From: Judge Gregory Syren, Supervising Judge Family LawDuring this unprecedented crisis, I wanted to send a message to the family bar about where we are in terms of the court’s operations. As all of you are aware, following Alameda County Public Health Officer’s “shelter in place” order on March 16, 2020, the court made a decision to close its doors to the public. The court decided, however, to retain certain minimum functions. We continued to process all requests for restraining orders (all kinds) and ex parte temporary emergency orders. These requests were processed via a drop box in Hayward (both retraining orders and temporary emergency orders) and RCD Oakland (restraining orders only). On March 17, 2020, our Presiding Judge obtained an emergency order from the Chief Justice. This emergency order designated the closure of the courts from March 16, 2020 to April 3, 2020 a “holiday” pursuant to Government Code Section 68115 and allowed the re-issuance of any restraining order due to expire during that time frame for a period up to 30 days. The Presiding Judge then declared the filing of Restraining Orders and Temporary Emergency Orders as “urgent” and under her broad authority authorized the continued filing of those actions. As a result of the Chief Justice’s orders, the court was prevented from filing any other actions—no RFOs, no new Petitions, no stipulations and orders, nothing.
Notwithstanding the above, the Court will continue to accept requests for emergency relief in Family Law matters. In light of the extended court closure and the COVID-19 crisis, the court will broadly interpret what is deemed ‘great or irreparable injury’ in considering temporary orders in these requests. This is an attempt by the court to provide access for litigants to preserve retroactivity on support modification requests and to have a process to put the automatic ATRO’s in place where a delay due to the court closure will cause harm. Parties must comply with notice requirements and responses must be submitted timely in the drop box. The court will accept such requests by drop box filing only, and a drop box has been set up at the public entrance to the Hayward Hall of Justice for that purpose. Court staff will contact moving parties when their requests have been ruled on. Please be sure to include a contact number or email address on your pleadings.
The court is currently contemplating two things. One, if the Chief Justice re-issues the temporary emergency orders, that those orders include the ability of our court to file additional items. These items might include new DCSS filings, stipulations and orders, new petitions, RFOs for support, judgments, and contempts. Two, the court is in the process of enacting changes to our local rules which allow/mandate appearance by telephone or video conference. This will be the current state of operations for the court until at least April 6, 2020. Our courts remain closed for business until April 8, 2020 pursuant to Alameda County Public Health Officer’s “shelter in place“ order.