What Are The Different Types of Temporary Custody Orders? 

A temporary custody order is a legal decree issued by a court during a divorce or separation proceeding. It outlines the temporary custodial arrangements for a child until a permanent decision is made. 

This order dictates who the child will live with (physical custody) and who has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, education, and health (legal custody). 

Tim’s Legal Tip: The main aim of a temporary custody order is to provide stability and maintain the child’s best interests during an uncertain time. This temporary arrangement may be revised or finalized in a subsequent court ruling.

The Different Types of Temporary Custody Orders

Temporary custody orders may vary in specifics, depending mainly on the unique circumstances of each case. However, in general, there are a few different types of temporary custody orders that may be issued:

1. Temporary Physical Custody

This type of order designates where the child will reside while the final custody arrangements are being decided. One parent may be granted sole physical custody, meaning the child lives with them most or all of the time, or both parents could share physical custody, meaning the child splits their time between both parents’ homes.

2. Temporary Legal Custody

This type of order designates who has the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as those related to education, healthcare, and religious practices. Like physical custody, legal custody can be awarded solely (to one parent) or jointly (to both parents).

3. Temporary Joint Custody

This is a form of custody where both parents share equal or nearly equal parenting time and decision-making responsibilities for their child. This may be implemented to maintain consistency for the child during the divorce or separation process.

4. Temporary Sole Custody

This form of custody is where one parent is granted both physical and legal custody of the child on a temporary basis. This may be granted when the other parent is deemed unfit or unable to care for the child due to addiction, abuse, or neglect.

5. Temporary Split Custody

This is less common, but in cases where there are multiple children, one child may live with one parent and the other child with the other parent.

It’s important to note that temporary custody orders are put in place to maintain stability for the child during legal proceedings, and the court always considers the child’s best interests when making these decisions. 

Once the final custody hearing occurs, the judge may decide to keep the same arrangement or change it based on what is best for the child at that time.

How To Obtain a Temporary Custody Order During a Divorce

Temporary custody orders can dictate physical custody (where the child will live) and legal custody (who has the right to decide about the child’s health, education, and welfare). 

The order may grant one parent sole temporary custody or joint temporary custody to both parents.

The process for obtaining a temporary custody order varies by jurisdiction but typically involves the following:

  • Filing a petition for temporary custody and support: The person seeking temporary custody must file a petition with the appropriate court, usually a family court. This document will explain why temporary custody is being sought and provide evidence to support these claims.
  • Service and response: The other parent must be served with a copy of the petition and given a chance to respond. They may agree to the proposed custody arrangement or contest it.
  • Hearing: A court hearing will be scheduled if the custody order is contested. During this hearing, both parties can present their arguments and evidence to the judge.
  • Order: After considering all the evidence, the judge will issue a temporary custody order. This order will dictate who the child will live with and who can decide on the child’s behalf until a final custody order is issued.

Temporary custody orders are designed to protect the child’s best interests. 

Factors that may be considered when deciding on a temporary custody order include the child’s age, health, emotional ties with the parents, the parents’ ability to provide a stable environment, history of violence or neglect, and, in some cases, the child’s wishes.

Remember, while temporary custody orders are intended to be temporary, the arrangements they set can influence the final custody decision, as courts often prefer to maintain consistency in a child’s life whenever possible.

Click Here For Information On How To Obtain A Temporary Custody Order Without Going To Court

Child Support and Temporary Custody Orders 

Child support and custody are two separate issues in family law, but they can be related because the child’s financial needs can change based on the custody arrangement. 

Here’s a general overview of how child support may work with temporary custody orders:

  • Establishment of the Order: A temporary custody order may be established during a separation or pending divorce proceedings. This temporary order is meant to maintain stability for the child until a final decision can be made. Similarly, a temporary child support order may be issued. This order usually determines which parent should pay child support and how much they should pay.
  • Calculation of Support: Child support is typically calculated based on the parents’ income and the child’s needs. In many jurisdictions, the noncustodial parent (the parent with whom the child does not live most of the time) pays child support to the custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lives most of the time).
  • Custody Considerations: In a situation where custody is shared equally or almost equally (as in a 50/50 split), child support may be adjusted. The specifics of this can vary by jurisdiction.
  • Changes to the Order: If there is a change in the custody situation, such as a change from temporary to permanent custody, the child support order may need to be modified. This typically requires going back to court or the agency that handles child support enforcement in your area.
  • Enforcement of the Order: Child support orders, even temporary ones, are legally binding. That means a parent who is ordered to pay child support and fails to do so can face legal consequences, such as wage garnishment, license suspension, or even jail time.

What Happens After a Temporary Custody Order is Granted?

After a temporary custody order is granted, several things may occur:

  • Implementation of the order: The parents will start adhering to the stipulations in the order. This includes who the child will live with, visitation schedules for the noncustodial parent, and who has the right to make decisions about the child’s welfare, health, and education.
  • Observation period: The temporary custody order provides an opportunity to see how the child adjusts to the new arrangement. Parents, teachers, and others may monitor the child’s behavior, school performance, and emotional well-being during this time.
  • Gathering of further evidence: If the custody case is ongoing, each parent may continue gathering evidence that supports their case for the final custody hearing. This could include documenting interactions with the child, securing testimonies from character witnesses, or showing proof of a stable and supportive home environment.
  • Modifications if necessary: If significant changes in circumstances occur, either parent can petition the court to modify the temporary custody order before the final hearing.
  • Preparation for the final hearing: Both parents typically continue to work with their respective attorneys (if they have them) to prepare for the final custody hearing. This preparation may involve refining arguments, gathering evidence, and obtaining assessments from child custody evaluators or family therapists.
  • Final Custody Hearing: Eventually, the final custody hearing will take place. The court will consider the evidence presented by both parties, possibly including the child’s experiences under the temporary custody order, and make a final decision regarding the permanent custody arrangement.

How Long Can Temporary Custody Orders Last?

Temporary custody orders last until they are replaced by a permanent order, usually when the final judgment in the custody case is made. The length of time this takes can vary significantly depending on the circumstances of the case.

Generally, temporary custody orders are meant to provide stability for children during a period of transition or dispute, such as a divorce or separation process, or while an investigation into one or both parents’ fitness is being conducted. Such situations can be a few months to a year or more.

However, the temporary order can be changed or modified before the final decision if circumstances change significantly. This typically requires returning to court to demonstrate why the temporary order should be revised.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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