By Order dated today, May 28, 2020, the Judicial Emergency for the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania has been extended through August 31, 2020. There have been many updates to procedures and guidelines.
The provisions of the amended Fifth Judicial District Emergency Operations Plan, dated May 28, 2020, shall remain in effect through the remaining duration of the judicial emergency. The suspension of the operation of Rule 600(C) shall continue through August 31, 2020, to the extent consistent with constitutional limitations.
The portions which deal with Family Division are below:
Child Support, Divorce, Alimony, and Equitable Distribution of Property
- The Regional Offices located in Penn Hills and Castle Shannon shall remain closed to the public. Information can be obtained by calling (412) 350-1500 or (412) 350-5600, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M
- Consent Agreements and Orders may be sent to the following email address for review and processing: email@example.com
- Until further Order of Court, child support payments will not be accepted in person. Child supports payments may be made by credit card, check, and/or money order. Payment coupons and instructions are available on the Fifth Judicial District website: www.alleghenycourts.us
- Child and/or spousal support and Alimony Pendente Lite conferences and hearings originally scheduled between March 16, 2020 and May 11, 2020 have been or shall be rescheduled by court order with the proceedings being scheduled effective June 8, 2020. All conferences and hearings will be conducted telephonically until further notice. A continuance Order and telephonic instructions will be sent by US Postal Mail and, when possible, by text message.
- All scheduled conferences and/or hearings shall be conducted telephonically. Litigants will receive telephonic conference/hearing instructions via US Postal Mail and, when possible, by text message.
- All evidence being submitted for support proceedings may be submitted by text message, email, or fax prior to or during the course of the proceeding.
- Exceptions to Hearing Officer Support Recommendations shall be filed electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org. The complete “Exceptions Procedure” shall be maintained on the Fifth Judicial District website and is incorporated herein, by reference.
- Masters’ conciliations regarding complex support and/or equitable distribution scheduled after May 4, 2020 will be rescheduled as a conciliation by teleconference.
- Masters’ hearings scheduled after May 4, 2020 shall be converted to a conciliation.
- Masters’ conciliations and hearings originally scheduled between March 16, 2020 and May 4, 2020 have been or will be rescheduled as a conciliation by teleconference.
- Masters’ Rules and Procedures are posted to the Fifth Judicial District website and are made applicable by this Order.
- The Court shall continue to review and grant divorces, administratively, when all required documents are filed with the Department of Court Records.
- Any matter may be presented to the Court by motion, without a hearing, pursuant to the judges’ procedures on the website, for entry of an Order.
- Questions about child support and custody may be directed to (412) 350-1500 or (412) 350-5600, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.
- Custody motions will be addressed on a case by case basis. Any matter may be presented to the Court by Motion, without a hearing, for entry of an Order, pursuant to the assigned judge’s procedures posted on the Fifth Judicial District website.
- For new custody cases originating by motion without a judicial assignment, please contact the Court by email at email@example.com with the following information: parents’ names and dates of birth and the child(ren)’s names and dates of birth. The Court will respond to the inquiry with the appropriate judicial designation.
- Pro se emergency custody motions will be addressed by completing the Court’s online submission platform for the same on the Fifth Judicial District website.
- Questions concerning custody matters may be submitted by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a message at 412-350-4311. Emails and calls will be returned during regular business hours. For questions concerning an emergency custody matter, please call 412-350-1500, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM.
- Until further Order of Court, the Generations education seminar requirement shall be completed by reading and reviewing the Generations booklet, which is posted on the Fifth Judicial District website. The password to access the booklet is contained in the scheduling order. For litigants who do not have access to the internet, please call 412-350-4311 to receive the materials by regular mail.
- Until further order of Court, the Generations mediation session, DRO custody conciliation, interim relief hearing, and partial custody hearing before the hearing officer, shall be conducted remotely, either by teleconference or videoconference, at the Court’s direction. Five (5) days in advance of the scheduled court event, litigants shall send contact information (telephone number and email address) where they may be reached by the Court on the date and time of the scheduled court event to email@example.com or by phone at 412-350-4311. Failure to timely provide this information to the Court may result in the proceeding not being held and/or a delay in scheduling/rescheduling the custody case.
- All other custody proceedings, including those scheduled to be heard before the assigned Judge, shall be heard remotely by teleconference or videoconference at the Court’s direction, until further Order of Court and unless the judge requires an in-person proceeding. Litigants should carefully review the scheduling order issued for each matter for information on the remote requirements, witness testimony, and submission of evidence and exhibits.
- Exceptions to Hearing Officer Custody Recommendations shall be filed at the Allegheny County Department of Court Records, with a copy sent to the Court via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Protection from Abuse
- Effective June 1, 2020, all Temporary Protection From Abuse matters will be addressed at the Family Law Center, 440 Ross Street, Room 3030, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. Temporary Protection from Abuse Hearings shall be conducted generally through videoconference. If a hearing cannot be conducted through videoconference, the hearing shall be held by audio or teleconference.
- Temporary Protection From Abuse Petitions will be prepared and processed between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., and videoconference hearings will be conducted until 2:00 P.M, Monday through Friday. This timeframe may be modified upon further order.
- Emergency Protection From Abuse Petitions will be addressed from 2:00 P.M. until 8:00 A.M., Monday through Friday, and 24 hours Saturday and Sunday and on court holidays at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, 600 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
- Final Protection From Abuse Hearings shall be heard through Advanced Communication Technology (ACT), until further Order of Court.
- Temporary Protection From Abuse Orders that were entered during the judicial emergency or that were extended due to the judicial emergency shall expire on June 16, 2020, unless an order entered after May 28, 2020 sets a different expiration date.
- Defendants (or their attorneys) intending to contest a Protection From Abuse action and participate in a hearing must submit an “Intent to Defend” form prior to the scheduled hearing. If the Defendant appears at the hearing without having completed and submitted the Intent to Defend form prior to the scheduled hearing, the hearing may be postponed and the Temporary PFA Order may be extended until the rescheduled hearing date.
- Until further Order of Court, Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC) Complaints will not be accepted by private petition.
- ICC Police Complaints will be accepted, and bail hearings will be held before a Magisterial District Judge using Advanced CommunicationTechnology. If a defendant is detained, a bail hearing shall be held before the judge assigned to hear the Temporary PFA Petitions.
- Effective Monday, June 1, 2020, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M., please call (412) 350-4441 for questions concerning Protection from Abuse.
For representation in a family law matter or for an explanation of how the amended Order will effect your new or existing case you can call our law firm for more information at: 412.303.9566.
A link to the full text of the updated procedures is here.