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Covid and the Courts in Michigan

Michigan Probate Attorneys understands that COVID-19, or coronavirus, is impacting people in Michigan in a myriad of ways. COVID-19 will likely affect your court case, especially surrounding probate issues. Court staff and lawyers are still working, but they are limiting public access to their courts and offices. This is still true even after the Governor’s “stay-at-home” order.

 

We hope this information about Michigan Courts and the Coronavirus Pandemic will be helpful to you.

Is My Court Open? Will My Hearing be Held?

The court has issued several emergency orders telling courts how to best serve the public during the COVID-19 state of emergency. These orders say that courts should:

  • Practice social distancing;
  • Limit access to courtrooms and other spaces to 10 or fewer people (including staff);
  • Allow people to file things by e-mail, fax, mail, e-Filing, or in person;
  • Allow people to file fee waiver requests without coming to court — either through e-mail, e-Filing, fax, or mail;
  • To send notices and other papers to parties by e-mail, e-Filing, or fax whenever possible;
  • To hold hearings remotely whenever they can using Zoom, other videoconferencing options, or by telephone unless another state or federal order prohibits it (like some evictions or foreclosures); and
  • If parties reach an agreement and the court can accept the agreement without holding a hearing, those agreements can be filed and entered with the court for no extra fee.

However, not every court is able to hold remote hearings, and not every person is ready to attend a remote hearing. If you have a scheduled hearing and you think it might be considered essential or held remotely, contact the court to find out what to do. If you have a hearing scheduled and you are ready and able to attend by phone or videoconference, reach out to your court and let them know. Go to the  Michigan One Court of Justice website or Courts & Agencies on Michigan Legal Help to get contact information for the court you are supposed to visit. It is also important to check your mail, e-mail, and voice-mail to see if a court has been trying to reach you to tell you how to participate in an upcoming hearing. If you have a virtual hearing scheduled, read What to Expect at a Virtual Hearing or review guidelines from the Supreme Court.

For other information from the Michigan Courts about COVID-19, visit the Michigan One Court of Justice website. For information about how the State of Michigan is responding to COVID-19, visit the State of Michigan’s COVID-19 page. Another source for reliable information about COVID-19 is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 information page.

How will this impact my case?

In addition to giving courts instructions on how to operate during the COVID-19 state of emergency, the Supreme Court has given guidance to parties as well. You should:

  • Participate in hearings remotely (by Zoom, phone, or other conference option) if you can – read What to Expect at a Virtual Hearing;
  • Check your e-mail, mail, and voice-mail regularly in case the court is trying to tell you how to participate in a hearing;
  • Send court papers to other parties by e-mail, fax, or e-Filing if possible, since not everyone is able to receive their mail; and
  • File papers with the court using e-mail, fax, e-Filing, or mail whenever possible.

To learn more about different ways in which COVID-19 might affect a specific legal issue, go to the COVID-19 resource page on Michigan Legal Help.

If you need to contact your lawyer, call instead of visiting in person. If you have a new case and need a lawyer, call or use online intake instead of going to the office in person. Most legal aid offices are closed to the public, but staff there are still working to help their clients.  Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a lawyer or legal aid office near you. If you could be eligible for free legal services, the Guide will give you a phone number and, if available, the link to do an online intake.

Michigan Legal Help will continue to be an online resource for legal information related to COVID-19. We will be sharing statewide updates as often as we can at michiganlegalhelp.org/coronavirus.

Extended Deadlines

Michigan court rules have deadlines for filing certain types of cases and documents. There are some deadlines for filing a new case (such as a personal injury lawsuit). There are other deadlines for responding to papers filed by the other party in a case (such as answers and responses to complaints or motions). There are also deadlines for serving a summons and complaint in a new case. These deadlines are impacted by the state of emergency declared by Governor Whitmer on March 10th. Days during this state of emergency do not count toward deadlines. All days after and including March 10th don’t count toward normal deadlines. When Governor Whitmer lifts the state of emergency, the days start counting again.

For example, if you were personally served with a Complaint for Divorce on March 1, your normal deadline for filing an answer is 21 days later. But, nine days later, Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency. Your new deadline for filing an answer is 12 days after the state of emergency is lifted by the Governor (9 + 12 = 21). The state of emergency puts a pause on court deadlines.

You can still file a new case if you want. Contact your court and ask how they are accepting filings (in person, by mail, e-mail, e-Filing, or fax). Judges can also give and enforce deadlines in individual cases which need to be handled quickly.

Other Closures

Immigration Court

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) postponed all non-detained cases in Immigration Courts nationwide through April 10th. For more information about how Immigration Courts are responding to COVID-19, visit the EOIR COVID-19 page.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

All U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) will not provide in-person services until at least April 1. This includes interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and biometric collection appointments. USCIS will continue to provide emergency services during this time. If you have an emergency service request, please contact the USCIS Contact Center.

For information about how USCIS is responding to COVID-19, visit the USCIS COVID-19 page.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Service

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service (MDHHS) offices are closed to the public, except for appointments. MDHHS offices will still be in operation.

You can apply for benefits online at MIBridges. If you are unable to apply online, you can apply by calling your local MDHHS office. If you are unable to upload your documents online, submit your verifications via regular mail. Families who receive or apply for cash assistance under the Family Independence Program (FIP) will not be required to attend orientations at Michigan Works! offices or to engage in subsequent employment activities.

Unemployment Insurance Agency

The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) offices are closed to the public, except for appointments. UIA offices will still be in operation.

Eligible employees are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits online at www.michigan.gov/UIA or by calling 1-866-500-0017.