Guide Juvenile Court frequently asked questions in reference to COVID-19

Frequently asked questions about Juvenile Court's emergency measures in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). Last updated June 1, 2020.

Table of Contents

1. Are the courts open for business?

Yes, the courts continue to be open to conduct emergency and non-emergency business.  However, court buildings will remain physically closed to the general public. All court business will be conducted virtually (by telephone, videoconference, email, or comparable means, or through the electronic filing system) until at least July 1. Exceptions will continue to be made for emergency matters that cannot be addressed virtually.

2. Which matters are considered emergency matters?

In Care and Protection proceedings, all petitions shall be e-mailed or faxed to the appropriate court location by the petitioner. After review by a judge, orders to transfer custody will be e-mailed or faxed to the parties. 72 Hour Hearings will continue to be heard via videoconferencing or telephone unless the parties agree to continue the hearing until after July 1, 2020. 

In Delinquency and Youthful Offender proceedings, arraignments for any juvenile arrested and detained by the Department of Youth Services, dangerousness hearings, motions for reconsideration of bail, bail revocation, and probation violation detainer will continue to be heard via videoconferencing or telephone through prior arrangement between the appropriate court location and the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Youth Services (DYS).

In Child Requiring Assistance proceedings where the allegation is that the child is a runaway, applications can be obtained and filed without requiring the parent to appear in person at the court. Preliminary hearings will continue to be heard via videoconferencing or telephone.

In Substance/Alcohol Use Disorder proceedings (G.L. c. 123, §35), applications can be obtained and filed without requiring the petitioner to appear in person at the court. Petitions will continue to be heard via videoconferencing or telephone.

In Mental Health proceedings (G.L. c. 123, §§7,8), applications can be obtained and filed without requiring the petitioner to appear in person at the court. Petitions will continue to be heard via videoconferencing or telephone.

In Harassment Prevention proceedings (G.L. c. 258E), applications can be obtained and filed without requiring the petitioner to appear in person at the court. Emergency orders and the subsequent hearing will continue to be heard via videoconferencing or telephone. 

To locate the appropriate courthouse for you, please go to Find a courthouse serving you

3. What do I do if I have an emergency matter?

If you are a party to a proceeding that is considered an emergency matter, contact your attorney immediately if you are represented by counsel. If you are not represented by counsel, contact the court where your case is pending. These matters can be scheduled through the clerk's office and continue to be heard via videoconferencing and telephone. The matters are held, to the extent practicable, in a courtroom or court location that can be recorded and where the event can be docketed consistent with normal procedures, with parties and attorneys appearing remotely through either videoconferencing or telephone.

To locate the telephone number for the appropriate courthouse for you, please go to Find a courthouse serving you.

4. How do I file an emergency matter in court?

If a petitioner contacts the court regarding the filing of a petition on an emergency matter, the court shall make every effort to provide the petitioner with the petition without requiring the petitioner to appear in person at the court. Once the petition is completed and filed with the court, the court shall schedule the hearing which shall take place via videoconferencing or telephone. Either your court appointed counsel or the court will contact you to make the arrangements for the hearing.

To locate the telephone number for the appropriate courthouse for you, please go to Find a courthouse serving you.

5. Are the courts hearing non-emergency matters?

Yes, the courts are increasingly able to hear non-emergency matters that can be handled remotely.  However, this may be limited in some areas due to skeletal court staffing, technological restraints, and the need to prioritize emergency matters.

6. How do I file a non-emergency matter?

Petitioners can file new matters in non-emergency cases by mail, e-mail, where available, or by dropping off the filing at a designated drop box at the appropriate court location, where available. Any petitioner should contact the appropriate court first by calling the clerk’s office of that court. The clerk’s office will instruct the petitioner on whether to mail, e-mail or drop off the petition. The ability to hear non-emergency matters prior to June 1 may be limited in light of skeletal court staffing, technological restraints, and the need to prioritize emergency matters.

To locate telephone number for the appropriate courthouse for you, please go to Find a courthouse serving you.

7. What do I do if I am unable to reach anyone in the clerk’s office by telephone?

If you are unable to reach anyone in the clerk’s office at a courthouse that is listed as being open, please call the Trial Court Help Line at 833-91COURT. Your call will be directed to the appropriate court.

You can check the listing of court closures at Courthouse closures due to COVID-19.

8. What do I do if my local court is closed?

You should confirm that your local court is closed by checking the listing of court closures at Courthouse closures due to COVID-19. Once you have confirmed that your local court is closed, please call the Trial Court Help Line at 833-91COURT for assistance.

9. What if I had court date scheduled some time between now and July 1?

Counsel or parties should contact the clerk’s office by telephone to determine if the scheduled event is going to take place by telephone or videoconference or if the event that has been continued to another date.

To locate the telephone number for the appropriate courthouse for you, please go to Find a courthouse serving you.

10. What if I had a jury trial date scheduled some time between now and July 1?

Jury trials in both criminal and civil cases in state courts are postponed to a date no earlier than September 8, 2020. Civil bench trials are postponed until at least July 1, unless a judge determines that a bench trial may be conducted virtually. Criminal bench trials are postponed until at least July 1, unless the parties and judge agree that the trial may be conducted virtually.

11. What if I have a harassment order that expires some time between now and July 1?

All emergency orders issued after notice that are were due to expire on or after March 16, 2020 shall remain in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court.

Any orders issued prior to March 17, 2020 with a hearing scheduled before July 1, 2020 are to remain in full force and effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court, unless an order issues by the court terminating the order at an earlier date.

Parties and counsel will be contacted by the court with the new date for the hearing once the court reschedules the matter.

Any orders issued at a hearing after notice which was not heard in person may be issued up to the full statutory period. 

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