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Family and Relationships

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Home Page > Family and Relationships > Custody/Visitation > How to Change or Enforce a Custody/Visitation Order > I am the custodial parent

I need more information about emergencies


The procedure for filing a motion to change a court order can take several weeks or longer. However, if you have an emergency and need quicker relief, you should follow the directions for emergency procedures outlined below.

  1. Emergency Procedures Out Of Court.

    1. Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”) – If you suspect that your child(ren) is(are) being neglected or abused by their other parent, you may want to consider calling the state Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”) hotline.  your report will be taken anonymously and you will not be asked to give your name.

      View website for State Department of Children and Families and DYFS hotline.

    2. Your Local Police Department – If your child has been missing after visiting with the other parent or has otherwise gone missing, you may want to consider calling your local police department.

      View  web site for New Jersey municipalities and local government including police departments 

      WARNING –Be aware that, by contacting either DYFS or the local police department, you will lset in motion a process which will probably include investigations of both you and the other parent or caretaker. DYFS will investigate both you and the other parent or caretaker and you may also be investigated by law enforcement. These investigations may result in your children being placed in foster care or in the filing of criminal charges or a civil complaint against you or the other parent.

      If you are uncertain about what to do, call the LSNJ-LAW Statewide Legal Services Hotline at 1-888-576-5529 for telephone advice and possible referral to other legal or non-legal resources.

  2. Emergency Court Procedures:

    There are different types of family cases designated by different prefixes such as “FD” for a non-matrimonial ( non-divorce) case, “FV” for a domestic violence case or “FM” for a matrimonial or divorce case. Although the forms that you must use to modify the custody or visitation orders in these cases are somewhat different, the forms used to request emergency hearings in these cases are usually very similar. Follow the directions outlined below.

    1. Go to the family intake office of the County courthouse in the county where you got your original custody/visitation order.

      View a list of county courthouse addresses and phone numbers.

    2. At the courthouse, explain that you have an emergency and ask for the forms used for requesting emergent relief in a family case. A staff member will probably give you forms for an Order to Show Cause "OTSC.” An OTSC is a special type of emergency application which requires you to use special types of forms to apply to have the court hear your request on a schedule that is quicker than the normal motion schedule.

    3. Basic steps in the process for filing an OTSC:

      • Filling and filing the Order to Show Cause Papers - When you have completed those papers you should file them with a member of the staff of the Family Division of the Superior Court.

      • Attending The Preliminary Hearing - After you have filled out the necessary papers and filed them with the Family Division you may be asked to notify the other parent that you have filed such papers in order to give him or her the opportunity to be present for the very short hearing that you have in front of the judge who has been assigned to hear your application. At this preliminary hearing you will be asked to explain your problem to the judge. If the other parent is not present for this hearing, the judge will not decide the case. He or she will listen to your story only for the limited purpose of determining whether or not the situation that you are describing is truly an emergency that requires the use of the special OTSC procedures.

      • Getting the Judge to Sign the Orders to Show Cause - If the judge decides that you do have an emergency situation, he will sign an order directing you and the other parent to come to court (in a few hours, or the next day or the day after next) and “show cause” (show a legal reason) why an order should not be entered in your favor giving you the relief that you are asking for.

        NOTE - In most cases it is your responsibility to make sure that the other parent gets a copy of this court order announcing the time, place and other details about the upcoming hearing on the return date.

      • Hearing of the Order to Show Cause on The Return Date - The next date when both you and the other parent or caretaker will appear in court after the preliminary hearing on the OTSC is called the "return date." At this hearing the judge considers your request and the response of the other parent to that request. After the judge has heard both sides of the story he or she will make a decision and sign an order which sets forth his decision.

      • What To do if Your OTSC is Dismissed - If the judge finds that your situation does NOT need to be handled as an emergency, your OTSC will probably be dismissed. This does not mean that you cannot apply to the court for the relief that you are requesting. It means that you must apply using the regular motion procedure. 

        To get information about how to file a motion, see I am the non-custodial parent.


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Low-income New Jerseyans can get free legal help by phone: call our toll-free hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Outside of New Jersey, please call 732-572-9100 and ask to be transferred to the hotline.