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  • Writer's pictureAlan Jacobs

Coronavirus Updates: Massachusetts Probate & Family Court News and Update

On May 14th, Hon. Ralph D. Gants, Chief Justice, Supreme Judicial Court, Hon. Mark V. Green, Chief Justice, Appeals Court, and Hon. Paula M. Carey, Chief Justice Trial Court published an open letter offering guidance of future court operations.

"Today, the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, and every Trial Court department are hearing and deciding cases virtually, relying on written submissions and telephonic or videoconference hearings. Before May 4, the Trial Court was focused mostly on emergency matters. Now every department, guided by new standing orders, is also hearing an increasing number of nonemergency matters where it is practicable to do so without an in-court hearing. We anticipate that our courthouses will likely remain physically closed in June, but that the number and range of nonemergency matters adjudicated virtually in the Trial Court will continue to grow, such that the Trial Court will endeavor to handle most matters that do not require an in-person court appearance.

"We expect that courthouses will physically reopen this summer, but only in stages and only for certain matters that require in-person appearances. Even as courthouses reopen, we will still need to conduct most court business virtually to reduce the number of lawyers, litigants, and court personnel that come to the courthouse, so that those who must come can do so safely with the necessary social distancing.

"We have no reasonable alternative except to pursue this course for the immediate future. But necessity is the mother of invention, and we shall seize the opportunities arising from such invention. Long before the pandemic, we recognized that the civil courts of the future would need to resolve an increasing number and range of matters without burdening attorneys, litigants, and witnesses with the need to come to a courthouse. By doing so, we would enable attorneys to reduce the time (and therefore the cost) devoted to litigation, spare self-represented litigants from the need to miss work or find child or elder care, and allow civil disputes to be resolved equally thoughtfully but more efficiently. Before the pandemic, we expected that it would take years to make substantial progress in this regard; with the pandemic, we have made substantial progress in just a few months. Therefore, even when this pandemic is behind us, we do not believe we will or should go back to doing things as we did in February. We are, more quickly than many thought we could and with some stumbles along the way, creating amore modern and efficient court system that will survive after the pandemic has passed."

The effective lock-down of the courts in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic does not need to deter couples who have been planning to resolve their divorce through divorce mediation. I offer teleconference and on-line video mediation to quickly and effectively start or continue the divorce process and resolve urgent financial and child-related issues resulting from the coronavirus crisis while the courts are closed.

For more information or to schedule a free, no-obligation, private, confidential consultation visit or call 508-566-4159.

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