Nine Probate and Family Court Registers’ Offices, including Middlesex and Suffolk Counties, are now using Zoom videoconferencing to operate virtual registries to assist the public.
On June 15, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and Probate and Family Court Chief Justice John D. Casey announced a virtual registries pilot program in Barnstable, Essex and Middlesex Counties. The success of the pilot program led to its expansion to the counties of Bristol, Hampden, Hampshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Worcester.
The pilot program, developed by Probate and Family Court Field Coordinator Keith Nalbandian, creates a virtual registry for Probate and Family Court matters using a recurring Zoom videoconference meeting link that operates during normal business hours when a host from a register’s office is logged in. Virtual registries offer all of the assistance normally available during an in-person visit, including face-to-face contact, the ability to obtain and get assistance with court forms, and access to court documents and docket information.
Court users who enter the virtual registry are placed into a waiting room and appear as participants to the host, who admits individuals into the virtual registry. The host is able to answer general questions and send a participant into a pre-designated breakout room for additional assistance on more complex matters. Breakout rooms are staffed with registry employees, and if available, a lawyer with a Lawyer for the Day program, to answer questions. The breakout rooms are managed by the host, so as one guest leaves a room, another guest is able to enter. With the exception of Hampshire and Barnstable Counties, the virtual registries are available Monday through Friday.
In addition to virtual registries, members of the public can also reach Probate and Family Court Registers’ Offices by phone or email. The public can also call the Trial Court Help Line to ask general questions about their cases and help them navigate the court system. The Help Line is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and can be reached by calling 1-833-91COURT.