Issues relating to child custody can be difficult in the best of circumstances. The state of New Jersey permits emergency child-custody hearings to be held when the best interests of the child are at stake. In order to qualify for an emergency hearing, certain criteria must be met that suggest the immediate physical or psychological safety of the child may be at risk.
Allegations of Abuse
New Jersey law allows an emergency child-custody hearing to be called in circumstances in which there have been allegations of sexual, physical or emotional abuse toward any child under the age of 18. Emergency custody hearings may be requested by a family member of the child in question or by representatives of the New Jersey Department of Child and Families in cases in which clear and convincing evidence warrants commencement of a formal hearing to ensure the safety and welfare of the child.
New Jersey law also permits emergency custody hearings to be held In situations in which a dependent child under the age of 18 has been abandoned by one or both parents. Abandonment may include failure to provide shelter, financial support or necessities such as food, clothing and utilities. During emergency custody hearings based on abandonment, an attempt must be made to located the parents or guardians in question and temporary custody is typically given to eligible family members, foster parents or the New Jersey Department of Children and Families until formal custody of the child is decided.
In situations in which the immediate safety of the child is at question, New Jersey law dictates that an emergency custody hearing may be held for the purpose of ensuring the child's physical and emotional well being. Circumstances that may qualify as child endangerment include the arrest of a parent for neglect or lack of parental supervision, drug or alcohol use by the parent that puts the child's safety in danger or situations in which domestic violence has occurred in the home. These circumstances often result in the appointment of temporary guardianship until formal custody determinations may be made, based on the findings of the court.
Risk of Flight
In matters where it is believed that one or both parents who are engaged in legal custody dispute may flee with the child without the permission of the court, an emergency custody hearing may be called. In these circumstances, the petitioning parent may be awarded temporary custody of the child in question until the responding parent is located and a formal hearing on the matter is heard. Evidence of risk of flight may include the failure to return the child after a scheduled visitation or threats by one parent to flee the jurisdiction while in possession of the child.