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An Update on Massachusetts Probate & Family Court Reopening Procedures and What It Means for You

Slow Re-Open

With COVID-19 still posing a serious risk to health and safety, the courts, like the rest of our society, continue to adapt their procedures to minimize the risk to court workers and private citizens. The Probate and Family Court is no exception and is adhering to the same general guidelines as the rest of the court system.

What Is Open?

Beginning July 13, Massachusetts courts, including the Probate and Family Court, allowed some in-person business to resume.

As of July 13, only a few types of court proceeding are conducted in-person. These are “trials and evidentiary hearings.” These proceedings are defined as those requiring:

1. That witnesses take oaths before a judge, making it a grave matter subject to perjury penalties
2. In certain cases, that documentary evidence must be presented which cannot be conveyed, for legal or technology reasons, over a virtual medium.

But don’t show up at the courthouse just to satisfy your curiosity. There are still restrictions on the general public entering the courts. In order to enter a courthouse, one must either be

1. taking part in a trial or evidentiary hearing
2. Visiting the Registrar for necessary in-person business
3. Meeting with your probation officer or other probation staff member
4. Doing business at other open offices that are housed in the same building or facility as the court

All other business, following guidelines laid down by the Supreme Judicial Court, should be conducted virtually.

What Is Online?

Hearings for a wide variety of family and probate matters, including restraining orders, are being conducted by teleconference or telephone. However, for many family matters, such as custody and child support petitions for modification, it is at this time only possible to file these petitions.

The Need for Experienced Attorneys

The differing procedures for the myriad different matters handled by the Probate and Family Court can be frustrating and overwhelming even in the best of circumstances. With COVID, it is more important than ever for you to have an advocate who understands how the courts function day-to-day so that your matter is addressed in as timely a manner as possible during the current crisis.

We may not have seen anything like this pandemic crisis before, but when it comes to family law matters, we have seen it all. Call us today to discuss the problem you are facing while access to Family and Probate Court is limited.

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