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Emergency Screenings In A Child Custody Dispute

Emergency Screenings can be a difficult concept for parents to face, whether they are the parent who has requested a screening or the parent who has been served with a request for a screening.

The court will typically order an emergency screening in a child custody case when a Judge has found that an immediate emergency may exist involving the children and that possible emergency warrants further investigation. Examples of instances in which this can occur include allegations of drug and alcohol abuse by one or both of the parents, allegations of violence against the child/children, allegations of neglect by one or both of the parents, involvement in a Child Protective Services Investigation, etc. There can be a number of reasons that the court can order an emergency screening take place, particularly if there is a risk to the health, safety or welfare of your child.

According to Santa Clara County Court Rule 2, “in any case in which an emergency exists, the Court may order a staff member of FCS (other than the mediator) to conduct and emergency screening (a preliminary and limited investigation), to make recommendations regarding the temporary custody, visitation and related conditions for the minor children.”

If you have been referred to an emergency screening, the court will give you a date on which you must appear at Family Court Services. If counsel represents you and the other parent, your attorneys will first meet with the screener assigned to your case and each attorney will make their client’s position clear to the screener. The screener will have reviewed your court file and any CPS investigations that have taken place. Then, the attorneys leave and return in the afternoon for the screening results. The screener will then commence an investigation during which they will interview each parent, speak with the child or children (who must be present at the screening) and speak with any physicians, therapists, police officers, CPS investigators, collateral contacts, etc, who may be involved in the case or have important information to share.

At the end of the day, the screener will provide recommendations as to what custody and visitation orders they believe are in the best interests of the children. Both parents have a right to a hearing in front of the Judge that day if they are not in agreement with the orders. The court will then either make the screeners recommendations a court order or make their own orders.

It is important to retain counsel prior to a screening. At Argyris Mah, LLP, we can help you with the emergency screening process. Contact our office at (408) 564-5674 or info@argyrismah.com for a free consultation.

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