This is a great concern for any parent who is facing a child custody battle and perhaps wants to understand whether the orders that have been issued have an expiry date or not. 

Nature of Child Custody Orders

Child custody orders vary in nature and serve different purposes. Whether or not child custody orders would depend on the type of order, and the purpose of that order. It is important to note that there are different types of child custody orders and each has a lifespan depending on what it serves. 

It is important to understand the terms that we are talking about. A child custody order is a document that is issued by the family court after the completion of a child custody case, or when sought by one of the parents, and stipulates the terms and conditions about child custody, and who has custody over the child. There are also different types of child custody orders and include:

Types of Child Custody Orders 

There are different types of custody orders and that include permanent or final orders, temporary or interim orders, and emergency orders. These serve different purposes and the final orders are only issued when a child custody case has been concluded while temporary and emergency orders are issued before or during the child custody case process. 

Final custody orders do not expire but they can be modified as per the change in circumstances and by request by any of the parties. Temporary orders usually take effect immediately and can serve until they are replaced by the final orders. 

Temporary Child Custody Orders 

This order sets out the terms and conditions of which parent has custody before the child custody case is completed. This is normally the case when the two parents can’t agree on who to take custody of the child as they wait for the final decision by the court. This is where one parent may seek the court to decide on the matter and issue a temporary order. 

For the case of parents who are on good terms and can negotiate and agree, there is no need to seek the court to issue a temporary order since you as parents can agree on parenting while the case is still in court. 

Temporary orders cover basic things that are short-term like who will take physical custody of the child until a final decision is made, how both parents can contribute to the welfare support of the child, and other basic needs, and perhaps a temporary visitation schedule.

These orders may also serve to compel one of the parents to contribute to the child support. This is where one of the parents is not participating in the welfare of the child and the other parent may be overwhelmed to carry on the responsibility of raising the child. 

Do Temporary Child Custody Orders Expire? 

Temporary child custody orders, as the name suggests, do have an expiration date. This is when they are replaced by the final orders or changed by the judge following a modification request by either of the parties involved in the case

Emergency Child Custody Orders 

Emergency orders are issued by the court in some situations like if the child is in danger of abuse and domestic violence. This can be sought by one of the parents where he or she presents evidence to show the court how the child is facing the risks of abuse, kidnap and alienation among other things that may affect the child’s emotional and physical well-being

Emergency orders are issued within a few days or even hours depending on the situation of the child. Since the court will always want to protect the best interests of the child, when a parent seeks emergency orders, and with sufficient evidence, the court is very likely to issue an emergency order that will last until it is replaced by the final order. 

An emergency order may, depending on the nature, bar the parent who is deemed to be behaving in a way that does not serve the best interests of the child, from accessing the child, until when a final decision is made. 

Do Emergency Orders Expire?

Just like the temporary orders, emergency orders do get replaced by the final order. An emergency order may be modified, overturned, or may remain as it is in the final order. This will depend on many factors that the court will consider and the best interests of the child. 

Final Child Custody Orders 

A final order dictates the permanent terms of custody and that includes the parent who will take physical or legal custody, or whether both parents will share custody or not. This also dictates the parenting plan and how both parents will contribute towards the child support and also the visitation rights for the non-custodial parent. 

We can say a final order is permanent unless there is a significant change in circumstances and one of the parents requests for modifications. When this happens, the court will consider the request and the evidence presented, and decide whether to approve the modifications as requested or not. 

In addition to that, when a child turns 18, he or she may wish to live with the other parent or even live independently. The terms stipulated in the order, therefore, may not hold when the child reaches a maturity age of 18 years. 

Alternatively, the parents, at a later stage after a final decision has been made, may come to an agreement to have the order changed to suit their current needs. When this happens, the judge will consider their agreements when approved, it replaces the previously issued order.


After looking at the different types of child custody orders that exist, we can say that child custody orders do not expire but rather are replaced by the new or final orders. These orders take effect until when a child is of a mature age to make independent decisions or even to live independently from the parents. Therefore, child custody orders do not expire.