Emergency Child Custody Orders: How to Keep Your Kids Safe in New Jersey

emergency child custodyAre you in an urgent situation with your kids and need an emergency child custody order? In certain circumstances, including situations in which domestic violence and abuse are present in the family, the courts in New Jersey will agree to hear you on an emergency basis.

Steps that are generally required when pursuing emergency custody include:

  • In order to get in front of a judge quickly, you would need to file for what is called an Order to Show Cause. You can file in the family division of your local courthouse and be seen by a judge that same day.
  • In your papers, indicate why you are seeking emergency custody of the child and detail as best you can what is currently going on with the child and the family.
  • You must notify whomever currently has any custodial rights to the child (usually the parents of the child) that you have filed for an Order to Show Cause so they have notice of the court hearing and can appear in court if possible. For example, if you are the father of a child and wish to file for emergency custody, you would need to call the child’s other parent and advise them that you are at the courthouse, that  you have file for emergency custody and that you are waiting to see the judge.

Proving Your Custody Request In Court

In order to prove to the judge that an urgent custody order is necessary, you must show that there will be immediate, inimical and irreparable harm to the child if the judge does not grant the order. This is a serious and a very high burden. Most situations involve children who are being abused or seriously neglected or if the parent or parents of the child have a severe drug addiction that is rendering them unable to care for the child.

If the judge believes that immediate and substantial harm is likely to happen to the child, then he or she will grant an emergency order for custody. You, the other parent and any other relevant parties will have to return to court in ten days for a more complete and comprehensive hearing to determine custody with more finality. The purpose of the emergency order is to immediately protect the child from harm and is not necessarily meant to establish longer-term custody.

If the judge does not believe that the child is in immediate danger of harm, then the emergency order will not be granted. Instead, your paperwork will be converted to a regular proceeding which will be scheduled according to the court’s normal calendar, or within about four weeks. Just because you weren’t granted emergency custody does not mean that you will not be granted custody after a later hearing. It simply means that the judge did not see your family’s situation as an emergency.

Remember that custody hearings can be complex. You have the right to present evidence which includes your own testimony before the court. The judge may order that an expert, such as a child psychologist get involved to evaluate everyone involved in the case, including the child. Depending on the child’s age, the judge may wish to interview them in chambers to hear their thoughts and feelings about the issues involved.

Because custody hearings and hearings for Orders to Show Cause can be complicated, consider speaking with a family law attorney if possible, before you file. Of course, in any true emergency, it may be wise to contact local law enforcement or perhaps the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP; formally DYFS) for immediate assistance.

If you would like more information regarding emergency custody order or any other area of family or divorce law here in New Jersey, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our qualified and compassionate family law attorneys who can advise you as to your particular facts and circumstances.

Read More:

Answers to Child Custody Frequent Asked Questions (FAQs)


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