Statement from MetroWest Legal Services
This is a challenging and disruptive time for our clients, supporters, and community as a whole. Although there are changes to how we deliver our services, MetroWest Legal Services is here to help.
As a result of the Coronavirus, MWLS has implemented policies and protocols to protect our staff and clients as best we can. MWLS staff is working 100% remotely and the physical office will be closed through April 7, 2020.
It is our priority to continue meeting the needs of our current and new clients in this challenging time.
If you are in need of legal services, please call 508-620-1830 or 1-800-696-1501, or fill in the online intake form. Calls will be answered between 10 am and 1 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and between 2 pm and 4 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Please feel free to leave a message, which will be answered as soon as possible.
All clinics, office hours at local community partners, Lawyer for the Day programs, and outreach presentations and events have been suspended. Those who would have attended clinics and LFD will be told to call MWLS and they can receive a telephonic consultation.
We understand that this is a stressful time. Given the rapidly changing situation, we will modify and update this plan as needed. We will continue to help existing and new clients to access the legal services they need.
What is Covid-19 (Novel Coronavirus)?
A novel (new) coronavirus is causing a pandemic of respiratory disease. The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
The virus causes mild to severe illness, with the following groups at increased risk:
- Older adults, with risk increasing by age
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- People who are immunosuppressed.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, contact a healthcare provider.
Courts are closed to the public until at least April 6, 2020. The only matters that will be heard in-person in Massachusetts state courthouses are emergency matters that cannot be held by videoconference or telephone.
For more details and updates on the court system response to Covid-19, to the mass.gov website.
Updated April 2, 2020
For general assistance with food. housing, or paying for bills during the crisis, dial 211 or visit http://www.211.org/services/covid19
- The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance can now grant benefits to workers who are furloughed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- Visit here for more Covid-19 unemployment information.
- Apply for benefits here.
- Get assistance with your claim from the Department of Unemployment Assistance by filling in this form.
- Attend Unemployment Assistance Virtual Town Halls here.
- Frequently asked questions and links to fact sheets in Spanish and Vietnamese can be found here.
- If you have a case currently scheduled in Housing Court between now and April 21st, it will be rescheduled to a date no earlier than April 21st and you will be notified by mail by the clerk’s office.
- If you have a case currently scheduled in District Court between now and May 1st it will be rescheduled to a date no earlier than May 4th and you will be notified by mail by the clerk’s office.
- Courts are closed except for emergency matters. Emergency matters include loss of heat or water, lock-outs by your landlord, or acts by a tenant or landlord that threaten the health and safety of others.
- MWLS can assist you with an emergency matter while the courts are closed. An execution is the court order that allows a landlord to move you out on 48-hour notice. A landlord cannot get an execution to move you out while the courts are closed unless the court gives the landlord permission after an emergency hearing.
- If your landlord obtained the execution before the courts closed and serves you with a 48-hour notice, contact MWLS immediately for help (number above).
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- Seniors/People with Disabilities
- Special Education
Do you have concerns about your child with an IEP?
Important guidance from the U.S. Department of Education made clear that:
- Students with disabilities are still entitled to special education services, even while schools are closed due to COVID-19.
- Some services in your child’s IEP may be provided remotely.
- Many services, however, cannot possibly be provided remotely. Though not ideal, your child may be able to get increased services to help make up for lost progress after school resumes (this is known as compensatory services).
- School districts should continue to hold team meetings remotely, and parents and districts should work collaboratively, with understanding and patience, in figuring out how to hold these meetings.
- Some students may have difficulty accessing remote or online schooling due to their disabilities. Districts must ensure that these students have equally effective alternate access to material.
- More information and guidance will be coming from state officials soon, and MWLS staff will be monitoring things as they continue to development.
- Access to Healthcare
Domestic Violence and Family Law Issue
Family Law Unit is OPEN for Intake
The Family Law Unit is currently open for phone intakes for income-eligible individuals seeking a legal consultation with MWLS about their domestic violence and family law matters.
Across Massachusetts, courts are closed to the public except to address emergency matters, such as restraining orders and juvenile protection cases. Whenever possible, these emergency matters are being conducted by telephone or videoconference. Courts will be operating on this very limited basis until AT LEAST April 6, 2020.
All updates regarding the court system's response to the COVID-19 pandemic are available on the court's website.
What about Protection Orders?
209A Abuse Prevention Orders and 258E Harassment Protection Orders are still available even with the Massachusetts Trial Court’s announcement that they are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
What is a 209A restraining order?
A 209A restraining order is a court order that protects you from being abused by a member or former member of your household or family or someone you have been dating. It is called a 209A restraining order because the law that created it is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A.
Is a 209A case a “criminal” case?
No. A 209A case is a “civil” case. This means that you, the “plaintiff,” file it against the person who abused you, the “defendant.” There is no prosecutor from the state. If you get a 209A restraining order, the defendant will not be arrested or fined. Instead, the court orders them to do or not to do certain things, like abuse you, contact you, or come within a certain distance.
What if I don’t know whether I qualify for a 209A protection order?
MetroWest Legal Services can assist you in determining whether a 209A Abuse Protection Order is appropriate in your case. You may also contact the following domestic violence agencies to access additional resources and safety planning:
• Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) Framingham Office (508-872-2652) or visit their website.
• Voices Against Violence (VAV) on the 24 Hour hotline: 1-800-593-1125 or Framingham office 508-626-8686 or visit their website.
• Domestic Violence Services Network (DVSN) on their helpline: 888-399-6111 or visit their website.
What if I need an Emergency Domestic Violence shelter?
Emergency Domestic Violence Shelters are still open during the Covid-19 crisis. Please call SafeLink a 24-hour Hotline at 1-877-785-2020.
What about my Probate and Family Court case?
Previously Scheduled Hearings are Postponed Until at least April 6, 2020, the Probate and Family Court is closed to the public. All hearings scheduled between the dates of March 18, 2020, and April 30, 2020, are being postponed and rescheduled until after May 1, 2020, unless the court considers the matter an emergency. The Registry is open only to accept pleadings in emergency matters.
The Court considers has designated the following cases as emergencies (1) All restraining order requests and requests for orders to vacate, (2) Petitions seeking appointment of a temporary guardian or conservator; (3) Motions for temporary orders where exceptional/exigent circumstances have been demonstrated; and (4) Contempt actions where exceptional/exigent circumstances have been demonstrated.
Emergency situations will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If a person arrives at the courthouse with a matter they deem an emergency, that matter shall be brought to a Judicial Case Manager, an Assistant Judicial Case Manager, Assistant Register, Magistrate, or other designated staff member to determine whether the matter is an emergency or whether the person can be helped in another way.
The court may schedule any emergency matters to be heard by telephone or videoconference.
Extension of Orders
All orders that were issued prior to this March 18, 2020, and after an adversarial hearing (or the opportunity for an adversarial hearing) that are due to expire prior to April 21,
2020, shall remain in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard. Other types of orders, such as the Department of Children and Families (DCF) custody orders, treatment plans, and Temporary orders of guardianship that are set to expire between March 18, 2020, and May 1, 2020, will be administratively extended for a period of at least 45 days.
A party may, for good cause shown, seek to bring the matter forward earlier upon a demonstration of exigent circumstances. The request may be decided on the pleadings.
New Filings by Mail or E-File
Unless relating to an emergency matter, parties need to file new matters by mail or e-filing where available. Filings will be docketed, but no event will be scheduled before May 1, 2020.
Parent Education courses that were in progress are suspended until after May 1, 2020, and will be rescheduled. No new Parent Education courses will begin until after May 1, 2020. Online Parent Education classes are available, and temporarily do not require the court’s permission to complete the class online. Please visit KidCare online at: http://www.parenteducationonline.com/kidcare/
Lawyer of the Day programs
No lawyer of the day program will be held until after May 1, 2020.
What about my District Court case?
Previously Scheduled Hearings are Postponed
All cases scheduled for a court event between March 18, 2020, and May 1, 2020, are continued to a date no earlier than May 4, 2020. You should contact the District Court Clerk’s Office by telephone in the District Court where your case is located to confirm your case is continued and to confirm or request a new date for your hearing.
Any orders issued prior to March 18, 2020, with a hearing during this time period will remain in full force and effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court.
All emergency protection orders issued after notice (which means after the Defendant has been properly served by law enforcement) that are due to expire on or after March 18, 2020, shall remain in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court.
District Courts will still allow you to file emergency matters. Emergency abuse prevention orders and harassment prevention orders are still available even while the courts are closed to the public.
Between the hours of 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM you may go to your local district court to obtain an emergency protection order. A court officer may hand you paperwork to be completed outside the court. Most emergency matters will be heard by videoconference or telephonic conference.
If your district court is temporarily closed, or it is after court business hours, please go to your local police station to request an emergency protection order. Protection orders are available at any time through an emergency procedure where police contact an on-call Judge by phone.
Any new matters will be scheduled for a date after May 4, 2020
The Immigration Unit is currently open for intakes for individuals seeking a legal consultation about their immigration matters.
AmeriCorps Member Eliana conducts intakes during the following hours:
Monday: 9:30 -- 12:00 PM
Tuesday: 9:30 -- 12:00 PM
Thursday: 2:00 –- 4:00 PM
Individuals seeking services may call Eliana directly at: (508) 371-4029
Please leave a message if MWLS is unable to answer your call. MWLS will try to call individuals back within two (2) business days.
Boston Immigration Court
Effective March 18, 2020, through May 1, 2020 all non-detained hearings, including Master Calendar and Individual hearings, before the Boston Immigration Court have been postponed. Updates may be found here and here.
Case status and hearing date information on the automated case information hotline and online application may not be updated for those cases postponed due to operational changes during the coronavirus pandemic. Following the issuance of a new hearing notice, such information will be updated. As always, court documents such as notices are your official source of information and should be mailed at least ten (10) days before the hearing.
The Boston Immigration Court is still accepting filings by mail and at the window.
Immigration Court Hotline: I-800-898-7180
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
USCIS remains open and is accepting new applications and continues to process pending applications. The Boston Field Office has suspended routine in-person services until April 1, 2020.
- Food Insecurity and Help with Meals
Apply for food assistance (SNAP) at Department of Transitional Assistance (SNAP Benefits)
Westwood Council on Aging: 60 Nahatan St., Westwood, MA, Call 781-329-8799
Westborough Food Pantry - Forbes Community House: 9 East Main Street, Westborough, MA 01581, Call 508-366-3007 Worcester County Food Bank
Celebration International Church: 6 Loker St., Wayland, MA 01778, Call 508-653-6864
St Vincent de Paul/St Patrick's Food Pantry-Watertown: 25 Chestnut St., Watertown, MA 02472, Call 617-926-7121 Watertown Food Pantry St. Patrick's Food Pantry: 26 Chestnut St., Watertown, MA 02472, Call 617-926-7121
Waltham Fields Community Farm Sacred Heart Church Food Pantry/Waltham MHSA /Bristol Lodge Pantry: 545 Moody Street, Waltham, MA 02451, Call: 781-883-2050 JF&CS Family Table Salvation Army/Waltham Pantry
Southborough Food Pantry: 15 Common Street, Southborough, MA 01772, Call 508-485-4847
Walpole Community Food Pantry First Congregational Church of Sharon Food Pantry: 29 N. Main St., Sharon, MA 02067, Call 781-784-2631
Northborough Food Pantry: 63 Main Street, Northborough, MA 01532, Call 508-393-6897
Millis Ecumenical Food Pantry: 142 Exchange Street, Millis, MA 02054
The Medway Food Pantry: 600 Mahan Circle, Medway, MA 02053, Call 508-533-2434 Medway Village Food Pantry
Open Table Food Pantry/Maynard: 80 Main Street, Maynard, MA 01754, Call 978-823-0082 Maynard Food Pantry: 12 Bancroft St., Maynard, MA 01754, Call 978-897-8340
Marlborough Community Services: 255 Main Street, Marlborough, MA 01752, Call 508-481-4080
Hudson Community Food Pantry: 28 Houghton Street, Hudson, MA 01749, 978-562-5280
St. Bridget's Food Pantry Salvation Army/Framingham Food Pantry: 35 Concord Street, Framingham, MA 01704, Call 508-875-3341 Hope Worldwide New England Inc. United Way of Tri-County Pearl Street Cupboard & Cafe at Park Daniel's Table
Open Table- First Parish Church
Canton Area Helpline: 960R Washington Street, Canton, MA 02021, Call 781-821-8062
Brookline Emergency Food Pantry: 15 St. Paul Street, Brookline, MA 02446, Call 617-566-4953
Belmont Church of God Food Pantry: 25 Marlboro Street, Belmont, MA 02478, Call 617-484-6371 Belmont Food Pantry
Ashland Food Pantry: 162 W. Union St., Lower Level, Ashland, MA 01721, Call 508-881-0140, x 3