What is an Emergency?

by | Jul 19, 2017

Family clients have many urgent concerns because family cases are complicated. But is every urgent issue an emergency in the Court’s eyes?

Short answer: No.

What is an emergency depends both upon the Circuit Court’s case management plan and the Judge hearing the emergency.

Maryland Rule 16-302 requires Maryland Circuit Courts to have case management plans. A case management plan is a “plan for the prompt and efficient scheduling and disposition of actions in the circuit court”, includes a system for classifying and scheduling cases according to complexity and priority.

Rule 16-302(b)(2) specifically addresses emergencies in family law cases, stating:
“The [case management] plan shall include appropriate procedures for the granting of emergency relief and expedited case processing in family law actions when there is a credible prospect of imminent and substantial physical or emotional harm to a child or vulnerable adult.”

The Committee Note sheds further light:
“The intent of this subsection is that the case management plan contain procedures for assuring that the court can and will deal immediately with a credible prospect of imminent and substantial physical or emotional harm to a child or vulnerable adult, at least to stabilize the situation pending further expedited proceedings. Circumstances requiring expedited processing include threats to imminently terminate services necessary to the physical or mental health or sustenance of the child or vulnerable adult or the imminent removal of the child or vulnerable adult from the jurisdiction of the court.”

While Rule 16-302 requires all Maryland Circuit Courts to submit the case management plan to the State, there is no requirement to publish the plans in one, central place. And, I had no success finding one centralized website publishing all plans. Rather, one needs to review each Circuit Court’s website or contact the Clerk’s office to confirm that County’s case management plan relating to family law emergencies

Notably, Rule 16-302(b)(2) is silent about whether a financial matter could be an emergency in a family case. So, it may or may not be, depending upon the facts, case management plan, and the Judge hearing the emergency.

When it comes to emergencies, the Judge is as important a consideration as the Court’s case management plan and emergency procedures. Judges have significant discretion in family law matters – rightly so. So, what one Judge considers an emergency another may not.

This is where a seasoned attorney brings value – because of her knowledge of the Judges and Courts.

A skilled attorney also brings with her the experience to assess the facts and merits, understanding of the fairly complicated procedure for presenting an emergency motion, and creativity to explore alternatives.