when determining custody. Courts may look at:

  • Ability to provide child with stability. 
  • Willingness to foster a relationship between child and other parent
  • Your relationship with your child, other siblings, and family members 
  • The child’s wishes regarding custody if the court determines the child is mature enough to have a considered opinion 

There are two main types of physical custody of a child. Custody is not dependent on whether a parent pays child support or not. However, a court may consider refusal to pay child support in its analysis of the parent’s ability to act in the child’s best interests.

There are two types of custody.

  • Sole physical custody: the child lives with one parent only but may visit with the other.  
  • Joint physical custody: the child splits time between the parents. Many variations exist to determine how the child splits time between the two parents.

Domestic Violence Protective Order

If you face a dire situation in which your partner is abusive emotionally or physically, you can file a DVPO. Anyone residing in North Carolina, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, can file for a DVPO. If your abusive partner violates this order, law enforcement can arrest them on the spot. 

A protective order causes the abusive partner to refrain from doing any or all of the following:

  • Contacting you directly or indirectly  
  • Threatening, abusing, or following you
  • Harassing you by phone, visiting your home or workplace
  • Treating a household pet cruelly

A judge may also choose to:

  • Award you temporary custody and establish temporary child visitation rights
  • Give you possession of the household and exclude the abusive partner
  • Require the abusive partner to provide alternate housing for you (as spouse) and child 
  • Order eviction of an abusive partner from residence and assist you to return home
  • Order abusive partner to support minor children
  • Give you possession of combined personal property, including a pet or minor child
  • Order an abusive partner to support your child and you as a spouse 
  • Award you attorney fees
  • Prohibit the abusive partner from purchasing a firearm for a specified amount of time
  • Order the sheriff to deliver protective order to school principals named in the order

Ex Parte Emergency Grounds for Full Custody of Child

If you are in a situation where you or your child are in emergency type danger from your spouse, an ex, or the child’s parent, you can file for an ex parte order. These orders protect a partner and children or pets from their significant other ONLY in emergencies.

A court may grant an ex parte order if your child is at substantial risk of:

  • Bodily injury
  • Sexual abuse
  • Kidnapping from North Carolina to avoid court authority

While under the ex parte order, the judge may order the other parent to:

  • Leave home
  • Stay away from their own children
  • Give up possession of a motor vehicle
  • Surrender their “firearms, ammunition, and gun permits” to the sheriff

If the abusive partner violates the order to surrender firearms, a court can charge them with felony-level criminal acts. A judge only issues an ex parte order when it is clear that you are in danger of domestic violence at this moment.

An ex parte emergency protective order gives you emergency sole custody rights until a court hearing takes place in which your partner or ex can attend. This hearing usually takes place 10 days from the effective date of the order or within 7 days of the other parent receiving notice.  

We Can Help

If you have emergency grounds for custody or need to file a DVPO or ex parte order, give us a call at Plekan Law. Our work with domestic violence and child custody cases can help you present your best case at any hearings. Our experience in these cases has shown us that being prepared is always helpful to your case. Contact us today and get started finding peace of mind for yourself and your child. 



  1. https://www.nccourts.gov/help-topics/family-and-children/child-custody