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What is an Emergency Injunction?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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An emergency injunction is a temporary directive from a court ordering someone to cease or continue a specific behavior, depending on the nature of the case. These injunctions are used in cases where people can demonstrate that an order is needed to prevent serious harm or damages beyond financial ones in the immediate future. The person who initially requested it will need to provide supporting evidence to get a permanent injunction, but an emergency one can be a stopgap measure to address an immediate situation while preparing for more long-term legal action.

A wide variety of situations can involve emergency injunctions, including abuse cases, patent infringement cases, and child custody cases. To grant one, a judge must be shown that serious harm will occur unless the injunction is put in place. For example, in a divorce involving abuse, the abused partner might request one to order the other partner to stay away on the grounds of personal safety concerns. If the abused partner has documentation, like a history of police calls to the residence to address domestic violence complaints, the judge may grant the order.

Under normal circumstances, judges like to hear from all parties before granting an injunction to make sure that people do not abuse the legal system. A company that doesn't like the actions of a competitor, for instance, can't file an injunction randomly to stop the competitor from doing something. If a company can argue that a competitor is infringing on patents or committing other wrongs, it can bring suit to request a permanent injunction and recover damages. It may use an emergency request to stop the competitor during the course of developing the trial and hearing it in court if it can show how the competitor's actions are causing direct harms like loss of reputation due to counterfeit products.

In an emergency injunction, the judge clearly outlines the activity covered by the order and sets well-defined boundaries on the scope of activity. Judges balance the needs of avoiding unreasonable restriction of liberty with addressing the concerns outlined in the request. These documents are sometimes used as evidence in cases, and for this reason, judges are careful to outline the arguments presented during the hearing.

Typically, these injunctions expire within a set period of time, although people can apply to renew them. If a legal matter is decided before the injunction expires, the outcome of the case can result in it being lifted or in the drafting of a permanent one.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon314171 — On Jan 16, 2013

My wife's ex-husband is wanting to pick up their kids this weekend. In accordance with the original divorce decree, they alternate weekends. He was arrested for DFI (second offense) on Friday morning while attempting to come to our son's school program.

We are scared that the kids are going to be put in harm's way if he takes them, meaning he will drink and drive with them in the car. Should I file for a temporary restraining order?

By anon296841 — On Oct 13, 2012

My brother caught his wife of 10 years cheating in their house, while he and their child were asleep in another room. He didn't talk to her for a few days, since he was so hurt by her selfish actions. When they did finally talk about it, all she could say was she was sorry. He told her the marriage is over, and now she keeps trying to hug him repeatedly and he keeps pushing her off him and finally left to clear his head (she even stated this in the court papers for an injunction). When he returned, they don't speak again, but do sleep in same bed.

The next day, he dropped his son off at school. His wife was gone when he returned. She had picked up the kid from school and filed domestic battery charges against him, stating he beat her their whole marriage and that night. She filed an injunction against him for her and the child, saying he abused her during the whole marriage and the child witnessed it, and she got 100 percent custody.

He was arrested, spent two nights in jail and has not heard or seen his son for two weeks and has at least another week before he is allowed to.

He has to wait for and injunction hearing, which will be the first time he will be able to tell his side. But he has another week without his child. We are hopeful the court will see the truth, but a lawyer told him injunctions are given out so easily by judges. My brother had no criminal record until this incident.

By StarJo — On Apr 29, 2012

My aunt's husband left her and their two toddlers, and he hadn't been sending them any child support. She had no job, because she had to stay home and care for the kids, so she really needed the money.

She got an emergency injunction that forced her husband to pay child support. Fortunately, the amount that he had to send her was enough to feed them and pay the bills until the permanent injunction could be issued.

I'm so glad that people are not allowed to simply up and leave their wives and kids with no consequences. Emergency child support injunctions keep men who would shirk their duties from being able to get away with it all.

By Perdido — On Apr 28, 2012

If you actually have a patent on something, it is easy to get a judge to issue an emergency injunction against anyone trying to copy your product or use your brand name. My best friend's business competition didn't think that she had the guts to take him to court, but since she had an actual patent, she knew she could get results.

He had been advertising a new product that was exactly like my friend's, and this was something unique that not everyone could think to make. His design was so much like hers that the judge ordered him to cease production and marketing of it.

By wavy58 — On Apr 27, 2012

@orangey03 – Though it happens sometimes, I'm sure that your friend's case was the exception to the rule. Many lives have been saved by emergency injunctions, and I'm glad they exist.

My sister's ex-husband was abusive, and she had to run away to save her life. She got an emergency injunction, because she had gone to the hospital and the police station after a severe beating, so she had photographs and records to prove what happened.

The judge granted the injunction without hesitation. Her ex is now in prison, and she has moved out of state. The injunction allowed her to get away, and hopefully, he won't be able to relocate her once he gets out.

By orangey03 — On Apr 27, 2012

I am glad to hear that both sides of a case are heard before the injunction is granted. There are too many people in the world who try to use the judicial system for their benefit, and some people would seek restraining orders just because they don't like a person.

They don't think about how this could harm that person's reputation or record. My friend was dating a lady who turned out to be seriously crazy, and even though he wanted nothing more to do with her, she tried to get an emergency injunction to make him stay away. At the hearing, the judge could tell that something was off, and he refused to grant the injunction.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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