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COVID-19 Probate and Family Court Updates

Probate and Family Court During the Coronavirus Outbreak

**This information is current as of 3/18/2020**

In response to the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19, the Court has issued “Standing Orders” outlining many changes to the court process.  The information below is a summary of those changes.  See here for the full Probate and Family Court order.

 

If you have questions about the Probate and Family Court order and have experienced domestic violence, contact DOVE’s Legal Helpline for assistance at (617) 770-4065 ext. 400.

The Probate and Family Courts are closed for regular proceedings with some emergency exceptions until at least April 6, 2020.  If you have questions, you may contact the court.

 

What if I have a court date scheduled between March 18, 2020 and April 6, 2020?

All regularly scheduled probate and family court matters, not including emergencies (see below), scheduled between March 18, 2020 and April 6, 2020, will automatically be continued (rescheduled) to a date after May 1, 2020.  This means you do NOT need to go to court.  You should receive information in the mail from the court about a rescheduled date, or you may call the court clerk’s office.

Any Restraining Orders (209A) or Motions to Vacate the Home that were scheduled to occur between March 18, 2020 and April 6, 2020, will automatically be extended to a date after May 1, 2020 when an in-person hearing can be held.  This means you do NOT need to go to court.

 

What if I want to file for a 209A Abuse Prevention Order (Restraining Orders) or a Motion to Vacate the Marital Home (Motion to Vacate)?

If you are looking to file a new restraining order or motion to vacate, please call DOVE’s Legal Helpline for more information and advice.  In general, these are considered an emergency and the court will hear your case.  These matters are being heard via telephone or video conference.  You can get more information about the process for filing a new Restraining Order while the courts are closed here.

If you are scheduled for a 10-day hearing date for a restraining order or motion to vacate (the hearing that happens after the first “ex parte” hearing), your case will be heard via telephone or video conference.  Please note, if your restraining order or motion to vacate is extended at this 10-day hearing, it may only be extended until an in-person hearing can be scheduled once the courts have re-opened.  This means you may have to go back to court once they have re-opened for an in-person hearing.

 

What if my Probate and Family Court Matter is an emergency?

The following matters have been classified as “emergency matters” and will be heard via telephone or video conference. If you think you might have an emergency need to file a motion or a contempt, please call DOVE’s Legal Helpline for information and advice.

  • Motions for temporary orders where exceptional/exigent circumstances have been demonstrated;
  • Contempt actions where exceptional/exigent circumstances have been demonstrated.
  • Petitions/motions seeking a Do Not Resuscitate/Do Not Intubate/Comfort Measures Only (DNR/DNI/CMO) order, authorization for medical treatment order, or order for antipsychotic medication;
  • Petitions seeking appointment of a temporary guardian or conservator;
  • Petitions regarding protective services (MGL 19A, §7 and MGL c.19C, §20);
  • Health Care Proxy actions;
  • Petitions/Motions for Appointment of Special Personal Representative;
  • Petitions for marriage without delay;
  • Complaints for Dependency (SIJS) if the child will turn 21 prior to May 1, 2020;
  • All requests for injunctive relief;

If you are required to show exceptional or exigent circumstances, you will need to file a motion to be heard in which you explain you exceptional or exigent circumstances. A judge will then review your motion and decide whether or not it is an emergency.

 

What if I want to make a new filing with the Probate and Family Court between March 18, 2020-April 6, 2020?

With the exception of the emergency matters listed above, all new court filings must be made by mail or e-filing when available.  E-filing instructions can be found here.  All newly filed matters will be docketed and scheduled for a hearing after May 1, 2020.

If you are indigent (low-income) court fees and e-filing fees will continue to be waived during this time. For e-filing, you will need to certify that you are indigent. For any fee waiver requests made between March 18, 2020-April 6, 2020, the court will, at a later date, request that you provide the required affidavits or other paperwork to support the fee waiver request.  If the court finds that a filer improperly obtained a fee waiver, they have the right to issue a charge for any filings made.

If you have questions about the Probate and Family Court order and have experienced domestic violence, you may contact DOVE’s Legal Helpline for assistance at (617) 770-4065 ext. 400.

 

Download pdf of this information