From the Multnomah Lawyer: Tips from the Bench: Multnomah County Circuit Court Family Law Department

Multnomah County has now moved into Phase One reopening, which means that Multnomah County Circuit Court is operating under Level 2 restrictions. Level 2 restrictions means that we can now hear Category 2 and 3 essential proceedings in the Family Law Department, which are:

  • Immediate Danger motions and hearings
  • Writ of Assistance motions 
  • Protective Orders motions and hearings
  • Pre- and Post-Judgment Status Quo (motions and hearings)
  • Enforcement of Parenting Time motions and hearings
  • Temporary Relief motions and hearings
If you want to have any other matters heard while Level 2 restrictions are in place, you must file a motion electronically to request the matter be heard, explaining the urgency and necessity of the matter being heard now. Those motions go to Chief Family Law Judge Svetkey, who will grant such a motion only if she can determine that the proceeding is urgent, can be conducted remotely (or with sufficient social distancing if in person), reasonable precautions are available to protect the health of the participants (including court staff and interpreters), and there is sufficient court staff and judges available to conduct the hearing.

Under Level 2 restrictions, the Family Law Department will continue to have two judges available each day for Protective Order applications and hearings. Those judges will also serve as ex parte judges to sign orders for the types of cases set forth above. Please note that an Order to Show Cause for a modification proceeding can be signed at ex parte, but the hearing date will be after January 1, 2021. Similarly, all dissolution trials will not resume until after January 1, 2021: if your case is retained, the retained judge’s staff will contact you to reset the trial. If the case is on Trial Assignment, you will be given a trial date that is after January 1, 2021.

Trial Assignment resumed June 1, and hearings on Category 2 and 3 essential proceedings will be sent out for hearing on the next day. Motions for Special Set can be filed electronically and will be routed to Judge Svetkey for signature. Stipulated Orders and Judgments may be submitted for processing. Adoptions will be processed. Finally, Motions for Appointment of an Attorney for the Child will be routed to either Judge Svetkey or the retained judge for signature.

If you began a trial prior to the imposition of Level 3 restrictions, and your trial can be completed remotely in one day (or less), your case can be scheduled before January 1, 2021. If any party objects to finishing the trial remotely, that party has the burden of persuading the trial judge that the prejudice of the remote appearance outweighs the compelling health and safety reasons to finish the trial remotely. Of course, the parties can always stipulate to finishing the matter after January 1, 2021.

While the Family Law Department is excited to be able to hear more types of cases, please understand that we are nowhere close to normal operations. Normal operations require multiple staff to process and enter documents into the court file, but both social distancing requirements and budget reductions/furloughs will prevent us from being fully staffed for the near future. Social distancing requirements also mean that it is likely that all cases will continue to be heard remotely via telephone.

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