Family & Probate Court: Open for Emergency Matters
Although courthouses are closed except for emergency matters until at least May 4, court business continues virtually (by telephone, videoconference, email, or comparable means, or through the electronic filing system)
- On April 7, the Supreme Judicial Court posted FAQs that answer questions like “Is the Supreme Judicial Court conducting business during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are both SJC clerks’ offices still accepting filings?”
- On April 7, the SJC Clerk’s Office for the County of Suffolk posted FAQs that answer questions like “Has the SJC taken any steps to extend court deadlines in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? Has the SJC taken any action to extend injunctions and similar orders?”
1. Which matters are considered emergency matters that I am allowed to file and be heard unless I need to give notice?
If you have one of these cases, you will be allowed to file your case and be heard, unless the Court tells you that you need to give notice before a hearing can be held. You do not have to show the Court that you have an emergency – these cases have already been determined to be an emergency.
a. Restraining Orders Pursuant to G. L. c. 209A/Orders to Vacate Pursuant to G. L. c. 208, § 34B
b. 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
c. Petitions seeking appointment of a temporary guardian or conservator
d. Petitions pursuant to G. L. c. 19A, § 7 and G. L. c. 19C, § 20 – protective services
e. Health Care Proxy actions
f. Petitions/Motions for Appointment of Special Personal Representative
g. Petitions for marriage without delay
h. Complaints for Dependency (SIJS) if the child will turn 21 prior to May 1, 2020
i. All requests for injunctive relief
2. Which matters may be considered an emergency matters if I can show exceptional/exigent circumstances? What are exceptional/exigent circumstances?
If you have one of the cases listed below, you will be allowed to file your case, and, if you can show the Court that you have exceptional/exigent circumstances, you will be heard unless the Court tells you that you need to give notice before a hearing can be held. You may be asked to write a statement explaining your emergency. “Exceptional/exigent circumstances” mean that the matter is serious and immediate and that significant harm may occur if the case cannot be filed and heard. The Court may tell you that you need to give someone notice before a hearing can be held.
a. Motions for temporary orders where exceptional/exigent circumstances have been demonstrated
b. Contempt actions where exceptional/exigent circumstances have been demonstrated
c. If the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has custody of child(ren) under an sua sponte order pursuant to G. L. c. 119A, § 23 (a) (3) that expires between March 18, 2020 and May 1, 2020, the order will be administratively extended for 45 days from the expiration date. A party to the case may, for good cause shown, ask to be heard earlier by showing exigent circumstances. The request may be decided on the pleadings.
d. Treatment plan orders (for example, antipsychotic medicine) that expire between March 18, 2020 and May 1, 2020, will be administratively extended for 60 days from the expiration date. A party may, for good cause shown, ask to be heard earlier by showing exigent circumstances. The request may be decided on the pleadings.
e. Temporary orders of appointment in guardianship and conservator cases that expire between March 18, 2020, and May 1, 2020, will be administratively extended for 60 days from the expiration date. A party may, for good cause shown, ask to be heard earlier by showing exigent circumstances. The request may be decided on the pleadings.
f. Upon a showing of exceptional/exigent circumstances, a party whose trial or evidentiary hearing is postponed by Standing Order 2-20 may seek an exception from Standing Order 2-20 by motion which shall be heard on the pleadings or telephonically. No exception shall be granted except with the approval of the assigned judge and the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court.
3. What do I do if I think I have an emergency and I cannot find it listed above?
If you think you have an emergency, and it is not listed above, you will need to speak to someone from the Court. You will have to show the Court that you have exceptional/exigent circumstances. You may be asked to write a statement explaining your emergency. If it is determined that you do not have an emergency, you can file your matter by mail, email, or efiling, if it is available for that matter.
4. What do I do if I have an emergency matter?
If you have an emergency matter, you should:
a. Look for up-to-date information on Court system response to COVID-19
b. Call your local division of the Probate and Family Court to ask for help
c. Prepare as much paperwork in advance as possible by finding forms at Probate and Family Court forms
d. Be prepared to explain why your situation is an emergency, if necessary
5. How do I file an emergency matter?
Paperwork for emergencies can be turned in at the courthouse in person, as long as it is safe to do so, and may also be emailed. Guardianship of adult cases can be e-filed. You should check Filing Methods for Emergency Actions as defined by Probate and Family Court Standing Order 2-20: Court Operations under the Exigent Circumstances Created by COVID-19 for up-to-date information about how emergency matters can be filed.
6. How do I file a matter that is not an emergency matter?
Matters that are not an emergency can be mailed, emailed, or e-filed if e-filing is available for that matter. Filings will be docketed, but no event shall be scheduled before May 1, 2020.
7. What do I do if I have a question about parenting time? What if my parenting time is supervised and I have questions?
Chief Justice Casey has written an open letter that you can find at Open letter regarding co-parenting during COVID-19 from Chief Justice John D. Casey. Parenting orders are still in effect during this pandemic. If you think you have an emergency matter relating to parenting time, please read the information in Section 2 above. If you have supervised parenting at a center, and the center is closed, you may have an emergency matter.
8. What do I do if I think my child support order should be changed because I have lost my job?
If you think you have an emergency situation, please read the information in Section 2 and Section 3 above. It may be appropriate for you to file a Complaint for Modification and a Motion for Temporary Orders. If it is determined that you do not have an emergency that needs to be heard, you can still file a Complaint for Modification and a Motion for Temporary Orders.
9. What do I do if I am unable to reach anyone in the Register’s office by telephone?
The Trial Court will be operating a Help Line where you can get information from 8:30 – 4:30, Monday through Friday. The number is 833-91COURT. You can also email the Court directly.
10. What do I do if my local Probate and Family Court is temporarily closed by the Executive Office of the Trial Court due to COVID-19?
a. If you need to find out if your local court is temporarily closed, you can find information at Temporary court closures due to COVID-19.
b. Even if your local court is temporarily closed, there are procedures in place for emergency cases to be processed.
c. We are in the process of creating a list of emergency phone numbers for each division. When it is finalized, it will be in the Court system response to COVID-19.
d. If your local Probate and Family Court is closed, and you are looking for a restraining order, you could reach out to a SAFEPLAN program. Information is available at SAFEPLAN Program. The District Court also has jurisdiction over restraining orders.
11. I have questions about how my case is being handled, what should I do?
You have options. You can:
a. Review the Trial Court’s website regarding COVID-19 at Court system response to COVID-19. The Probate and Family Court has a section on that page with links to other information
b. Reach out to your local court
c. Call the Help Line at 833-91COURT
Parent Education FAQs
1. In light of COVID-19, what temporary changes have been made to Standing Order 2-16 “Parent Education Program Attendance” which requires certain individuals to complete the mandatory parent education requirement?
a. In-person classes have been suspended until after May 1, 2020.
b. Online services are available at http://www.parenteducationonline.com/products/.
c. Parents who participate in the online services do not need to ask the Court’s permission to do so.
d. Video-conferencing or remote services are being offered by some of the providers that typically provide in-person classes. Those providers have been granted temporary approval to conduct parent education courses via web video conferencing.
e. You can find a copy of the temporarily amended standing order at Temporary Amendment to Standing Order 2-16 – Parent Education Program Attendance.
2. What should I do if I have questions about availability?
You should contact approved providers directly regarding scheduling, availability, and registration. The list of approved Parent Education providers can be found at: Parent education programs.
3. How can I find out which providers are offering services remotely?
The list of approved providers includes the indication “Remote services available” when the provider has notified the Probate and Family Court of their capacity to do so. The list of approved Parent Education providers can be found at: Parent education programs.
4. If I am required to attend parent education, what will I have to provide the Court to show I have completed the mandatory course?
After completing the interactive program, you will obtain a Certificate of Attendance from the approved provider. You must give this certificate to the Court after completing the program.
5. What parent education requirements have not changed?
All provisions of Standing Order 2-16 remain in effect except those pertaining to the expanded availability of remote services.
6. Who can I contact at the Administrative Office of the Probate and Family Court if I have questions about parent education?
You can contact Christine Yurgelun at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fiduciary Litigation Session (FLS) FAQs
1. I have a case currently with the FLS, what should I do if I have an emergency matter to be filed in that case?
In the Fiduciary Litigation Session (FLS), the following are considered emergency matters:
(a) Petitions/Motions seeking the appointment of a Special Personal Representative;
(b) Requests for a civil temporary restraining order;
(c) Contested Motions requiring a hearing where there are exceptional/exigent circumstances;
(d) Contempt actions where there are exceptional/exigent circumstances; and
(e) Any other matter not addressed above where exceptional/exigent circumstances have been demonstrated.
If you believe you have an emergency matter, you should email the FLS clerk at email@example.com, and include the docket number and name of your case, and a short statement as to the nature of the emergency for (c), (d), and (e).
FLS staff will then contact you. If an emergency hearing is to be held, in most situations, the emergency hearing will be conducted by telephone or videoconference.
2. How do I file an emergency matter in an FLS case?
While Standing Order 2-20 is in effect, the FLS will consider, on a case-by-case basis, requests to file pleadings and other documents by email. To do so, please email the FLS clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Who can I contact with questions about the FLS, including filing and fees?
You can contact the FLS clerk at email@example.com with any questions.