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What Does it Mean to Have Temporary Custody?

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, you can apply to temporarily have custody of a minor child. Often a parent who is going through a divorce or someone who is not the parent but is concerned about the well being of a child will ask the court if they can temporarily have legal custody of the child. Sometimes, the need for temporary custody of the child is due to the length of time it takes to negotiate and finalize a divorce, while in other instances someone says the minor child is not safe at home and should live elsewhere. 

What Is Temporary Custody?

Temporary custody is the legal decision by the court to award physical and legal custody of a minor child to an adult who may or may not be the child’s legal parent. In determining whether to award custody, Georgia family law courts will rule in “the best interest of the child.” In determining what is in the best interest of the child a judge will consider many factors including:

  • emotional ties to the child
  • ability to care for the child financially and emotionally
  • the safety of the home
  • stability and continuity for the child
  • the mental and physical health of each parent
  • the parent’s history in caring for the child
  • any history of physical, sexual or mental abuse
  • recommendations of a court-appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad item
  • the desires and wishes of children age 11 and older

In Georgia, temporary custody is awarded to a parent, while temporary guardianship can be awarded to someone who is not a biological parent of the child.

4 FAQs About Temporary Custody

1. What Is Emergency Temporary Custody
If a child is in imminent physical or emotional danger at home, the court can give temporary guardianship to another adult for the protection of the child. An emergency custody order transfers physical custody of the child without prior notification to the current custody holder.

2. How Long is Temporary Custody? 
In Georgia, an emergency custody order lasts up to 30 days. A temporary custody order can last indefinitely, until a court issues a new custody order or the minor child turns 18.

3. Can Temporary Custody Become Permanent?
Yes. Although temporary custody is designed to be temporary, once the court finishes its investigation the interim custody can become permanent, or a different temporary or permanent custody can be decreed. The judge will award child custody based on the investigation, who wants custody of the child and what is in the best interests of the child.

4. How Do I Apply for Temporary Custody in Georgia?
If a child is in danger you can apply for emergency custody in Georgia by filing a petition in the county where the child lives. The Georgia appropriate court or the juvenile court will hear the case quickly and determine custody to protect the child.

If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, temporary custody orders are often put in place while the parents or courts determine what the final legal and physical custody arrangement will be.

  • Once you apply for temporary custody, a “standing order” goes into place and the other parent cannot move the child outside of Georgia or travel with the child outside of Georgia without the other parent’s permission.
  • In Georgia, different counties have different guidelines concerning when and why temporary custody can be awarded. An experienced divorce and family law attorney can provide guidance on the requirements for the county in your case.
  • The person filing for temporary custody must prove why they should have custody. If you have specific reasons why you do not want a child’s parent or parents to have custody, you will need to have documentation proving why the child is not safe in one or both parent’s custody. A family law attorney can help you provide appropriate documentation to meet court requirements.
  • To modify a child custody status, you need to file for a new custody order and a new hearing.

Your child’s well-being and related child custody issues are very stressful and emotional. If your divorce is contested and the terms of the divorce must be settled in court, the child’s legal and physical custody decisions can take many months. An experienced family law attorney can help you find the best solution for your situation and advise you on how to protect your child if they are in danger.

Child custody cases are complicated and put tremendous emotional stress on parents and children. If you have concerns about the well-being of your child or questions about the different types of child custody, schedule a consultation with the family law attorneys at Farmer, Farmer & Brown calling us at  (770)-422-4142 or emailing FFB at

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