The COVID-19 has upended people's lives across the United States, impacting employment, schools, daily routines, and also court systems. There are glimmers of hope, however, as states begin to re-open, and attempts are made to get to business as (relative) usual.
When Will Philadelphia Family Court Reopen?
Pennsylvania Courts are taking a similar approach, including the scheduled re-opening of Philadelphia Family Court on June 1, 2020. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ordered that while the Philadelphia Family Court building shall "remain generally closed" to the public, services and court proceedings shall be expanded as best as possible (bearing in mind the present need to re-open and also to prevent the COVID-19 crisis from becoming worse).
With that in mind, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that Philadelphia Family Court services, conferences, hearings, and court proceedings shall generally be conducted through the use of advanced communications technologies. Philadelphia Family Court reserves the right, however, to require parties and/or attorneys and necessary witnesses to participate in person at proceedings held in the Philadelphia Family Courthouse, located at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, if necessary.
Although Philadelphia has been slow to implement court video hearings, the above is a step in the right direction as people have been largely in the dark for the past two months as to what, if anything, could be addressed by Philadelphia Family Court.
When Will My Philadelphia Family Court Case Be Heard?
A related question that has been on the minds of both plaintiffs and defendants in Philadelphia Family Court cases is when (and how) their case will be heard. People who are involved with protection from abuse, domestic violence, custody, divorce, support, and juvenile delinquency and dependency proceedings have unfortunately had to endure their involvement in court proceedings themselves, but have also been burdened by not knowing what comes next.
As to Philadelphia Family Court, all matters that were given a "date certain" (a scheduled court date) by notice issued prior to March 16, 2020 for any date from March 17, 2020 through December 31, 2020, are administratively canceled and will be rescheduled. Parties will receive notification of their rescheduled hearing date(s). This does not apply to cases designated as protracted, which remain as scheduled.
In sum, past scheduled court dates will be rescheduled at a later date, and court dates that are scheduled from June 1st on will be addressed at the scheduled date either remotely through the use of "advanced communications technologies" such as video hearing, or will require an in-person appearance once if the case circumstances require.
Can I Get a PFA in Philadelphia Now?
Another question that has been on the minds of people in Philadelphia is how are protection from abuse cases being addressed with the court system largely been closed.
Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided specific instructions as to how Philadelphia Family Court will be required to address PFA cases from May 15, 2020, until Philadelphia Family Court is fully operational again.
Emergency PFA relief will be available Monday through Thursday at the Stout Center for Criminal Justice, located at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, beginning daily at 5 PM and until 8 AM the following day, and weekends from Friday at 5 PM to the following Monday at 8 AM.
Temporary PFA hearings will be conducted through advanced communication technology from 9:30 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday (except holidays). If a Temporary PFA Order is entered, the order will be available for pickup by petitioner (or the party's attorney) from 4 PM - 5 PM Monday through Friday, in the Philadelphia Family Court lobby. In addition,petitioners (and the party's attorney) shall receive a copy of their Temporary Order via First Class mail.
Staff in the Domestic Violence Unit will be available by phone from 8 AM - 4 PM Monday through Friday, to assist in the preparation of a Petition for Protection from Abuse. In order to ensure there is adequate time to complete, execute,and file a verified PFA petition and participate in a hearing via advanced communication technology on the same day, it is imperative that petitioners and their attorneys contact the DV Unit between 8:00 AM and 12 PM (noon) for all necessary steps to be completed
Philadelphia Family Law Attorney to Help During COVID-19
Although it has and will remain burdensome until life gets back to normal, steps are being taken in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania to allow people to seek the recourse of the court system in family law matters. Philadelphia Family Court now has specific instructions that it must follow both now and once the courthouse becomes further operational on June 1st.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped countless family law clients through good times and bad. This is obviously an extremely difficult time for most everyone, but people facing family law issues, now have hope that their voices can be heard.