Cincinnati Family Law & Divorce Blog: Ohio and Kentucky Family Court Operations during COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states, including Ohio and Kentucky, have issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders that are currently in effect. Courts across the nation have made every effort to remain as functional and available as possible. However, courts have been required to implement various protocols and procedures, limiting both the type of hearings and the manner in which hearings are being conducted. This blog post will address how courts in Southern Ohio (Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties) and Northern Kentucky are currently handling both new and currently pending family law cases, including divorce, dissolution, custody, visitation, child support, and domestic violence matters.
Please note: this blog was written on April 27, 2020. For the most up to date information on court processes and procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact your court or visit your court’s website.
In-person court hearings have been primarily limited to emergency matters, such as petitions for domestic violence, protection orders, and emergency custody, with only parties, attorneys, and necessary witnesses allowed to be present. Additionally, other protocols are in place, such as taking temperatures prior to being permitted to enter the court. Further, some courts are requiring witnesses to remain in their vehicles in the parking lot until their testimony is required, and will be called into the court only at that time.
For already pending non-emergency matters, many hearings are being continued to a future date, with dates being rescheduled into June, July and August. However, some courts are allowing pre-trials, final dissolution hearings, and other uncontested final hearings to go forward, utilizing telephone or video conference technology. If you have a current hearing, you should refer to your court’s website for the most up to date information. Additionally, you can call your attorney or the court to request an update and obtain information on the status of your case.
Most, if not all, courts are accepting filings for new cases. However, the acceptable methods of filing vary. Some courts are prohibiting in-person filings completely, and are instead encouraging documents to be mailed, electronically filed, faxed, or emailed. However, some courts are open and accepting in-person filings. For cases that require the completion of a parenting class, the court is allowing parties to utilize online classes.
Various state and county specific procedures have been listed below. As new orders are being implemented and new information is being updated so frequently, it is imperative to look at your court’s website and/or phone the court to determine how your court is operating and handling cases and filings.
Butler County Domestic Relations Court:
- Case management is closed to the public. Documents may be faxed or emailed for approval.
- Petitions for domestic violence civil protection orders are still proceeding as normal, with in-person hearings. However, judges may excuse some appearances as deemed necessary.
- Many non-emergency hearings are being continued and all scheduling conferences, motions for clarification, objections, pre-trial, and other non-evidentiary hearings are being held by telephone conference.
- Website: http://www.butlercountydrcourt.org/
Butler County Juvenile Court:
- All non-essential hearings are being rescheduled.
- The court is open during regular hours, but in-person filings are prohibited. Filings can be faxed or mailed instead, along with any required filing fee.
- Website: https://www.butlercountyohio.org/juvenilejusticecenter/index.cfm?page=home
Clermont County Domestic Relations Court:
- The court is open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, phone lines are open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Petitions for domestic violence civil protection orders are still proceeding as normal, with in-person hearings. However, these petitions will not be accepted later than 2:00 p.m. each day. Only parties and testifying witnesses are permitted in the court.
- Pre-trial hearings, agreed final hearings, and dissolution hearings are being conducted by telephone. If you have an upcoming hearing, you must send an email to the court with specific information to ensure you will be contacted via phone for your hearing. Please see the court’s website for more detail.
- All other upcoming hearings are being continued beyond May 1.
- Filings are being accepted by mail and in-person.
- Website: https://domesticcourt.org/
Clermont County Juvenile Court:
- Filings by mail are preferred, however they may also be faxed or mailed. For fax filings, documents will not be filed until the required filing fee is received in the mail within 30 days of the fax transmission.
- New cases filed will be set for a hearing date after June 1, 2020.
- Currently scheduled contested custody, visitation, and companionship trials are being rescheduled to a date after June 1, 2020. Some types of hearings are being conducted by telephone or video conference.
- All hearings for contempt, paternity, child support establishment, and modification of child support are being continued until further notice.
- Website: https://probatejuvenile.clermontcountyohio.gov/
Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court:
- The court is open at 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.
- Petitions for domestic violence civil protection orders are still proceeding as normal, with in-person hearings occurring between11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
- The court has begun conducting certain types of uncontested hearings by telephone and by video conference. However, it appears this is upon request and at the court’s discretion. All other currently scheduled hearings are being rescheduled. Written notices are being sent out by mail to parties and their counsel.
- All pleadings, other than petitions for domestic violence civil protection orders, must be filed electronically through the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, as in-person filing is prohibited. Delays in processing may occur due to understaffing. If you are unable to access e-filing, however, pleadings may instead be mailed into the Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations. Filing fees can be paid online when e-filing or mailed in.
- Website: https://www.hamiltoncountyohio.gov/government/courts/court_of_domestic_relations
Hamilton County Juvenile Court:
- The clerk’s office is open between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is accepting in-person filings during those hours. However, the court encourages that in-person filings be limited to emergency and time-sensitive matters.
- Alternative methods of filing include: fax, e-mail, or mail. A secure drop box is also located at the court, where documents may be submitted for filing.
o Please note: there are certain criteria and limitations to some of the alternative methods of filing, such as a maximum number of pages and envelope depth, and some additional forms required. For more details, please see the Juvenile Court’s most recent order on their website.
- Payments can be made by credit card, check, or money order. If filing in person, cash is also acceptable.
- In person hearings are being limited to emergency and time-sensitive matters, including: plea and pretrial hearings for residents at the Youth Center; medical emergency filings; preliminary protective/shelter care hearings for children alleged to be abused, neglected or dependent; juvenile protection orders; and any other emergent filings that impact the safety and well-being of children or the community.
- All other non-emergency hearings are or have been rescheduled. The court is also implementing the use of conducting hearings over the phone and by the video conference software, Zoom. The court’s website has full details and instructions about how remote hearings are being conducted.
- Website: http://www.juvenile-court.org/
Warren County Domestic Relations Court:
- Petitions for domestic violence civil protection orders are still proceeding as normal, with in-person hearings.
- Filings are accepted for all cases, but will sit unattended for 24 hours. Upon being filed, the filing will be made available for pickup or delivery.
- Agreed Orders, Agreed Entries, and Final Decrees (without children) will be accepted by email and fax. All other filings cannot be sent by fax or email and must be mailed or filed in-person instead. However, mailing is preferred.
- Already scheduled pre-trials will remain as scheduled, but will be heard by telephone or video conference instead.
- Mediations are being conducted by telephone.
- By written agreement of attorneys and parties, dissolution and uncontested divorces will be heard by telephone.
- Contested final trials and hearings are currently being rescheduled.
- Website: https://www.co.warren.oh.us/domestic_relations_court/
Warren County Juvenile Court:
- The court is open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, to address emergency and time-sensitive matters only. The court is closed for non-essential purposes.
- Filings are being accepted in-person.
- Mediations are suspended until further notice.
- Non-emergency custody, visitation, child support hearings are being cancelled and continued until further notice.
- Website: https://www.co.warren.oh.us/Probate_Juvenile/
On April 14, 2020, the Supreme Court of Kentucky issued an Administrative Order providing for updated court procedures:
- Only emergency and time-sensitive matters are being heard, including the following types of cases: domestic violence, emergency custody, and temporary child support.
- Hearings for all other civil cases are being cancelled and rescheduled to a later date.
- Courts are permitting and encouraging parties and attorneys to appear remotely via telephone or video conference.
- For in-person hearings, courtrooms are being limited to parties, attorneys, and necessary witnesses. No more than 10 people are permitted in a courtroom. Social distancing practices will be implemented inside the courtroom.
- All filings must be mailed, electronically filed, or filed by placing it in a drop-box outside the court. Payments may be made by calling the court or by mail.
For the Supreme Court of Kentucky’s most updated Orders, please visithttps://kycourts.gov/courts/supreme/Pages/rulesprocedures.aspx