COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Members of the public, regardless of vaccination status, must wear an approved face covering or mask while inside a courthouse or other Judicial Branch facility. Those who cannot enter as a result of this protocol should call 207-753-2999. See PPMO-SJC-1, revised on August 16, 2021.

Page updated on August 16, 2021

During the COVID-19 emergency, the Supreme Judicial Court and Trial Courts issued multiple orders and announcements regarding court operations while COVID-19 posed a serious threat to public health. In light of the Governor's Executive Order 39 FY 20/21, on June 1, 2021, Post Pandemic Management Order SJC-1 (PPMO-SJC-1) rescinds a number of Pandemic Management Orders, including the State of Maine Judicial Branch COVID-19 Phased Management Plan, and extends the use of court practices, processes, and procedures that have proven effective and efficient.

On this page:

Courthouse Operations

1.  Who should go to the courthouse?
Most courthouses are scheduled to be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a few exceptions. Courts may be closed to the public due to holidays, administrative weeks, unexpected closings due to storms and other emergencies, or a lack of staffing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check the court closings and alerts web page or call your local courthouse to confirm hours of operation.

Please note that pursuant to PPMO-SJC-1 and PPMO-SJC-2, many court events may be scheduled and held remotely by video or telephone. Please make sure your hearing or event is being held in person before going to the courthouse. Whether your court event is scheduled to be held remotely or in-person will be indicated on your scheduling notice from the court.

2. Am I required to wear a mask at the courthouse?
Yes. Regardless of vaccination status, all members of the public are required to wear an approved face covering or mask while inside a Maine courthouse or other Judicial Branch facility effective August 16, 2021. See PPMO-SJC-1

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Filing by Email

1. Can I file documents with the court by email?
Starting on June 7, 2021, you will no longer be able to file documents by email with the court, except for:

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Case Proceedings

1. What case types have been cancelled or postponed?
The COVID-19 Phased Management Plan issued on May 27, 2020 was rescinded on June 1, 2021. No case types are being postponed or cancelled, however, to promote the efficient and effective use of court resources, many court events may be scheduled to be heard remotely by video or telephone in addition to being held in person. See PPMO-SJC-2. Criminal jury trials will be scheduled as resources permit.

3. How will the rescission of the PMP and new PPMOs affect how case types are being scheduled and heard by the court?
Courts in each Judicial Region are responsible for creating and implementing courthouse schedules tailored to the needs of their region for in-person and remote hearings and court events.

4. Is the Supreme Judicial Court hearing oral arguments?
Yes. Oral arguments scheduled before the Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, may be conducted either by in-person oral arguments or remote video arguments, at the discretion of the Justices. The Clerk of the Law Court will notify parties of the mode and schedule of review. See PPMO-SJC-1(F).

5. What will happen with non-courtroom related activities, such as mediations, depositions, and other discovery (and deadlines associated therewith)?
All discovery and other deadlines are currently governed by the Maine Rules of Court. Mediations and depositions are occurring remotely throughout the state. Foreclosure mediation is not currently occurring.

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Evictions (FEDs)

1. Are the courts hearing eviction (FED) cases?
Yes. District Courts are hearing evictions (FEDs) cases. The current FED process, through June 30, 2021, or until further order of the court, will begin with a telephonic status conference, followed in some cases by mediation.

In addition, in some courts, a pilot project for a remote FED docket call (in which multiple FED cases will be scheduled to be heard) will be scheduled and conducted by Zoom, and cases will go to mediation on the same day. If there is enough time after mediation, cases that do not settle in mediation may have their final hearings on that same day as well. The following courts are participating in the FED remote docket call pilot project, with other courts to be determined:

  • York District Court;
  • Farmington District Court;
  • Ellsworth District Court.

Parties will receive notice from the pilot project court of the remote docket call with information and instructions on how to access the session. See PMO-SJC-6.  

2. Are tenants excused from paying rent during this period?
No, all rent remains due and payable unless the landlord and tenant have agreed otherwise. See MaineHousing Rent Relief Flyer.

3. Do some tenants have extra protection under federal law?
Yes. The Center for Disease Control has also issued an Order that may prohibit the eviction of "covered persons" through June 30, 2021.

4. Can I get help paying my future rent?
The MaineHousing Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides rent and utility relief payments to eligible tenants for up to three months of future rent.

5. Can I get help paying my back rent?
The MaineHousing Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides rent and utility relief payments to eligible tenants for rent payments from as far back as March 2020.

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Depositions

1. Does PMO-SJC-2(F), revised December 14, 2020, really require that all depositions be done remotely?
Yes. The first paragraph of PMO-SJC-2(F) states:

All depositions shall be conducted via remote means, i.e., in a manner that allows for the deponent, all other persons entitled to attend (including the parties, counsel for the parties, counsel for the deponent), and all other necessary persons (e.g., a court reporter) to participate in the deposition without attending in person, unless all persons referenced in this paragraph agree to conduct the deposition in person.

(Emphasis added.)  

As the Order clearly decrees, attorneys will not be permitted to conduct in-person depositions unless all persons involved in the deposition—counsel, witness, parties, and reporter—agree that the deposition need not be conducted remotely.  The word "allows" refers to the functionality of the video platform to provide all persons to participate remotely.

2. Does a lawyer who wishes to notice depositions to be conducted in person have to file a notice for a remote deposition and file an objection to his own notice to present the issue to the court?
No. As noted above, a lawyer may not, during the pendency of the Pandemic Management Order, without the agreement of all parties (witnesses, counsel and reporter), conduct a deposition other than by remote means. No deviation from this rule is permissible without prior leave of court upon motion addressed to the presiding judicial officer.

3. Can a lawyer be in the same room with her client during a deposition?
Nothing in the PMO prevents a lawyer being present in the same room as the lawyer's client during a deposition.

4. How is the oath administered to a witness if a deposition is taken remotely, using audio and/or video technology?
Under section A(2) of PMO-SJC-2, the person before whom the deposition is taken is authorized, under temporary rules, to administer oaths and take testimony remotely, so long as that person can both see and hear the deponent via audio-video communication equipment or technology for purposes of positively identifying the deponent.

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Video and Audio Remote Proceedings

1. Do the courts have plans to continue conducting some hearings remotely, either telephonically or via video?
Yes, under PPMO-SJC-1 and PPMO-SJC-2, the use and extension of remote proceedings in the trial courts is continuing as long as participation in remote proceedings complies with due process and proper procedure.

2. What is general protocol for video conferences with a court? What does the court expect generally? If it’s a hearing, do I stand when I address the court? Can I appear in sweats?
Courtroom decorum shall apply in all remote court conferences and hearings whether in-person, by video, or telephonically. See PPMO-SJC-2 and the Remote Court Proceedings web page for more information.

3. How is the oath administered to a witness if a deposition is taken remotely, using audio and/or video technology?
Under PMO-SJC-2, the person before whom the deposition is taken is authorized, under temporary rules, to administer oaths and take testimony remotely, so long as that person can both see and hear the deponent via audio-video communication equipment or technology for purposes of positively identifying the deponent.

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Child Protection Matters

1. How will child protection matters be handled?
As of June 1, 2021, each court will decide whether to hold hearings in child protection matters remotely or in-person (PMO-SJC-10 was rescinded on June 1, 2021). The court will send a scheduling notice with information about how and when the hearing will be held.

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Family Matters

1. How will family matters, including issues involving child support and parent-child contact, be handled?
As of June 1, 2021, each court will decide whether to hold hearings in child protection matters remotely or in-person (PMO-SJC-7 was rescinded on June 1, 2021). The court will send a scheduling notice with information about how and when the hearing will be held.

2. Do I have to follow my court order regarding parent-child contact during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Pandemic Management Orders in effect have not suspended court orders regarding parent-child contact. This means that the spread of COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a reason to deny parenting time. Parents should try to set aside personal differences, try to agree on what is best for all involved including following CDC guidelines on protecting family from COVID-19 illness, and try to maintain a positive relationship with the child. If following the parent-child contact order presents a considerable risk for someone, parents may want to seek legal advice. For $25, the Maine Lawyer Referral Service will connect you with an attorney in your area to do a 30-minute consultation. For more information, please visit: https://mainebar.community.lawyer/.

3. What if I cannot reach an agreement with the other parent regarding our parent-child contact during the COVID-19 pandemic and need the court to enforce or modify my court order of parental rights and responsibilities?
The courts are currently scheduling and hearing all contested family proceedings. To find the forms to ask the court to enforce or modify your court order of parental rights and responsibilities, please visit the court forms web page under the section titled "Form Packets, Family Matters."

4. What if the public place for our parenting time exchange is closed?
Parties should review their parental rights and responsibilities order or consult with their attorney concerning exchanges. During the exchange of the child(ren), all parties should follow the CDC guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus, which may mean, if possible, choosing an alternate location for the exchanges that has fewer people congregating and less touching of public items (e.g., moving exchanges from a restaurant to a grocery store parking lot).

5. Will I still have supervised parenting time during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Some agencies that provide supervision for parenting-time are offering video or teleconference options, and some agencies that had previously stopped in-person services have started offering in-person options again. If you have a court order for supervised parenting time by an agency, you should contact that agency to confirm the level of services currently provided.

If you believe that following these orders and guidelines is not possible, you may want to seek legal advice. For $25, the Maine Lawyer Referral Service will connect you with an attorney in your area to do a 30-minute consultation. For more information, please visit: https://mainebar.community.lawyer/.

6. What free or low-cost technology options exist for virtual parent-child contact?
If you would like to consider virtual parent-child contact, here are some options:

  • Zoom - Video Calling
  • Facetime - Video Calling
  • Whatsapp - Video Calling, Text Messaging
  • Skype - Video Calling, Text Messaging
  • Google Hangouts - Text Messaging, Video Calling
  • Duo - Video Calling
  • Facebook Messenger - Video Calling, Text Messaging
  • Google Voice - Cloud Based Phone Number
  • Marco Polo
  • GoToMeeting
  • Google Meets
  • Good meet

7. How will interviews with children and families by guardians ad litem be handled?
Any contact or interviews required or permitted in court proceeding or process related to Titles 18-C, 19-A, 22, or any other similar statute, can be by video or telephone, or in person.

8. Are mediations in family matters cases being conducted remotely?
Yes, due to the COVID-19 health emergency, mediations in family matters are being conducted by video using Zoom or via telephone conference call. Parties will learn more about these options when they speak with the judge or magistrate about mediation. Parties who are scheduled for virtual mediation will receive a scheduling notice from the court with the date of the mediation and instructions for participation.

9. Can I get certified copies of my court order during this time?
Yes, a party may obtain copies of a court order by calling the clerk’s office. The clerk’s office can take payment over the phone and send the copies by mail. See the directory of district courts.

10. What other resources are available?
If you are a victim of violence, abuse, or harassment and believe you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If you are worried for yourself or for someone else, please consider contacting the following resources:

  • Statewide Domestic Abuse Helpline: 1-866-834-HELP (free and confidential). Hearing impaired line: 1-800-437-1220.
  • Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-800-871-7741 (free and confidential)
  • Wabanaki Woman's Coalition: 207-538-0858
  • StrongHearts Native Helpline 1-844-762-8483 (free and confidential for American Indians)

Each of these resources will connect you with an advocate in your community.

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Protection from Abuse and Harassment Orders

The courts continue to hear requests for temporary and final protection from abuse or protection from harassment orders.

1. What are my options for filing documents in a protection from abuse or protection from harassment case?
Starting on December 15, 2020, you can file any document in a protection from abuse or protection from harassment case:

  • By email, EXCEPT documents that require a filing fee. Generally, the only documents that will require a filing fee are some protection from harassment complaints and some protection from harassment motions to extend, motions to modify, or motions for contempt;
  • In person at your local courthouse if the courthouse is open to the public; or
  • By U.S. mail.

Keep reading for more information on how to file by email, in person, or by mail.

2. Where do I get court forms for a protection from abuse or harassment case?

3. How do I ask for a protection order or an extension of my protection order IN PERSON?
Most district courts are open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. unless closed due to holidays, administrative weeks, storms and other emergencies, or a lack of staffing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check the court closings and alerts web page or call the clerk's office for the district court serving the town where you live to make sure that the courthouse is open before you go to the court and, if you are seeking a temporary order, find out when your request can be heard by a judge.

4. What do I do if I want to file a request for a protection order or a motion to extend a protection order in person at the courthouse, but my local court is closed?
If your local court is unexpectedly closed and you need to file a request for a protection order or a request for a motion to extend your protection order, you may go to another open district court to file your case. The open court will accept your filing, a judge in that court will review your complaint or motion to extend, and issue a temporary order or extend your protection order, if appropriate. You will then be scheduled for a final hearing at your local court.

5. What if I go to the courthouse to file a request for a protection order or a motion to extend in person at the courthouse, but I cannot enter the courthouse due to health risks?
If you go to the courthouse but cannot enter, the marshals will provide the paper packet to you at the door and will accept it upon completion. Instead of signing your documents in front of the clerk for notarization, you will need to provide a safe phone number and the court will call you from the courtroom and take your oath on the record. If you do not a safe phone number to provide, please let the marshal know so the court can assist you. You may also want to contact an advocate for assistance (the number for the statewide Domestic Abuse Helpline is 1-866-834-HELP; the number for the statewide Sexual Assault Helpline is 1-800-871-7741).

6. How do I ask for a protection order or an extension of my protection order BY MAIL?
You can mail your completed protection from abuse, protection from harassment, or motion to extend packet to the court. Please note that your signature will have to be notarized before you mail your complaint or motion to extend. This means that if you want to mail your filing to the court, you will need to sign some of the forms in the packet in front of a notary before mailing the packet to the court.

WARNING: Although you can mail your filing to the court, you will need to provide a safe phone number on your complaint or motion to extend so that the court can call you in case the court has questions. If you do not answer your phone, your request for a temporary protection order may be denied without you having a chance to speak to a judge.

7. How do I ask for a protection from abuse or harassment order or an extension of my protection order BY EMAIL?
PMO-SJC-3A governs the filing of documents by email in protection from abuse and protection from harassment cases.
The forms to ask for a protection from abuse or harassment order, or an extension are available on the court forms web page under the section titled "Form Packets."  If you do not have access to a computer, the forms are available at any district court. Call the district court clerk's office for the town where you live to make sure that the courthouse is open before you go to the court and, if you are seeking a temporary order, find out when your request can be heard by a judge. See the directory of district courts.

WARNING: You cannot file by email in a PFA/PFH case if the filing requires a filing fee. Generally, the only documents that will require a filing fee are some protection from harassment complaints and some protection from harassment motions to extend, motions to modify, or motions for contempt.

WARNING: A complaint for protection from harassment and a motion to extend a protection from harassment order can sometimes have a filing fee. If it has a filing fee, you CANNOT file this document by email. You must file it in person or by mail as explained above. If you do not know if your harassment filing will have a filing fee, please call your local court (See the directory of district courts).

WARNING: Filing a complaint or motion to extend by email does NOT mean you are automatically protected. After you have filed, a judge must review your filing and, if appropriate, decide whether to grant a temporary order or temporarily extend your existing protection order.

STEP 1: Complete the form packet.

Download and completed the form packet for the case (see question 2 for the links to each packet).

Carefully read the instructions and warnings on form PA-027:

  • The form explains how to email your filing to the correct court.
  • The form also tells you the email address to use for submitting your protection from abuse complaint or motion to extend.
  • You will NOT have to notarize the forms before emailing them to the court, BUT you must check off the box on the form that says: "the party electronically signs the complaint or motion and checks the box on the form that says: "I swear under penalty of perjury that the above statements are true and correct. I understand that these statements are made for use as evidence in court and that I am subject to prosecution for perjury punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 if I give false information to the court."
  • You do NOT need a printer or scanner to file these forms by email. The forms can all be completed online without printing and do not need to be signed.
  • You MUST have access to a safe phone number  and a safe email that you can check regularly. This is because the clerk will contact you by email to (1) tell you if the court granted you a temporary order for protection, or (2) if needed, to schedule a time for you to call the court so the judge can ask for additional information. If the court schedules you for a call with the judge and you do not call at that time, your case will not be dismissed but your request for a temporary order may be denied. Please note that the defendant will not be on that call.
  • If you file your complaint or motion before 3 p.m. on a day when the court is open, you will receive an email from the clerk that same day.

STEP 2: Sign your document.

  • To avoid having to print the forms, you can electronically sign your document by either typing your name after "/s/" (For example, "/s/ John Smith"), or inserting a captured image of your signature into the document.
  • You can print the document, sign it, and then scan it to save it as a PDF.
  • If the form requires that it be notarized, you can still file it by email as long as you check off the box on the form that says, "I swear under penalty of perjury that the above statements are true and correct. I understand that these statements are made for use as evidence in court and that I am subject to prosecution for perjury punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 if I give false information to the court."

STEP 3: Attach documents to your email.
Attach the document you want to file with the court as a Word document or a PDF. 

STEP 4: Complete these required email forms. 
Complete and attach the following form to your email:

Type of case/ document

Required form for email filing 

Protection from Abuse (new case or Motion to Extend)

Information Regarding Protection Order Filings by Email and Filing Certification (PA-027)

Protection from Harassment without a fee (new case or Motion to Extend)

Cover Sheet for Email Filing in Protection from Abuse or Protection from Harassment Case (PA-030)

All other filings in protection from abuse and harassment cases

Cover Sheet for Email Filing in Protection from Abuse or Protection from Harassment Case (PA-030)

STEP 5: Subject line of your email. 
In the subject line of the email, write the docket number of your case (for example, PORDC-PA-2020-123. The docket number can usually be found at the top of any notices you have received from the court).

If it is a new case or you do not have a docket number (for example, PORDC-PA-2020-123), please write the names of the parties in the subject line (for example, John Smith v. Mary Smith).

STEP 6: Service.
Complaints and Motions to Extend that Are Filed by Email. The court will arrange for the service by law enforcement of:

  • complaints for protection from abuse,
  • motions to extend protection from abuse orders,
  • complaints for protection from harassment that do not require a filing fee, and
  • motions to extend protection from harassment orders that do not require a filing fee that are filed by email.

Service of Documents, other than Complaints and Motions to Extend, and Response Deadlines: Any time you file a document with the court, the party on the other side of your case must get a copy. Here is how you should serve the other side when you are filing a document by email:

You have a lawyer, and Opposing party has a lawyer

Your lawyer should copy the other lawyer on the email to the court

You have a lawyer, but Opposing party does not have a lawyer

Your lawyer should mail a copy of the filed document to the opposing party.

You do not have a lawyer, and Opposing party does not have a lawyer

You should NOT copy the opposing party on the email, and instead you should ask the court to send a copy of the filed document to the opposing party. You should ask this in your email to the court.

STEP 7: Find the email address of the court.
The courts have different email addresses depending on the document you are filing and where you are filing it. See list of court email addresses.

STEP 8: Send the email.
Sending the email to the court is enough to file your document. Do NOT send a paper original to the court after filing your document by email.

8. What do I do if I do not have access to a computer and need the court forms to ask for a protection order?
If you do not have access to a computer, the forms are available at any district court. Call the district court clerk's office for the town where you live to make sure that the courthouse is open before you go to the court and, if you are seeking a temporary order, find out when your request can be heard by a judge.

9. Can I get help completing the forms to ask for a protection order?
If you need help completing the court forms, call the domestic violence or sexual assault agency in your region. For a complete list of each agency by region, please call the statewide domestic abuse helpline or the statewide sexual assault helpline to be connected to a local advocate (see web page links and phone numbers provided in question 12).

10. Do I have to go to the courthouse for my protection order hearing, or can the court hold the hearing by video or telephone?
All hearings in protection from abuse and protection from harassment cases are scheduled in person at the courthouse, unless the court allows you to participate by video or telephone. If you think the court should hold your hearing or allow you to participate by video or phone, you must file a written request (a motion) that explains the special reasons in your case that justify a hearing by video or phone. When deciding whether to allow you to participate by telephone or video, the court will consider many factors, including the health and safety of the court staff, parties, and witnesses; the ability of parties to participate remotely; and the effect its decision will have on the availability to other parties of limited Judicial Branch resources, including courtroom space, technology assistance, and clerical assistance.

WARNING:  If the court has issued a temporary order of protection, the defendant cannot have contact with the plaintiff to negotiate an agreement. If parties need assistance in attempting to reach an agreement, the parties should hire attorneys or the plaintiff should contact a domestic violence or sexual assault advocate (see statewide helpline phone numbers provided at question 10).

11. How do I learn more about the process for protection from abuse and harassment cases?
To learn more, please review the court’s Guide to Protection from Abuse and Harassment Cases. You can also request a paper copy of the guide from the clerk at the courthouse.

12. What other resources are available?

If you are a victim of violence, abuse, or harassment and believe you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

If you are worried for yourself or for someone else, please consider contacting the following resources that are free and confidential and that will connect you to an advocate.

    An advocate is a trained person who can:

  • Give information about protection orders and help you understand what happens in court
  • Help with court paperwork and find legal help
  • Give you support and information
  • Help with other services like housing, counseling, support groups, and mental health help
  • Help with safety planning
  • Provide information on how to file if you are under 18

You may also consider contacting the following resources:

  • Maine Lawyer Referral Service ($25 for a 30-minute consultation with an attorney).
  • Maine Adult Protective Services arranges for services to protect incapacitated and dependent adults (age 18 and over) in danger of abuse, neglect or exploitation. The adult abuse hotline number: 1-800-624-8404 or Maine Relay 711.
  • Maine Child and Family Services in the Department of Health and Human Services protects children from abuse and neglect. The 24-hour hotline to report suspected abuse or neglect is 1-800-452- 1999 or Maine Relay 711.

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Jury Trials

1. I received a notice for jury duty recently.  Do I need to report?
Yes. You should follow the instructions on the jury summons. Some criminal jury trials will take place as resources permit.

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