Monday, September 19, 2011

Reduced Office Hours in Family Court

As a result of state budget cuts that have led to a reduction in staff in the court system, which is suffering from "case backlogs and staff shortages," many of the Massachusetts state courts (38 of them, to be exact, including all of the Probate and Family Courts) have reduced their public office hours. All the family courts will now have registry and phone coverage restricted after 3 PM on Monday through Friday. (However, apparently the Springfield family court will continue to stay open until 4:30, as Hampden County Register Thomas Moriarty has vowed to do so because he does not want to "deny our most important stakeholders, the taxpaying public, access to justice.")

Court sessions will continue as before, beginning at 8:30, and the only thing that will change will be the public office hours and phone coverage in the registry offices. So if you have business you need to transact with the family court registry in your county, make sure you get to the courthouse and to the registry's office, or make your phone calls, well before 3 PM. This change has been reported to be aimed at giving a shrunken staff more time to handle administrative work at the end of the day, free of interruptions from visitors to the front desk by individuals and attorneys.

I imagine it is sort of like what the banks do when they shut the doors to customers but keep the lights on while their workers continue to carry on their business at the end of the afternoon. For more info, including information about the other courts affected (some of the district, housing, juvenile and land courts), see the Supreme Judicial Court's press release.


Probate and Family Court
All Divisions
Registry Counter and phone coverage restricted after 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Applies to any court business, except emergency restraining orders and other emergencies. Court sessions still will begin at 8:30 a.m.
 [BUT see first paragraph above: Hampden County's Probate and Family Court will stay open until 4:30 as before.]

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

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