Posts made in May 2020

Allegheny County Judicial Emergency Extended through August 31, 2020

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: pacsessupportconsentagreement@pacses.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 alleghenysupportexceptions@pacses.com. 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

  • 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 emergencycustody@alleghenycourts.us 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 tocustodydepartment@alleghenycourts.us 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 custodydepartment@alleghenycourts.us 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 custodydepartment@alleghenycourts.us.

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.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Issues Order Ending Statewide Judicial Emergency as of June 1, 2020

On May 27, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the statewide judicial emergency shall end as of June 1, 2020 and that their previous Orders shall expire according to their own terms.

Their last Order lent itself towards reopening the courts next month, and this Order confirms that courts may reopen on a county by county basis in accordance with Orders by local President Judges.

The Order provides President Judges with broad discretion on how to resume court activities in their county courts, while providing general guidance that may include: limiting in-person access and proceedings, and will essentially allow advanced communication technology use for court matters and electronic filing via suspension of rules that had prohibited these.

While this is simply the first step towards the resumption of legal activity that had been put on hold, we await further specific guidance in Allegheny County, which will almost certainly involve remote: conferences, hearings, mediations, and conciliations for most family law matters, while allowing certain in person activity to resume, with new procedures in place.

We are currently in the eleventh week of the physical court closures in the State of Pennsylvania and the associated pause of many court functions. Like our clients, we are ready to resume the existing family law matters and to address new issues that have arisen over the past three months.

As always, we are committed to providing reasonable counsel to families requiring Allegheny County family court lawyers for a myriad of issues including:

  • Contested Divorce,
  • Uncontested Divorce,
  • Child Custody,
  • Child Support,
  • Spousal Support,
  • Alimony,
  • Division of Martial Property,
  • Marital Settlement Agreements, and
  • Protection from Abuse.

Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney — Free Phone Consultation — 412.303.9566.

Full text of the May 27, 2020 Order by Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is here.

Allegheny County Court Update – May 6, 2020

By Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,  the Judicial Emergency in the Fifth Judicial District (Allegheny County) has been extended through June 1, 2020. A summary of the Order and the relevant portions for Family Law Cases is below. The Full text of the Order is here.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA WESTERN DISTRICT

IN RE: AMENDED FIFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT EMERGENCY OPERATIONS PLAN

No. 23 WM 2020 ORDER OF COURT

AND NOW, this 6th day of May, 2020, consistent with the Order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dated April 28, 2020, this Court having declared a judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, this Court amends its previous Emergency Operations Orders and now orders that the actions set forth below be taken pursuant to Pa.R.J.A. No. 1952(B)(2). All provisions of this Order apply through June 1, 2020.

This Court has extended its declaration of a judicial emergency through June 1, 2020. Therefore, the judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District, which began on March 16, 2020, will continue through June 1, 2020.

Time Calculations and Deadlines

The suspensions of time calculations and deadlines, subject to constitutional limitations, as indicated in this Court’s previous Emergency Operations Orders, began on March 16, 2020 and will continue through June 1, 2020, absent further order of court. This suspension will have lasted 78 days.

  • Time calculations and deadlines were suspended during the judicial emergency so that they did not continue to run during that time. Upon conclusion of the judicial emergency, new deadlines shall be calculated by adding the time period of the suspension (days during which time calculations were suspended due to the judicial emergency) to the original deadline. For example, if the original deadline was March 19, 2020, and the period of suspension under the judicial emergency was 78 days, the new deadline would be June 5, 2020 (78 days after March 19th). If, however, the deadline expired before the judicial emergency began, that deadline would not be extended by the judicial emergency.
  • Postponements or continuances resulting from the judicial emergency shall be considered court postponements and shall constitute excludable time, subject to constitutional limitations for purposes of the application of Rule 600. See Commonwealth v. Bradford, 46 A.3d 693 (Pa. 2012) and Commonwealth v. Mills, 162 A. 3d 323 (Pa. 2017).
  • Attorneys and litigants shall NOT use the judicial emergency to secure strategic advantage in litigation, including by dilatory conduct. Individual judges may determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a failure to meet a deadline was not directly the result of or affected by the judicial emergency, (such as in routine discovery matters) and whether the deadline should have been met during the judicial emergency. The judge may then take any action deemed appropriate to address the situation.
  • Jury trials in both the Criminal and Civil Divisions remain suspended consistent with the April 28, 2020 Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The local judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District has been extended through June 1, 2020. Therefore, no court proceedings in the Fifth Judicial District relating to the dispossession of residential property, either in the Magisterial District Courts or the Court of Common Pleas, will occur before June 2, 2020. Further, any existing Order or Writ of Possession issued with respect to residential property in the Fifth Judicial District is stayed until June 2, 2020, and therefore cannot be executed or enforced until June 2, 2020.

Public Access to Court Facilities

Until further Order of Court, the Family Law Center is closed to the public.

Until June 1, 2020, the Civil Division courtrooms and offices located on the 7th and 8th floors of the City-County Building are closed to the public. The Housing Court Help Desk, located on the first floor of the City County Building, is also closed.

Until June 1, 2020, the Orphans’ Court Division, located in the Frick Building, is closed to the public.

Until June 1, 2020, the Criminal Division courtrooms and offices, located in the Allegheny County Courthouse, are closed to the public.

Until June 1, 2020, the Magisterial District Courts are closed to the public, with the exceptions set forth in the Magisterial District Courts section below.

The Pittsburgh Municipal Courts Building is open to the public for the matters and proceedings set forth in this Order.

News media shall be permitted into the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, but only in a manner that is consistent with public safety.

Building security and Sheriff’s Deputies assigned to the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building are authorized to deny admission or remove a person who is visibly ill or who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID- 19, provided that they provide such person with information (telephone number or email address) to enable them to initiate, participate in, or complete necessary essential court business/functions during the judicial emergency.

Only persons with essential court business are guaranteed admission into the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, subject to restrictions above. Friends and family members may be required to wait outside the facility. Sheriff’s Deputies shall have the authority to limit the number of persons entering or remaining in a court facility at any given time to ensure public safety.

Methods for Conducting Proceedings, Transportation, Signatures, and Fingerprinting

  • All court proceedings will be conducted by Advanced Communication Technology (ACT), primarily through Microsoft Teams, pursuant to the protocol for teleconference hearings issued by the Court. Other audio or teleconference methods may be employed, pursuant to the protocol for teleconference hearings issued by the Court, with the approval of the Administrative Judges. See attached Protocol for Teleconference Hearings.
  • Any existing Orders for fingerprinting and the requirement for fingerprinting, except for admission into the Allegheny County Jail, are suspended during the judicial emergency.
  • Until further Order of Court, no inmates or juveniles will be transported from state correctional facilities, county jails or prisons, Shuman Detention Center, or Hartman Shelter for court hearings. Transportation for other purposes will be at the discretion of the Allegheny County Sheriff. Where the participation of the inmate or juvenile is required at a court hearing, Advanced Communication Technology shall be employed.
  • When a court reporter or other approved form of recording court proceedings is unavailable, alternative forms of recording shall be permitted.
  • Alternative methods of signing, delivery, and service of court documents and orders shall be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, facsimile signatures, electronic signatures, proxy signatures, and designated court employees authorized to sign on behalf of a judge after the judge has reviewed and approved the document for signature. Pro se litigants completing forms at Pittsburgh Municipal Court may authorize court employees to sign documents, when necessary, for the safety of the litigants and court employees. Under such circumstances, the court employee will sign his/her name to the document indicating that the litigant has reviewed the document and that all of the information contained therein was provided by the litigant. If an employee must sign for a pro se litigant, he/she will do so in a manner allowing the litigant to see the employee sign the document.

Family Division

Child Support, Divorce, Alimony, and Equitable Distribution of Property

  • 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 scheduled between March 16, 2020 and May 11, 2020 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.
  • Effective May 11, 2020, 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 alleghenysupporttexceptions@pacses.com. 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 scheduled between March 16, 2020 and May 4, 2020 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.
  • For emergency matters involving child support, please call (412) 350- 1500, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.

Custody

  • Custody motions will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. For custody motions for new cases or cases without a judicial assignment, please contact the Court by email at:

emergencycustody@alleghenycourts.us

  • 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 on the Fifth Judicial District website.
  • Please call (412) 350-1500, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. for questions concerning other emergency custody matters.

Protection from Abuse

  • Until further Order of Court, all Temporary Protection from Abuse matters will be addressed at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, 660 First Avenue, 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 addressed between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M, Monday through Friday.
  • 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.
  • Final Protection from Abuse Hearings are suspended until further Order of Court.
  • Temporary Orders for Protection from Abuse shall remain in effect until 15 days after the end of the judicial emergency unless otherwise indicated in the Temporary Order.
  • 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 Communication Technology. If a defendant is detained, a bail hearing shall be held before the judge assigned to hear the Temporary PFA Petitions.
  • Hearings on ICC Complaints are suspended until further Order of Court.
  • Effective Thursday, March 26, 2020, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M., please call (412) 350-1500 for questions concerning Protection from Abuse.

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT COURTS COVID-19 PLAN UPDATED 5/6/2020

All Magisterial District Courts are closed. Magisterial District Judges and staff will work remotely to process essential operation functions. These essential operations include arraignments, criminal case filings and subsequent processing, issuance of search warrants and Emergency Protection from Abuse petitions.

The Police shall follow the Magisterial District Court Remote procedure. To summarize, the police will email all criminal complaints, arrest warrant requests and search warrant requests to MDJSWarrants@alleghenycourts.us. These cases will be assigned to the issuing authority or a Magisterial District Judge on duty for processing.

Emergency Protection from Abuse petitions are handled at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court facility, 660 First Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219, Monday through Friday from 2:00 p.m. through 8:00 a.m., and Friday from 2:00 p.m. through Monday at 8:00 a.m.

As always, we provide updated links to additional Free Legal Resources which can answer many of your PA Family Law questions and we continue to provide answers to Frequently Asked Questions. We are also available by phone if you have specific questions or require legal assistance from an experienced Pittsburgh Family Law attorney. Call today 412.303.9566. Video meetings and online payment.