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Allegheny County Court Update – February 24, 2021

In Allegheny County, The 5th Judicial District Emergency Operations Plan was extended and modified February 24, 2021 as set forth here and below.

ORDER OF COURT

“AND NOW, this 24th day of February 2021, this Court continues to recognize that, due to the high number of positive COVID-19 tests in Allegheny County, ongoing efforts must be made to reduce the amount of people present in court facilities while keeping the courts open to the public. Accordingly, the Court extends its January 26, 2021 temporary amendment of its August 31, 2020 Emergency Operations Order with some modifications and it is hereby ORDERED that the following measures be taken pursuant to Pa.R.J.A. No. 1952(B)(2) effective Monday, March 1, 2021 through Friday, April 2, 2021:

Court of Common Pleas

During this period of time, all matters shall be conducted remotely via Advanced Communication Technology (ACT) and no in-person hearings or proceedings shall occur in any division of the Court of Common Pleas other than as set forth below. All proceedings that can be conducted remotely shall proceed as scheduled subject to the following provisions.

Postponements

• All proceedings scheduled on or prior to April 2, 2021 that cannot be conducted using ACT or in person, as permitted pursuant to this Order, shall be postponed to a date certain after April 2, 2021 pursuant to the procedures for each division.

• All published Civil Division trial lists continue to be suspended subject to the Order of September 17, 2020 (AD 185 of 2020) concerning non-jury trials and the Order of February 5, 2021 (AD 27 of 2021) concerning in- person jury trials.

• Recognizing that the September 4, 2020 Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Order temporarily halting certain evictions nationwide (CDC Order) has been extended through March 31, 2021, all Civil Division Orders of Court staying a case pursuant to the terms of the CDC Order are hereby extended through March 31, 2021.

• All in-person arbitration hearings are suspended through April 2, 2021.

• All previously scheduled fully remote arbitration hearings conducted using ACT shall proceed as scheduled. If an in-person hearing has been suspended pursuant to this Order, the parties may request a fully remote arbitration hearing using ACT. The parties requesting a fully remote ACT arbitration hearing shall do so utilizing the forms, instructions and protocols found on the Court’s website at https://www.alleghenycourts.us/civil/arbitration.aspx.

• If an arbitration hearing is continued pursuant to this Order and the parties do not seek a fully remote arbitration hearing, the Court will reschedule the arbitration and the Department of Court Records will send notice of the new arbitration hearing date to the parties.

In-Person Hearings

• ICC Hearings for incarcerated individuals shall proceed as scheduled in the Family Division, with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys.

• Delinquency adjudication hearings for juveniles who request an in- person hearing may proceed in person with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys. No other juvenile court hearings or proceedings shall be conducted in person.

• In the Criminal Division, only non-jury trials, motions which require witness testimony, and sentencing hearings and pleas, where there is a likelihood that an immediate sentence of imprisonment will be imposed may proceed as scheduled in person with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys. No other Criminal Division hearings or proceedings shall be conducted in person.

• No jury trials, non-jury trials, or other proceedings which require the in- person testimony of out-of-state witnesses shall take place in any Division until after April 2, 2021.

• The Civil Division Arbitration Department will resume limited in-person arbitration hearings on April 5, 2021, employing all safety protocols as set forth in the Court’s Amended Emergency Operations Plan Order of August 31, 2021.

• Pending further order of court, no jury trials shall take place until after April 2, 2021. The Court shall continue to evaluate the circumstances regarding the positive COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County to determine an appropriate time to resume jury trials.

All Court of Common Pleas facilities shall remain open to the public and open for case filings including, but not limited to:

• The Criminal Division Miscellaneous Motions Counter, Room 534 for acceptance of filings;

• The Formal Arraignment section, Room 519, for those defendants with a scheduled formal arraignment who have not waived their presence;

• The Civil Division Housing Court Help Desk for assistance to landlords and tenants;

• The Family Law Center for the filing of Petitions for Protection from Abuse (PFA) and entry of Temporary PFA Orders per the August 31, 2020 Emergency Operations Order.

Magisterial District Courts

The operations in the Magisterial District Courts are temporarily modified as follows:

• Summary Non-Traffic/Traffic proceedings scheduled during the period from March 1, 2021 through April 2, 2021, in which all parties agree and are able to conduct the proceeding using ACT, may be conducted remotely. If the proceedings cannot be conducted using ACT, the proceedings shall be postponed to a date certain after April 2, 2021. Special hardship requests by a defendant for an in-person hearing in a summary case may be granted at the discretion of the Magisterial District Judge, provided that all COVID-19 protocols, including occupancy restrictions in courtrooms and waiting rooms, are strictly followed.

• Commercial Landlord-Tenant proceedings may proceed as scheduled, with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys. Participants who cannot appear by ACT are permitted to appear in person.

• Residential Landlord-Tenant proceedings shall be governed by a separate Order issued this same date.

• Civil proceedings scheduled during the period from March 1, 2021 through April 2, 2021, in which the defendant has notified the Court that they intend to defend the case pursuant to Pa.R.C.P.M.D.J. 304(4)(a), shall be postponed to a date certain after April 2, 2021.

• Civil proceedings scheduled during the period from March 1, 2021 through April 2, 2021, where the defendant has not notified the Court that they intend to defend the case pursuant to Rule 305(4), shall remain on the docket. In such cases:

A. If prior to the scheduled hearing date, the defendant notifies the Court that they Intend to defend the case, the case shall be postponed to a date certain after April 2, 2021; or
B. If the defendant appears on the scheduled hearing date, the case shall be postponed to a date certain after April 2, 2021.

If the defendant fails to comply with A. or B. above, a judgment may be entered against the defendant by default pursuant to Rule 319(B).

• Civil proceedings in which all parties agree to conduct the hearing using ACT may be conducted remotely.

• Preliminary Hearings for non-incarcerated individuals may proceed as scheduled, with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys. Participants that cannot appear by ACT are permitted to appear in person.

• Preliminary Hearings for incarcerated individuals shall proceed as scheduled, with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys. Participants who cannot appear by ACT are permitted to appear in person. Incarcerated participants will appear by ACT.

• Emergency PFA Petitioners may appear in person to present their petitions per the August 31, 2020 Emergency Operations Order.

• Preliminary Arraignments will proceed per the August 31, 2020 Emergency Operations Order.

The Magisterial District Courts shall remain open to the public and open for case filings, payments and case processing.

Pittsburgh Municipal Court

The operations in Pittsburgh Municipal Court are temporarily modified as follows:

• Non-Traffic summary proceedings scheduled during the period from March 1, 2021 through April 2, 2021 shall be postponed to a date certain after April 2, 2021.

• Traffic summary proceedings scheduled during the period from March 1, 2021 through April 2, 2021 shall be postponed to a date certain after April 2, 2021, with the exception of traffic summary proceedings involving moving violations which shall proceed as scheduled, with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys. Participants that cannot appear by ACT are permitted to appear in person.

• Preliminary Hearings for both non-incarcerated and incarcerated individuals shall proceed as scheduled, with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys.

Participants who cannot appear by ACT are permitted to appear in person.

• Summary hearings for incarcerated individuals shall proceed as scheduled, with as many participants appearing by ACT as possible, including witnesses and attorneys. Participants who cannot appear by ACT are permitted to appear in person. Incarcerated participants will appear by ACT.

• Emergency PFA Petitioners may appear in person to present their petition per the August 31, 2020 Emergency Operations Order.

• Preliminary Arraignments will proceed per the August 31, 2020 Emergency Operations Order.

Pittsburgh Municipal Court shall remain open to the public and open for case filings, payments and case processing.

All other provisions of the Emergency Operations Plan Order entered on August 31, 2020 as amended shall remain in effect until further Order of Court. All Court facilities shall remain open to the public and open for case filings and other business except as described above.”

***Additionally, in another Order dated the same day, the Judicial Emergency was extended through June 30, 2021.*** That Order set forth:

ORDER OF COURT

“AND NOW, this 24th day of February 2021, consistent with the Order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dated May 27, 2020, this Court having originally declared a judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania beginning on March 16, 2020, and having previously extended such emergency through March 31, 2021, I now DECLARE that the judicial emergency be extended through June 30, 2021. The provisions of the Fifth Judicial District Emergency Operations Plan as amended, shall remain in effect through the remaining duration of the judicial emergency. The suspension of the operation of Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 shall continue through June 30, 2021, so that the time period of the judicial emergency shall be excluded from the time computations under Rule 600(C) to the extent consistent with constitutional limitations.”

For Adult Family Law Cases in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, PA the latest Order simply means the continuation of remote attendance, by telephone or Microsoft Teams (depending on the type of matter) for everything except in person filings for Protection From Abuse (PFA) matters. Final PFA hearings remain remote via Microsoft Teams.

If you require assistance with a new or existing case, or have questions about navigating the system in the current state of affairs, we would be happy to assist you. 

Accessible Family Law Services During Uncertain Times

We know things have been increasingly difficult for most people and their families. We know some people are scared. Some people are frustrated. There are a myriad of emotions right now and there is no right way to feel during these unprecedented times. We have always practiced compassion in our matters, and these times only strengthen that resolve.

We cannot predict the future, but we can offer you and your family assurances that our informed legal guidance and care for our clients will continue.

While everyone is doing their best to adapt to the challenges of the day, we have humbly been set up for complete remote working for over a decade.

We have seamlessly integrated video conferencing and on-line payment options to continue serving existing and new clients. While we are all adjusting to a new normal and the manner in which we will “meet” you, our core values and dedication to helping Pittsburgh families has never changed.

PFA Defense – Intention to Defend – Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA – Pursuant to the updated  Covid-19 Emergency Operations plan, the Court  is using the below Intention to Defend to alleviate the number of people inside the Family Court Facility upon resumption of operations, albeit in a limited capacity. The below links are specific for Allegheny County Family Division Protection from Abuse Defense.

We offer counsel to those wrongly accused of domestic violence and representation under the new and changing procedures for defense of PFA matters.

The initial consultation is always free. 412 303 9566

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.

Emergency Order – Extended Through June 1, 2020

Today, April 28, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania entered an Order extending its March 16, 2020 Order with regard to the statewide judicial emergency through June 1, 2020.

It goes on to state that beginning May 4, 2020 unless provided by a local emergency Order Pennsylvania courts shall be open to conduct court business, but all in-person access and proceedings shall be strictly limited according to the terms of the Order or a more restrictive order issued by a local court. The courts’ priorities shall remain centered on their critical functions.

It also sets forth that in jurisdictions with prevailing local emergencies, self-effectuation extensions may be filed, however any declaration extending a local emergency beyond June 1, 2020 should provide supporting reasoning.

President Judges may restrict access to court facilities so that appropriate social distancing can be maintained. To the degree practicable in light of the necessity for some in-person appearances and proceedings…courts shall permit parties’ physical presence to be excused…all courts…are encouraged to consider deciding matters on the papers and/or to conduct court proceedings though the use of advanced communication technologies.

President Judges are given substantial discretion in connection with the enforcement of time deadlines to ensure they do not create an unreasonable risk to the health or safety of court personnel, attorneys, court users, or the general public.

Priorities of critical court functions are detailed, as are issues involving: Jury Trials, Payments, Constitutional Issues, Children’s Fast Track Appeals.

Guidance to Legal Professionals is to counsel their clients that the public health emergency can in no way be used to secure strategic advantage in litigation, including by means of dilatory conduct. In such instances it may be useful to explain the duties of a lawyer as advocate continue during the Covid-19 crisis, including the duty to expedite litigation, the duty of candor toward the tribunal, and the duty of fairness to opposing party and counsel.

The Court continues to authorize and encourage use by legal professionals of advanced communication technology to the greatest extent possible. This also permits lawyers access to their physical offices on a limited basis to render legal services that cannot be practically completed through advanced communication technology for a limited scope of timely matters involving health care, end-of-life decision making, government benefits necessary to sustain life and access healthcare and income.

Note that in Allegheny County, our local Family Court has been constantly updating local procedures since the beginning of the pandemic and as recently as Friday, May 8, 2020, implemented advanced communication measures for Judges, Hearing Officers and Masters.

Bottom line is that these are unprecedented times, and cooperation is needed from everyone. It is also realized that some matters are more urgent than others and will require immediate attention. We are fortunate locally, to have a lot of hard work being performed behind the scenes in order to better serve the residents of Allegheny County.

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.

Allegheny County Family Court – Pro Se Custody Motion FAQ’s

The following guidelines and electronic petition submission tool are provided to assist pro se litigants (not represented by counsel) who are experiencing a custody related emergency and would like to file a motion for the Court of Common Pleas to intervene.

If you are not represented by an attorney and would like to submit an emergency motion, you are asked to review and acknowledge your understanding of the following information before proceeding to the Electronic Request to Petition Submission tool.

  • Custody orders entered prior to the Declaration of Judicial Emergency dated March 26, 2020 shall remain in effect unless modified by the Court. Both parties should follow the provisions of the current custody order as written. If you and the other party agree to a modification, you may make that change without motioning the Court to modify the order.
  • Although school may not be in session at this time, custody orders which provide for school-time and summertime schedules should be followed as written. The summer schedule will begin when your child’s school was scheduled to close for the summer. If you and the other party agree to a modification, you may make that change without motioning the Court to modify the order.
  • If your work schedule and/or that of the other party has changed, discuss this with the other party and attempt to reach an agreement that makes sense for your family. If you both agree to change the order, you do not need to petition the Court to modify the order.
  • If there is an interruption in following the custody order due to the Coronavirus and your child is physically safe, this is not considered an emergency. You may address the interruption in the custody schedule by filing the appropriate legal paperwork when the Court resumes regular business operations.
  • If the custody matter involves an Allegheny County Family Division Juvenile Section case, please contact your attorney, CYF caseworker, or probation officer.
  • If you have an emergency regarding custody of your child/children and it does NOT involve a juvenile court case, determine if you need to contact the Office of Children, Youth, and Families and/or local law enforcement prior to proceeding with an emergency custody motion.
  • Filing a new custody complaint, a petition for modification of a current custody order or submitting a petition for contempt are not considered emergencies. These documents can be filed when the Court resumes regular business operations.

Please keep in mind that the Court may decline to grant your motion if it is determined the relief requested is not an emergency.

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.

Allegheny County Family Division – Latest Motions Calendars and Updated Judges Operating Procedures – April 16, 2020

Allegheny County Family Division – Latest Motions Calendars

May 2020 Calendar
June 2020 Calendar
July 2020 Calendar

Allegheny County Family Court Judges – Judicial Operating Procedures Updated April 16, 2020

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.

REVISED COVID-19 Procedures – Allegheny County Family Court & Judicial Operating Procedures

REVISED COVID-19 Procedures – Allegheny County Family Court – Adult Section

REVISED COVID-19 Procedures – Allegheny County Family Court Judges – Judicial Operating Procedures

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.