Know the Laws:
Custody laws are state laws and each state has different laws (also called a statute). As with everything on this site, this information is not legal advice. Custody is complicated and it is important to try to find a lawyer who has experience with custody and domestic violence laws to help you with your case.
Below is general information about custody. The terms used on this page are defined generally, and may have different meanings in your state. Please check your specific state's laws.
Whether or not you can get temporary custody with a restraining order depends on the laws of your state and on the judge who hears your case. In most states, you can ask for temporary custody of your children as part of a restraining order against the other parent of those children. Not every state allows this, so you should read the particular rules on our Restraining Orders page for your state. Also, even if your state allows for temporary custody to be given in a restraining order, the decision is up to the judge who hears your request for a restraining order.
Also, if the other parent gets a custody order from a different court, it might conflict with the custody provision in your restraining order. If that is the case, you should talk to a lawyer to figure out if your temporary custody is still valid in spite of the other parent's order. To find legal referrals, go to our Finding a Lawyer page.
States may have different standards for when emergency custody is granted. Some courts will grant you emergency custody without notice to the other parent and without that parent present ("ex parte"). Judges may only do this in extreme situations but it may depend on your state or county. You may need to prove to the judge that your kids are in danger in order to get an emergency custody order like this or you may not. You may want to explain your situation to a custody lawyer for advice on whether you may be a good candidate for getting an emergency custody order. If you do get an ex parte order, these orders generally are only for a short period of time so there may be a hearing to decide a final custody order.
Note: An "ex parte" order may not be enforceable in other states. We suggest checking with a lawyer if you are planning on traveling to another state.
To file for emergency custody, we suggest that you contact a lawyer. To find one in your area, please click the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you talk to someone in a local domestic violence agency and a lawyer to help you with this decision, if you have not already. To find a local agency or someone who can help you, click on the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
Remember, the information on this page is just general information. Your state may have differing laws or other things you can do.
You may also want to check your state's custody page on this site for additional information. Go to Custody and put your state into the drop-down menu.