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Thursday, March 22, 2018

E-Filing has Arrived in the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court (Sort of)

The Probate & Family Court is moving to electronic filing (through http://www.efilema.com/).  As with any changes in the courts, this is a process and, as of the time of this posting, only certain types of cases may be filed.  The court in cooperation with their vendor, Tyler Technologies, has been providing in-person trainings around Massachusetts.

We attended the recent training at the Worcester Law Library and wanted to share some of the most important takeaways:

1. Available to All

The e-filing system is available to both attorneys and clients.  This means that pro se (unrepresented) parties can file documents on their own through e-filing as well.

2. Available in Every County

The e-filing system is available in every county in Massachusetts as of this posting.  Since this system is new, different counties may have different policies on how they are implementing the interplay between electronic and paper filings.  For instance, some counties may require documents be filed in a specific order.

3. Not Mandatory (Yet)

E-filing is not mandatory in Massachusetts at this time.  It is recommended for cases where e-filing is available that parties (and attorneys) use this service as it will reduce administrative cost and wait times on docketing.

4. Not Available in All Cases (Yet)

You may currently e-file only the following types of cases in the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court:
  • Complaint for Divorce (1B only - no Joint Petitions) 
  • Petition for Formal Adjudication
  • Petition for Informal Probate
  • Voluntary Administration Statements
  • Petition for Guardianship of Incapacitated Persons
All other types of cases must be filed in person or by mail still.

No word on when other types of cases will be available, but we're hoping they will add Joint Petitions and post-divorce filings (such as Complaints for Modifications and Complaints for Contempt) soon!

5. Timing of Filings

While the e-filing system is always open (24/7 online), if something is filed after the court's business hours it is treated as being filed the next business day that the court is open.

6. Fee for Filings

The filing fees for any submission are the same as in person, except that there is an additional $7 electronic filing fee for each filing.

If any document in your filing is incorrect, the entire filing will be returned.  This is the same as what happens when the court returns a paper filing, except that the submission fee is returned (whereas a paper filing you would have to pay the postage a second time).

7. Filing Format & Electronic Signatures

Documents must be attached as PDFs.  Since originals aren't being physically filed, electronic signatures will be acceptable (except where notarization is required).  

Original Marriage or Death Certificates do not need mailed to the court (must be certified and legible on the pdf).  An original will DOES need to be mailed or delivered to the court within five (5) days of e-filing.

8. Service on Opposing Counsel/Party

For service of summons or citation, they will be mailed and required to be served in the traditional manner.  For filings that would only require mailed service, such as a Motion, it is still recommended to serve the filing by mail or in person on opposing party/counsel at this time (even though the electronic system offers an option for "serving" the other side by entering their information).  

Hopefully this necessity of mailing notice will be eliminated as the E-filing system becomes more ubiquitous. 

9. The E-Filing System is Separate from the Electronic Docket

MassCourts is still the resource for obtaining access to the electronic docket.  Once a filing has been approved by the court through the e-filing system it should then appear on the MassCourts site.

10. More Information is Available Online

The efileMA site has additional FAQs, registration links and web-training sessions.  To receive news and updates e-mail efilenews-join@jud.state.ma.us


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