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Probate and Family Court during COVID-19

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed July 12, 2021

As of July 12, 2021:

The Probate & Family Court is open for most emergency and non-emergency matters in-person.

You can file new cases and motions in-person, mail or e-file, if e-filing is available. E-filing is a special court system. E-filing is not email.

In some courts you can also file your paperwork by leaving by leaving them in the “drop box” outside of the courthouse.

Only Essex Probate and Family court accepts email filings from everyone.

Only staff of court service centers or attorneys volunteering for the Lawyer of the Day program may file court papers by email in all other counties.

The Probate & Family Court’s 10 virtual registriesare still opened. You can get face-to-face virtual help from court staff. Through the virtual registry, court staff can answer questions about your case, send you copies of documents from your case file or court documents you need to fill out, and connect you with the Attorney of the Day.

What type of cases will still be held virtually?

  • 1A Uncontested Divorce hearings
  • Child support cases, except for contempt cases
  • Uncontested adoptions
  • “Rogers” Guardianship hearings
  • Case management and status conferences
  • Discovery motions
  • Annual foster care review for the Department of Children and Families

What if I already have a virtual hearing scheduled?

If the court scheduled a virtual hearing before July 12, 2021 for a date after July 12, 2021 it will still be held virtually.

The court will send you a notice, if they decide that your hearing will be heard in-person.

What if I am scheduled to appear in-person but I rather appear virtually?

You can ask the judge to conduct the hearing virtually.

If the judge agrees to hear the case virtually it may be by zoom or by telephone. All participants will attend virtually and not be at the courthouse unless special permission is given.

Even if the judge will not conduct the entire hearing virtually, they may give permission for a party, an attorney, or a witness to appear virtually. The other people will be at the court and in front of the judge.

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