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Florida Family Law: What is An Emergency?

Written by: Jeremy M. Brown Esq. of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates Attorneys and Counselors at Law

When you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation, such as a Florida divorce, your emotions are heightened. The lens through which you view the events of your life is now clouded by these strong, and sometimes challenging emotions. It happens to all of us when we are stressed-out. The smallest things can set us off in an instant. Circumstances that would not typically faze us, now enrages us, which can cause deep sadness, and so often the feeling of hopelessness.

One of the results of this "clouded lens," which we see so often in Florida family law, is the perception that an "emergency" is transpiring. Granted, it may feel like an emergency to you. However, unless the facts fit with what the Courts see as an emergency, you will not get immediate attention in your case.

When I receive the frantic phone call from a client and he/she mentions that they have an emergency I ask two initial questions. (1) Are you or your child (ren) in imminent fear of serious bodily harm and/or death? (2) Does someone have you or your child (ren) without your consent and are they trying to flee the jurisdiction of a Florida Court?

Quite often nothing creates the perception of an emergency like events involving your children during a divorce. For guidance in assessing the situation, we turn to Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes and Loudermilk v. Loudermilk, (693 So. 2d 666).

Chapter 39 tells us that "abuse," "abandonment," and "neglect" are what we look for when defining an emergency involving children. This is the type of event that requires us to call, without hesitation or delay, the Florida Department of Children and Families hotline at 800-962-2873. The Loudermilk case tells us that only in situations where "a child is threatened with harm or where the opposing party plans to improperly remove the child from the state" will temporary custody be given without notice to the other party.

As you can see, these are not your everyday type of squabbles that happen between parties during a divorce. Not getting timesharing on a holiday is not an emergency. Mom letting the kids eat boxed macaroni and cheese when you are trying to eliminate processed foods from their diets, is not an emergency. Dad playing video games for hours while the kids watch TV in the other room is not an emergency. Sure, there may be other issues with these types of behaviors, but they will not get you an expedited hearing.

We attorneys hear your frustration, your anger, and your sadness. And for those of us who have children, we really "get it." However, please know that unless your ongoing scenario or recent event rises to the level of what the Court deems an "emergency," you are not going to be able to get immediate relief from your problem. Rest assured that our Courts take emergencies very seriously and will address them appropriately, however, the expedited hearing time is reserved for actual emergencies not perceived ones.

For more information you can contact the attorney's at Schwam-Wilcox & Associates by calling 407-245-7700, e-mailing us at, or by visiting the website at
Offices: Orlando, Clermont, Deltona, Kissimmee, Melbourne, Leesburg, The Villages

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