Can you get free legal aid for a child custody case, and how does emergency custody work?
You have to file and Emergency Petition for Custody of the children ASAP. You didn't indicate whether or not you are in the process of separating or divorce proceedings. In any event an attorney will know how to file this. If you do not have an attorney then I would suggest you hire one as soon as possible.
Since money is an issue, see if you qualify for representation Legal Aid (their are income limits) or see if they can recommend someone to help you. Also, check if there is a law school nearby to where you live; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases. Contact the local Bar Association in your county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances. Additionally, google women's support groups in your area, they can usually provide a list of attorneys who can help. Finally, contact your state's Department of Social Services, they may be able to refer you to free legal services.