Massachusetts Custody and Divorce in the Era of COVID-19
NOTE: This is a rapidly developing situation. This post is being published with the most accurate information as of 12:19 PM on March 18, 2020. Please check back frequently, as we will update our blog with the most current information as it becomes available to us.
As the world adjusts to life in the era of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, family law attorneys (who handle divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, and contempt cases, among other things) and the Massachusetts Trial Courts are working rapidly to accommodate the need for extreme social distancing. In this post, we’ve collected key information that you may need.
Social Distancing in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts
As of March 18, 2020, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts are operating under Standing Order 2-20, in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Currently, this order requires some clarification and we will update as that clarification is made. Our best understanding as of right now is the following:
Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts
The Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts are closed to the public, except for certain, specific emergencies that cannot be addressed by hearings conducted by tele- or videoconference calls.
This includes Abuse Prevention Orders and Orders to Vacate in divorce proceedings (often referred to as restraining orders)—where ever possible, hearings on these sorts of matters will be held by tele- or videoconference instead of having people come to courthouses in person. If you currently have a restraining order that the Court entered after a hearing for which everyone had noticed, that order will automatically be extended until a new hearing date is assigned.
NOTE: This is also true for the District Courts (District Court Standing Order 2-20) and Boston Municipal Courts (Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 3-20) and additionally applies to Harassment Prevention Orders and Emergency Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
Upcoming Court Hearings
If you have a court hearing that isn’t a trial and it is scheduled between now and May 1, it will either be rescheduled to a date after May 1 or conducted by tele- or videoconference. If the first day of your trial is scheduled between now and May 1, it will be continued to a date after May 1.
NOTE: If you have a court date scheduled between now and May 1, you can check the status of your hearing via the Massachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access. If you are within three business days of your hearing and have not yet heard anything from the Court about your hearing, we would recommend calling the courthouse directly for further instructions.
If you need to file new documents, you should do so by emailing them to the courthouse in the appropriate county. You should not physically go to the courthouse to file documents. If you have questions or concerns about filing by mail, you should call the courthouse.
Lawyer of the Day
Until at least May 1, there will be no Lawyer of the Day program at any Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts.
Domestic Violence Resources
We understand that home may not be the safest place for everyone. If you are currently unsafe in your home, you can still seek a restraining order from either the district courts or the probate and family courts. If you need immediate help, please dial 911.
If police officers do not advise you about your right to seek an Abuse Prevention Order, inform them that you would like to request a restraining order. If you need assistance with creating a strategy to be safe, you should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
- TOLL FREE PHONE NUMBER 1-800-799-7233
- By internet connected device by navigating to thehotline.org
- By text by texting LOVEIS to 22522
We’re Here to Help
If you are going through a divorce, are preparing to file, or are dealing with child custody issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, talk with a Boston family law and divorce attorney at Infinity Law Group about what to do during this time of unease. You can reach Infinity Law Group through our online form or by calling our Quincy, MA office at (617) 250-8236.