Can I get temporary emergency custody?
Maybe. Even if you would not be able to bring a permanent custody action in NJ because it is not your child’s “home state”, you may file for temporary emergency custody in a New Jersey court so long as your child is currently living in the state. If the court feels it is necessary in an emergency to protect you or your child from mistreatment or abuse, a judge will grant an order of temporary emergency custody. You will need to prove to the judge that there is immediate and present danger of abuse and it is necessary to protect you or your children. If you have strong proof that your child is in danger, a judge will usually grant temporary emergency custody. Some judges do not require much proof, while others almost never grant temporary emergency custody.
Usually, in NJ, when a temporary restraining order is issued, temporary physical custody of the children is granted to the victim at that time. In domestic violence restraining orders, emergency temporary custody of the child is routinely granted to the non-abusive parent until there is a hearing for a permanent restraining order. A visitation schedule for the other parent may be included in the temporary restraining order but often, the abuser is not allowed to have any contact with the child until the hearing for the permanent restraining order. During the hearing for a permanent restraining order, the judge will determine who will be granted temporary physical custody of the children and what visitation rights the other parent will have until there is a child custody proceeding.
If a temporary restraining order is not issued, a parent (or other caretaker of the child) can apply for temporary physical custody by filing a Complaint for Custody. If you have not filed any motions with the court before this, then you can file an “Order to Show Cause” with a “Verified Complaint.” If a Complaint has already been filed, an Order to Show Cause can be filed at any time if there are developing issues that need to be addressed with regard to custody. In this situation, it would be very difficult to get emergency custody if you do not have a lawyer helping you. Therefore we recommend that you ask a lawyer for advice in this situation. For a list of legal resources, see our NJ Finding a Lawyer page.