The term “emergency” when used in association with the power of the courts is more limited than the public tends to think. What may constitute an emergency to you as an intelligent layperson, or even to me as your advocate, can be quite different to a judge. As one once said to me, “Show me some blood or broken bones. Otherwise, take a number and get in line.” It was his perhaps inelegant way of saying that courts, because of the huge demand for their services, must be very careful about opening floodgates to litigants who demand they be heard before others with grievances that may be even more critical.
Courts are also limited by the authority granted to them by the legislature. Police and magistrates, as we just noted, can issue Emergency Protective Orders, and judges can uphold them, enforce them, and extend them. A parent whose child has been abducted can ask for an expedited hearing to force the child’s return, and citizens can, under certain circumstances, ask a court on very short notice to order police to retain or remove a child from a dangerous predicament.
The definition of emergency can change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as well. If you as a parent were to learn that your ex intends to leave Virginia tomorrow afternoon for Nevada with your children, you can, in some locations, get an emergency hearing tomorrow morning to prevent it. You may not be so fortunate in other locales.
In general, however, most courts, particularly in Northern Virginia, will reserve spots or make openings on their daily calendars to hear emergency motions if a child’s life and limb is at stake.
If you are seeking an emergency protective order, you can request one from a police officer or from a magistrate (typically found at your local jail). A copy of the order is given to the abuser.
If an emergency protective order has been issued against you, it is important that you understand what the order prohibits you from doing. If you are currently in divorce proceedings, you should talk to a family law attorney who can help you understand your rights and legal options. It is not uncommon for one party to falsely accuse the other of domestic violence or abuse in divorce proceedings. If this is the case, I will guide you in taking appropriate legal action.