WHAT IS THE PROBATE COURT 

AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

The Plymouth Division of the Probate and Family Court Department processes Estates, Divorce and Family Law matters, Protective Orders from Domestic Abuse, Name Changes, Adoptions, Guardianships, Equity matters as well as other matters in which the law authorizes jurisdiction.

Each Probate Court has three interactive components designed to effectively, efficiently, and fairly manage each case through the complex maze that is "the law".

The Registry component is responsible for receiving documents to be presented to the Court, for the maintenance of all records and documents that are processed in the Court, and for customer service within the Registry.  It is run by the Register of Probate, a constitutionally elected officer, who is elected every six years by the residents of Plymouth County.  The Registry dockets documents; prepares and forwards all hearing notices and scheduling orders to the appropriate parties; issues summonses, citations, warrants, letters and licenses necessary to carry out and effect any order or judgment of the Court; mails copies of each document that a Judge signs to each party, or their attorney, if represented.  Although the staff is available to assist the Bar and the Public in clerical and procedural matters, staff members are prohibited by law from giving any legal advice.  

One of the key responsibilities of the Registry is to record, store, and archive all the pertinent records, and keep them available to the public during regular office hours.  The first series of files for the Plymouth Probate Court covers the period from 1685 - 1881.  The files are located at the Massachusetts State Archives, 220 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA 02125, telephone number (617) 727-2816.  Index books  for that period are located at the Plymouth Court.

Records for the period after 1881 are located or will be made available at the Plymouth Court.  Most of these records are kept on site, in Plymouth, have easy to use indices, and can be reviewed in the Registry Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Some cases, or parts of cases are restricted from inspection based upon specific Orders, or by State Law or Statute.  Adoption records are not a matter of public record and have very limited access.  For access to Paternity or abuse prevention cases, please call (508) 897-2961, as said records are located in Brockton and Plymouth.

The Judicial component consists of the First Justice, Associate Justices, Visiting Justices and the Judicial staff of Assistant Registers and Secretaries.  The main functions of the Judicial component are to:  

determine the schedule and requirements of litigation;

hold formal hearings; and 

make written decisions in the form of Orders,  Judgments or Decrees.

The Family Service Probation Office component provides dispute intervention or mediation services, conducts investigations, and reports its findings directly to the Judge during court sessions.  With its own clerical staff, the Family Service Probation Office coordinates cases with the Registry and Judicial staff prior to and subsequent to most court appearances. 

-Robert E. McCarthy, Register of Probate