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Emergency Child Custody Hearings

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Child custody is often a hotly contested issue in New Jersey divorces. Contested custody disputes can take months or even years to resolve. Ultimately, the court will make a final decision based on the best interests of the child. Sometimes, however, you do not have that luxury of time. If your child is in a dangerous situation, the court has the power to grant temporary emergency custody to one parent or another party in order to protect the child from imminent harm. Read on to learn about emergency custody in New Jersey. If you believe your child is in danger, call a zealous New Jersey child custody and emergency custody attorney for help protecting your family.

What Is Emergency Child Custody in New Jersey?

When a child’s health or safety is in danger, a parent or other interested party can seek an order for emergency custody. One parent can, for example, seek sole custody of the child in question while the emergency remains. Child custody disputes normally take months to resolve, but an emergency order can establish a temporary custody arrangement that holds until the need for the emergency custody situation abates. A petition for emergency custody (known as an “Order to Show Cause”) can be filed at any point during the custody process.

Normally, the court will hold a hearing within a few days of the emergency petition’s filing. At the hearing, the petitioner will need to show clear and convincing evidence that there will be immediate and irreparable harm to the child if the order is not granted. The petitioner can produce physical evidence, call witnesses to provide testimony, and provide their own testimony.

Proving the Need for Emergency Custody at the Hearing

To obtain emergency custody, the petitioner must demonstrate that the child is in danger of immediate and irreparable harm. It’s a high burden to clear–courts are very wary of taking children away from their parents, always preferring continued contact between kids and both parents where possible.

Examples of situations that could give rise to emergency custody include:

  • The child’s parent is in police custody or has been incarcerated
  • The child’s parent has taken the child to another state or country without permission from the other parent or the court (i.e., parental kidnapping)
  • The parent has threatened to remove the child from the state
  • The parent has mentally, physically, or sexually abused the child
  • Someone else living with the parent and child has abused the child
  • The parent or someone else living in the home has a substance abuse problem, and the child has been exposed to that substance abuse
  • The child’s living situation is otherwise dangerous to the child’s health, safety, and well-being (e.g., the parent has become homeless or been evicted, the utilities have been shut off, the property has been damaged by flood or fire, etc.)

If you are seeking an emergency custody order, make sure to collect and prepare as much evidence as possible that shows the danger to the child. Useful evidence might include:

  • Threatening or harmful texts, emails, voicemails, and other communications showing abuse, neglect, threats, plans to kidnap the child, or other dangerous situations
  • Photos of injuries, abuse, and other harmful or dangerous elements
  • Medical records showing injury to the child, substance abuse by the other parent, or other relevant factors
  • Expert testimony from medical professionals, child psychologists, and others
  • Eyewitness testimony from family members, friends, school officials, and other adults who have witnessed problematic conduct
  • Police reports
  • Current or prior restraining orders

Discuss your case with your emergency child custody attorney to identify what evidence to collect, build your argument, file your petition, and prepare for your emergency custody hearing.

Call for Seasoned Legal Advice and Representation for Your New Jersey Child Custody Dispute or Emergency Petition

If you have questions about child custody or a parental rights dispute, or if you are dealing with divorce, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Law Office of John B. D’Alessandro in Union to discuss your concerns. From temporary orders for child support while your divorce case is underway to final orders or post-divorce modification motions, our comprehensive and successful family law attorney is here to advise and represent you.

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