Emergency Restrictions on Parenting Time

A parent may file an emergency motion to restrict parenting time if they have reason to believe their child is in imminent danger of physical and/or emotional harm as a result of the other parent’s parenting time and/or contact with the child. The filing of such a motion results in the automatic restriction of the other parent’s parenting time, which continues until a hearing can be held on the motion. Any parenting time that occurs between the child and the restricted parent prior to this hearing must be supervised. The court is required to hold a hearing on the emergency motion restricting parenting time within fourteen days of the motion being filed.

While emergency motions restricting parenting time are an important way to quickly ensure a child’s safety until the court can address the specific circumstances causing the imminent danger, such motions should not be filed unless absolutely necessary. Like many other issues in child custody cases, emergency motions restricting parenting time turn on the uniquely specific facts of each case. Parents contemplating the filing of such a motion should be aware that, in addition to the time and expense resulting in connection with having the required hearing on an emergency motion, the court can order the filing parent to pay the restricted parent’s attorney’s fees and costs if the court determines that the emergency motion was frivolous, groundless or vexatious. The issue of cost aside, the wrongful filing of such a motion can also result in a number of unforeseen consequences for the filing parent, such as a loss of credibility with the court and any other child-related experts involved in the case. The wrongful filings of such motions are also frequently raised in both initial and post decree proceedings as evidence that the filing parent is unable to prioritize the best interests of their child or encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent.

The attorneys at Harrington, Brewster Mahoney Smits, P.C. are experienced with cases involving restrictions of parenting time and can provide insight as to whether the filing of such a motion is appropriate, as well as the possible ramifications the filing of such a motion may have.