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Legal Information

Frequently Asked Questions Involving Courts and COVID-19

Updated: 
October 13, 2020

The following chart was compiled in October 2020 to give a brief overview of how state courts are handling civil cases, mostly protection orders, custody, and divorce. Please check with your local courthouse to confirm that this information is still current before relying upon it. Click on your state’s link below to skip to that state’s information in the chart.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Alabama
Protection orders, custody

Courts are accepting filings and documents through court dropboxes and efiling. Hearings are generally held remotely unless the party feels unsafe but in-person hearings can occur for certain types of cases.

The Alabama State Bar website has links to each county’s administrative orders and procedures for re-opening and conducting hearings, whether in person or virtual.

Alaska
Protection orders, custody

Courts are accepting filings through dropboxes, but the preference is to send all documents through efiling. Email is also available. Courts will be prioritizing protection orders. Hearings are generally held remotely but can be in-person if party feels unsafe.

Parents are encouraged to follow their settled custody agreement. If you come to an agreement about changes to a current order, put it in writing and send it to the presiding judge.

Arizona
Protection orders, custody

Protection orders are generally conducted remotely but can be in-person in serious situations.

The court guidance strongly encourage all parents to first attempt to work together to resolve any issues. If both parents agree to modify the parenting plan, you are encouraged to put your agreement in writing and sign it, if possible. If both parents cannot decide on a revised parenting time plan, and one of you believes an adjustment is necessary, you can file a modification petition in court to request a temporary modification. Courts can allow filing a motion to temporarily modify parenting time or child support under without an underlying petition if the basis for temporary relief is related primarily to COVID-19.

Arkansas
Protection orders, custody Protection orders and emergency custody cases are generally being held remotely but can be held in person to protect a party’s safety. Court appearance priority is given to proceedings involving orders of protection, emergency child custody.
California
Restraining orders

Restraining order filing can be done at a physical location, dropbox, or, if possible, through electronic means.

Any emergency protective order that is issued during the state of emergency must remain in effect for up to 30 days from the date of issuance.

Any temporary restraining order or gun violence emergency protective order issued or set to expire during the state of emergency must remain in effect until a hearing can occur, for up to 90 days.

Upon the filing of a request to renew a restraining order after hearing that is set to expire during the state of emergency, the current order must remain in effect until a hearing on the renewal can occur, for up to 90 days from the date of expiration.

Colorado
Protection orders Some districts accept e-filing and dropbox but others do not. Hearings are generally held through video conferencing but can be in-person.
Divorce Hearings are generally held remotely. Courts will easily accept settlement agreements. Judges can hear disputed cases but it may take long to get on the docket.
Custody Parents are encouraged to follow their existing parenting plan. If the parties agree on a modification, put it in writing and send it to the appropriate court. Hearings are generally held remotely, but parties are encouraged to resolve any issues prior to requesting court assistance.
Connecticut
Protection orders Allows online filing for temporary orders. See the courts website for instructions. The courts also have lockboxes where you can deposit any documents. Hearings are generally held remotely unless the petitioner feels safer doing it in person.
Custody Documents are accepted by e-filing or dropboxes. Parties are encouraged to follow their existing parenting plan. If the parties agree on a modification, put it in writing and contact your local court to let them know. Modifications can be put into place without a hearing. Hearings, if needed, can be held remotely.
Divorce where the parties agree on all issues E-filing and dropboxes are available. These cases can be approved and ordered quickly, often without a hearing.
Divorce where the parties don’t agree on all issues Submit documents through e-filing or physical dropboxes. The courts will have remote hearings, but it may take a while to get on the docket.
Delaware
Protection orders

The court is accepting filings by dropboxes at the courthouse or by the emergency filing email: FC_COVID19atdelaware.gov

Hearings are generally held remotely but they can be held in person.

Custody

Parties are encouraged to follow their current parenting plan. The court is accepting paper filings at the courthouses in dropboxes or by email: FC_CustodyVisitationatdelaware.gov

Hearings are generally held remotely.

Divorce

Accepting paper filings in courthouse dropboxes or by email at: FC_DivorceAncillaryatdelaware.gov

Hearings are generally held remotely.

District of Columbia
Domestic violence civil protection orders & extreme risk protection orders Civil filings are accepted online at https://www.probono.net/dccourts/ or via email at domesticviolencemanagementatdcsc.govHearings are generally being held remotely but they can be conducted in person.
Divorce

Filings should be submitted through e-filing at https://dc.casefilexpress.com/Login.aspx.

The court is hearing uncontested and settled matters as well as emergency matters. Those matters requiring a hearing are being set at the judge’s discretion.

Custody

The court encourages parties to follow the existing parenting plan. If parties agree on a modification, put it in writing and contact your local court.

Emergency matters and those that can be solved simply through filings, without hearings or proceedings, are being handled. Matters requiring a hearing are being set at the judge’s discretion.

Florida
Protection orders Filings can be submitted through e-filing or in person with the clerk of court. Hearings are generally handled remotely but can be in person.
Custody Family law forms do not have to be notarized. Parties are encouraged to follow current parenting plans. If parties agree on a modification, put it in writing and contact the appropriate court. Hearings are handled remotely.
Divorce Certain divorce forms still need to be notarized by the clerk, specifically marital settlement agreement forms and any other family law form that transfers the ownership of property. Hearings are handled remotely.
Georgia
Protection orders Court must give priority to matters necessary to protect health, safety, and liberty of individuals, including domestic abuse temporary orders and restraining orders. Hearings are generally handled remotely but the court is open for emergency situations.
Custody

Parties are encouraged to follow current parenting plan. If parties agree on a modification, put it in writing and contact the appropriate court.

If your agreement follows a school year schedule, some courts have decided that parents should continue to follow the school calendar even if children are not in school. Check with your county’s family court to see if this is true for you.

Hearings are generally being handled remotely.

Guam
Protection orders Filings are accepted through e-file, email (at efileatguamcourts.org), postal mail, or courthouse dropboxes. Hearings are generally held remotely but can be in person to protect the party’s safety.
Custody Parties are encouraged to follow the existing parenting plan. If you agree on a modification, put it in writing and contact your local court. Hearings are held remotely.
Divorce Courts are accepting divorce petitions, but it will take a while for the court to catch up and schedule the case. Hearings are generally held remotely.
Hawaii
Protection orders Courts encourage electronic filing. Information about e-filing can be found on the courts website. You can also file at the court information booths. Protection order hearings can be handled in person.
Custody Parties are encouraged to follow their existing parenting plan. If parties agree on a modification, put it in writing and contact your local court. Hearings are typically handled remotely.
Divorce Hearings are generally conducted remotely. You can contact your local court to schedule settlement conferences or hearings with the judge.
Idaho
Civil cases

Most court hearings are being held remotely but petitions can still be filed in person.

Parties who want to offer documentary evidence during a remote hearing should provide the court and all parties a list of such exhibits and copies at least seventy-two (72) hours before the hearing.

Illinois
Circuit court cases Electronic filing is encouraged. Hearings are typically handled remotely, but can be held in person. Some courts separate in-person hearing hours for cases where both parties are self-represented as opposed to cases where one or both parties are represented by lawyers. The Illinois Courts website has links to the court reopening plans by county.
Indiana
Protection orders Parties are encouraged to submit these filings through the e-filing system but you can also use dropboxes at the courts. Hearings are generally handled remotely, but in some counties and districts they are being held in person.
Custody Parents are encouraged to follow their existing parenting plan. If you agree to a modification, put it in writing. You do not have to send it to the court, although you can. If you cannot come to an agreement, file an emergency petition to modify the existing order. Electronic filing is encouraged. Hearings are generally held remotely.
Divorce The court encourages e-filings, but they will also accept filings through dropboxes. Some districts accept email or mail. Hearings are generally held remotely.
Iowa
Protection orders The courts encourage e-filing but if you are not signed up for it, or if you are excused from using it, you can send your filings in by email. Contact your local clerk of court for the email address. Hearings are generally handled remotely, but can be in person.
Custody Custody, care, or visitation of a child should follow the schedule as if school is in session and should not be impacted or modified by any school closures. Parents are encouraged to follow their current parenting plan. If parents agree on a modification, they can put it in writing and contact the local court. Hearings are generally handled remotely.
Kansas
Protection orders The courts encourage e-filing. To find alternatives to efiling, contact your clerk of court. These proceedings are generally being held remotely, but can be held in person.
Custody Parents are encouraged to follow their current parenting plan. If parents agree on a modification, they can put it in writing and contact their local court. Hearings will likely be held remotely.
Kentucky
Protection orders Depending on the county, petitioners may fill out a pre-assembled package containing instructions and a blank petition at the courthouse. Some courts require petitioners to mail, e-file or drop off all paperwork in dropbox in front of the court building. Some courts are holding in-person hearings, some are holding remote hearings.
Custody, divorce Hearings usually are held remotely unless it involves a child being in danger in which case there can be an in-person hearing.
Louisiana
Civil cases Depending on the court, litigants may be able to file remotely by fax, email or e-filing or they may file in person. Most parishes use this e-file system.
Maine
Protection from abuse orders & protection from harassment orders

Starting on September 8, 2020, the courts will no longer accept requests for protection from abuse or harassment by email. The preferred way to ask for a protection order is to go to your local courthouse in person. If going to your local courthouse is not an option, you can also ask for a protection order by mail. If the petitioner goes to a courthouse but cannot enter because of health risks, the marshals will provide the paper packet at the door and will accept it when it is completed. Instead of signing the documents in front of the clerk for notarization, the petitioner will need to provide a safe phone number and the court will call them from the courtroom and take their oath on the record. To download the paperwork to fill out, and for more information, see the Maine courts FAQ page.

Hearings are generally being heard in person.

Custody

The court is not prioritizing the scheduling of contested family proceedings. If a party believes that there are urgent and compelling reasons that the court should hear their case, they can file a written motion requesting a hearing. Existing custody orders are still in effect. The spread of COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a reason to deny parenting time.

Hearings in family proceedings will be by video or telephone, unless (1) it is a hearing on a motion for contempt, or (2) the court makes an exception. If you think the court should hold your hearing in person, you must file a written request (a motion) that explains the special circumstances in your case that justify an in-person hearing.

Maryland
Protective orders, custody It may depend on which “phase” of re-opening your local court is in but most courts are hearing these matters in person: temporary restraining orders, matters that can be handled remotely or without testimony or both, temporary and final domestic violence, peace, and extreme risk protective orders.
Massachusetts
Protection orders Some courts are hearing cases over the telephone, some are doing video conferencing, and some courts are doing in-person hearings. If you need a 209A restraining order you can fill out a 209A application on your phone or computer. Then get in touch with your court to find out how to file the forms.
Custody Many courts are doing these hearings remotely. Some courts have drop-boxes you can use to hand deliver documents you need to file. If petitioners think they have an emergency matter related to parenting time, they should file a Complaint for Modification and a Motion for Temporary Orders. They should also write a statement that explains why their matter is an emergency. A judge will later determine if it is an emergency or not.
Michigan
Personal protection orders Hearings being held in person. Petitioners can prepare an ex parte petition using the Do It Yourself Personal Protection Order tool. After completing the previous step, petitioners should then call their county clerk’s office or visit the court’s website to determine if they should file the petition in person or through another way. After they file the petition, the judge has 24 hours to review it. Petitioners should call the clerk’s office to find out whether they should pick up the order, or whether it will sent it to them.
Custody Parents should follow existing parenting orders; should record any temporary agreements in writing. Hearings generally being held remotely except for emergency orders needed for the safety and well-being of a party and/or children, which can be held in person.
Minnesota
Protection orders Generally hearings are being held in person.
Custody

Custody and parenting orders are still in effect. If the parents want to make changes to the court order but cannot agree, they could try mediation or try to get an emergency court order. If one parent does not follow the court order, then the other parent could file an emergency ex parte motion with the court.

Hearings are mostly being held remotely. Exhibits that you plan to enter into evidence at a hearing can be sent to the court by mail, fax, email, dropbox at the courthouse, or in person to the court’s public counter. Exhibit should be given to the court at least five business days before your hearing if possible and also sent to the other party.

Mississippi
Relief from abuse orders, orders of protection Hearings are being held in person.
Custody Existing custody orders are in effect. Hearings may be held remotely unless it is regarding an emergency child custody order, which can be held in person.
Missouri
Custody

Current custody orders are still in effect. Parents can make changes to an existing court order if they can mutually agree on an alternative plan. They should put any changes they make to the existing court order in writing. If parents cannot come to an agreement, then they are expected to safely comply with the existing court order or file in court to change it.

Generally, hearings may be held remotely, depending on what “phase” the county is in. To see a map of phases by county, go to the Missouri Courts website. Emergency child custody orders can be be held in person regardless of the phase of the court.

Montana
Orders of protection Hearings are generally being held in person.
Civil cases You may need to call or email ahead of time to pick up forms or to file forms. Walk-in traffic may not be permitted. Call your local court for more information.
Nebraska
Protection orders

Courts are accepting applications for protection orders. Some courthouses have limited public access, so please check with your local courthouse to see if an appointment is required.

You can submit the forms by mail, fax, in person or by email but your signature on the form must be witnessed by a notary or by court staff. The Nebraska Judicial Branch website has detailed instructions on how to email forms.

Custody Parents are encouraged to continue following their existing custody and parenting orders. If you need to file a petition or motion related to custody, contact the court for instructions on how to file the forms.
Nevada
Protection orders Petitions for ex parte protection orders can be heard in person. If you have a scheduled hearing for an extension of a protection order, the hearing may be conducted by telephone or video.
Custody Non-emergency custody hearings may be conducted by video or telephonic means, decided on the papers, or rescheduled. Emergency custody matters may be in-person appearances.
New Hampshire
Orders of protection

The court forms to request an order of protection are available online or in person at the courthouse. Unless you are working with a Crisis Center or Family Justice Center, completed forms must be brought to the courthouse in person so a judge can make a decision while you are there.

Additional hearings can be in person, but they may be rescheduled as telephonic hearings.

Custody Emergency custody matters can be held in person. Other hearings will likely be telephonic. If you do not have access to a phone, you can attend in person. If you believe an emergency order is necessary, you can use form NHJB-2076-F. Your completed form must be brought to the courthouse in person so a judge can make a decision while you are there. If you go to the courthouse to file a document that is not an emergency matter, you will be directed to put your document into the court’s drop box at or near the security desk.
Divorce

You can file a joint petition for divorce by mailing it to the court nearest you. If you would like to complete the paperwork for a divorce prior to filing the petition, you can contact a mediator to see if you can come to an agreement with your spouse. If the judge reviews and approves the agreement, you may not need to come to court in the future.

You can also file an individual petition for divorce by mailing it to the court nearest you. Then the court will send you paperwork to be served on the other person. You can still seek mediation to see if you can come to an agreement.

New Jersey
Restraining orders You can go to the county courthouse during normal court hours to file a petition. An individual who wishes to apply for a restraining order remotely, without going to a courthouse, can call the Family Division. The Family Division in each county will have a telephone number posted on their web page to contact the court to apply for a restraining order. Violation (contempt) petitions are being heard remotely.
Custody, parenting time Generally being heard through Zoom or on the phone. Appointments are needed for in-person matters. However, bench trials and hearings can be held for matters that are especially complex, such as cases that involve numerous parties or witnesses, or significant evidence in a format that cannot be handled remotely, such as physical evidence or videos in a non-standard format.
New Mexico
Civil cases Courts are open and will continue to operate under regular business hours. However, some clerks’ office may have reduced hours for accepting forms. Courts can adopt their own local procedures for accepting filings by email or by fax for pro se litigants. Judges can, at their discretion, authorize telephonic or audiovisual attendance for court appearances.
New York
Family court cases Courts are accepting emergency petitions and essential matters, such as orders of protections. Depending on the county, courts may also be accepting non-essential and non-emergency applications in pending cases but possible not allowing the initiation of new cases involving non-essential and non-emergency matters. In addition, cases are being heard in person and remotely, depending on the court and the type of case. Check with your court to be sure.
North Carolina
Protective orders Courts are operating with reduced capacity. For domestic violence protective orders, the hearings can be conducted in person if the judge determines that such proceedings can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.
Ongoing civil cases Filings can be mailed and will be treated as timely if received by mail within 5 days of the due date. Documents that ordinarily require a notary can be submitted with a signed statement under penalty of perjury.
Custody, parenting time The spread of COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a reason to deny parenting time. If parenting time is ordered to be supervised and the supervisor is unavailable due to pandemic-related issues or other government orders, parenting time should be conducted virtually or by telephone. During the exchange of the child(ren), all parties should follow the CDC guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus, which may mean choosing an alternate location for the exchanges that has fewer people and less touching of public items.
North Dakota
Protection orders, custody, divorce Each individual judge has the discretion to conduct court proceedings in person or virtually as he or she sees fit. The state encourages judges to accept written submissions and electronic or telephone appearances in lieu of requiring litigants, attorneys, and others to be personally present at hearings. The intention is that courts will continue to process decisions related to divorce proceedings the placement and protection of children and other vulnerable people without delay.
Ohio
Civil cases During this public health emergency, Ohio courts are operating under amended rules of court. Click on your courthouse on the Ohio Courts website to see what changes, if any, are in place due to Covid.
Oklahoma
Protection orders Generally, emergency matters such as protection orders are being held in person.
Custody Custody and visitation/parenting time should not be affected by any school closures that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents can alter a custody and/or visitation order by written agreement, if allowed by the assigned judge. Written modification agreements will not be enforced unless filed. Based upon courthouse restrictions, it is recommended that the original signed written agreement, including the case number, be mailed to the court clerk’s office in the district court which has jurisdiction over the parties.
Oregon
Restraining orders Cases may be held remotely. If you are filing a petition, there may be reduced hours for the court clerk to accept petitions.
Custody, parenting time COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. If the parenting plan states that parenting time will occur in a public place, public places where people routinely touch common contact surfaces (such as parks and play equipment) should be avoided. If that is not possible, then the parenting time should be conducted virtually via videoconferencing or by telephone.
Pennsylvania
Civil cases In-person proceedings have resumed in many courts for various types of cases. During in-person hearings, some courts are limiting who can be present. Witnesses, for example, may have to testify remotely. Other cases, such as custody conferences or status hearings, may be held remotely. Exhibits or other documents that need to be presented in a remote hearing or conference may need to be mailed or emailed to the other party and the judge at least 48 hours before the court date. Check with your local court for details.
Puerto Rico
Protection orders

You can file for a protection order remotely by filling out the necessary forms and emailing them to presentacionesatramajudicial.pr. The court will then contact you to do a remote hearing. You can access the forms on the Rama Judicial website.

In-person hearings are being held for family relations matters and final protection order cases only if they cannot be resolved via videoconference.

Rhode Island
Restraining orders Courts are limiting in-person hearings to the greatest extent possible. Matters that are considered critical or which cannot be handled remotely should be conducted in-person. Restraining order hearings can be held in person unless the matter can be heard or addressed remotely by telephone, videoconference, or similar means.
Custody Non-emergency hearings that cannot be conducted remotely will be scheduled by the courts for in-person hearings. Electronic filing is preferred. For in-person filings, an appointment is likely needed. See the Rhode Island Courts website for more information.
South Carolina
Family court matters All matters may be heard in-person. Judges, however, have discretion to determine whether it is appropriate to conduct a hearing using remote communication technology. Family Court judges can grant an uncontested divorce or approve a settlement agreement or consent order without a hearing. See 9/14/20 Memo, South Carolina Supreme Court.
South Dakota
Civil cases Filings should go through Odyssey, or be mailed, or emailed to the clerk of court’s office whenever possible. Hearings may be held remotely. Call court for more information.
Tennessee
Civil cases Majority of hearings may be conducted remotely but in-person proceedings may be allowed for relief from abuse orders. Each court has their own plan for what in-person proceedings are allowed, which you can view on the Tennessee Courts website.
Texas
Family violence protective orders, custody (possession of and access to a child)

The court guidance says that all proceedings should occur remotely (such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means) unless litigants or other court participants are unable to successfully participate in a remote hearing for reasons beyond the court’s control.

Possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order, school closure, or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity that arises from the pandemic. Parents can change a possession schedule by agreement if allowed by their court orders.

U.S. Virgin Islands
Civil cases

Clerks offices accepting filings electronically, by email, or deposited to drop boxes; parties strongly encouraged to file electronically whenever possible.

In-person hearings can take place. However, judicial officers are encouraged to hold remote hearings for any matter capable of being heard remotely. Arrangements must be made at court facilities for onsite remote appearances by parties without the electronic capabilities to fully appear remotely.

Utah
Protective orders, custody/parenting time

Protective orders and stalking injunctions can now be filed by email. See email instructions on the Utah Courts website. Depending on what phase the court is following, remote hearings may be “mandatory” or “conducted as much as feasible.”

The state issues this as a “non-binding recommendation”: There should be no deviation from the normal parent-time schedule unless the child or someone in the child’s home has tested positive for COVID-19. If that is the case, the custodial parent must provide documentation of the positive COVID-19 test to the non-custodial parent within 24 hours. Following provision of the positive test, parent-time will be suspended for a period of two weeks. During the period of suspended parent-time, the noncustodial parent shall have at least 30 minutes of virtual parent-time each day. The missed parent time will be made up during summer break or at another time agreed upon by both parties.

Vermont
Relief from abuse orders, custody

Courts are holding hearings for motions to suspend, modify, or enforce parent-child contact in domestic cases when the court, in its discretion, determines an emergency exists; relief from abuse and stalking order cases; other temporary emergency hearings at the judge’s discretion. Non-emergency superior court proceedings are postponed.

May file electronically through eCabinet or Odyssey online systems, e-mail, paper filing at court’s dropbox, or mail your filing directly to the court. Contact your court to find out if electronic filing is required.

Virginia
Civil cases Courts are conducting as much business as possible remotely. In all matters, courts are encouraged to use video conferencing, telephone, teleconferencing, email, or other means that do not involve in-person contact.
Washington
Protection Orders

Petitions can be filed in person or electronically.

Courts are prioritizing emergency matters but courts are also hearing non-emergency matters, so long as such matters can appropriately be conducted by telephone, video or other remote means, or in person with strict observance of social distancing and other public health measures.

West Virginia
Civil cases

Remote hearings are encouraged.

Even as of October 2020, some courts are closed in unless it’s for emergencies or essential matters. Check the West Virginia Courts website for updated information.

Wisconsin
Restraining orders Many court proceedings are remote. Courts are gradually resuming in-person proceedings. In the first phase, courts can do in person hearings for restraining orders, temporary order hearings if placement of a child is at issue, enforcement of physical placement orders, relocation motions. Phase two allows in-person hearings for allow all civil proceedings other than jury trials. Check with your courthouse to see what “phase” your court is in.
Wyoming
Orders of protection, custody Courts are using all reasonable efforts to conduct all proceedings remotely by teleconferencing or videoconferencing, unless litigants are unable to successfully participate in a remote hearing for reasons beyond the court’s control. However, courts can hear orders of protection and emergency child custody petitions in person.