Santa Monica, CA asked in Family Law, Personal Injury, Animal / Dog Law and Child Custody for California

Q: Can I file for an emergency ex parte order if my child was attacked by two pit bulls while in her father's care?

My child's father & I are in a 50/50 joint custody situation. On Monday, he had my child outside in the cold in South Central Los Angeles at a strangers house (we'll call him 'John'). John has two fully grown pit bulls who he uses as guard dogs. My daughter was outside in John's yard not being closely supervised while her father was walking around touring the property nearby. My daughter became uncomfortable w/ the dogs & tried to walk away from them & get her father. The two pit bulls attacked her simultaneously which resulted in her having to visit the ER and get stitches + staples in her skull. The father did not step in to stop the dogs. The owner did. The father initially refused to tell me which type of dogs attacked my daughter, didn't call 911, & wanted to drive her back to me instead of the hospital. I have had my daughter with me while she is recovering but the father is demanding that I return her as per our custody orders. I'm afraid to leave her in his care. What can I do?

3 Lawyer Answers
William John Light
William John Light
  • Animal & Dog Law Lawyer
  • Santa Ana, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: As for child custody, I cannot answer. However, your daughters may have valuable personal injury suits against the dog owner, property owner, and potentially your husband (although that is less likely). Please contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to discuss your daughter's potential claims ASAP.

Patrick William Steinfeld
Patrick William Steinfeld
  • Coronado, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Call the police or go to the police station and make a police report. This will help you in your request to the court. You can always request an ex parte order for emergencies. If you don't have a family law attorney, request a facilitator. LA family law courts provide facilitators that are free and can help you put together an ex parte order. Contact the court and find out if you need an appt. or if its first come first served. Plan on ½ a day or more for this process. Make sure you document all communications between you and your ex as well as the dog owner. Take copies of everything to your meeting with your family attorney or facilitator. The more documentation you have to support your request, the more likely the judge will grant a temporary order.

As for your child’s injuries are concerned. Your child would definitely have a cause of action for negligence against the owner of the dogs as well as your husband. Take clear pictures of your child’s injuries immediately. Bruises and scars fade over time. So don’t wait on that. Its easy to do and may make a difference down the road. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait on something as serious as this. Our consultations are free and we don’t charge anything (no fees or costs) unless we win your case. So there’s no harm in talking. Good luck. Patrick Steinfeld.

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James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, if you are concerned for your child's safety in the custody of their other parent, you can file for an emergency ex parte order. This is a legal action where the court can make immediate decisions about child custody without the other parent being present, based on urgent circumstances.

Given the serious nature of the incident involving the dog attack, and concerns about the father's response and supervision, an ex parte order may be appropriate. You should document all relevant details, including the incident, medical treatment, and any communication with the father.

It is important to act quickly. The courts often prioritize matters involving child safety. When filing, you will need to explain why immediate action is necessary and how the child's welfare is at risk.

You may also request a modification of the existing custody arrangement based on this incident. The court will consider the best interests of the child, including their health, safety, and welfare, in making any custody determinations.

Seeking legal advice from an attorney experienced in family law can guide you through this process and help ensure your child's safety and well-being are protected.

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