How to Navigate Middlesex Probate and Family Court
If you live in Middlesex County and are getting a divorce, seeking a change to your custody agreement, or seeking guardianship of a minor or incapacitated person; or administering the will of a deceased resident of Middlesex County, you will be making a trip to Middlesex Probate and Family Court.
Middlesex Probate and Family Court can be a confusing place to navigate, which is why I am here to help. To make your visit easier, I have answered some frequently asked questions.
Where is Middlesex Probate and Family Court located?
Middlesex Probate and Family Court serves all towns and cities in Middlesex County. It is located at 208 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02141
There is a second building, which is used for matters involving the Department of Revenue, and for Courtrooms 6, 7, and 8. This building is located at 121 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02141
What does Middlesex Probate and Family Court look like?
Here is an image of the front of the courthouse at 208 Cambridge Street:
The building is quite old, but has undergone various renovations over the years. This entrance pictured above is not an actual entrance, as it is not handicapped accessible. For security and ADA compliance reasons, there is only one public entrance and exit in the courthouse. This entrance is to the left of the stairs (when facing the building).
What should I expect after I enter the courthouse?
You will go through security as soon as you enter the building. Similar to an airport security system, you will be asked to put your purse, backpack or any other bag through the scanner. You will need to remove your cell phone, computer and any other electronic devices so that they can go through the scanner separately. There are minimal directions once you are through security.
How do I find my courtroom?
The courtroom locations are not intuitive. For instance, courtroom 5 is on the first floor. Below is an overview of where the key courtrooms and offices are located.
208 Cambridge – First Floor
Courtrooms 1, 2 and 5 are located on the first floor. Courtrooms 1 and 2 are to the left. Courtroom 5 is at the far end of the building, so be prepared to walk. From the lobby, take a right and follow the signs for courtroom 5 on a circuitous route through the library.
The Lawyer for a Day office is to your immediate right when you enter the building. This is a very useful resource if you do not have a lawyer and need legal advice or assistance.
The Probation Department is directly in front of you, between the stairs.
208 Cambridge – Second Floor
The stairs are directly in front of you, or you can take the elevator, which is in the hallway to your left. At the top of the stairs, there will be a room with tables and chairs.
The Probate and Family Clerk’s office is on the right. It is important to note that new cases and existing cases have different processes to follow. If you are filing a new case, get in the divorce, paternity, or probate line to speak with the clerk for that department. If you are filing something related to an existing case (Motion, Contempt, Modification), turn to the file department, which is to the right. Write your docket number on the clipboard, and the staff person will retrieve your file. Once you have your file in hand, proceed to the appropriate clerk’s line – divorce, paternity or probate. Following the correct process will save you time!
The Registry of Deeds is also on the second floor, across the hall from the clerk’s office. This is where you would go to file real estate deeds and documents. Note that the Registry does not take credit cards, so be sure to bring cash or a check.
You can purchase drinks and snacks on the second floor, when the vending machines are stocked and working.
208 Cambridge – Fourth Floor
Courtrooms 3 and 4 are located on the fourth floor. There are also public bathrooms on this level.
121 Third Street
Finally, courtrooms 5, 6 and 7 are located in a different building at 121 Third Street in Cambridge. This building is referred to as the Third District building. All of the courtrooms, as well as Probation, are on the second floor. If the Department of Revenue is a party to your child support case, your matter will be heard here.
Where should I park?
Street parking can be difficult in Cambridge. If you drive to the courthouse, I recommend parking in a garage so you don’t have to worry about feeding the meter. The cheapest parking garage is the First Street Garage, which is located across from the CambridgeSide Galleria.
This parking garage is CASH ONLY, so be sure to bring cash with you.
The maximum fee is $20/day. Try to park on the Second Street side of the garage and use that exit, as the courthouse is only two blocks away. For more information about the First Street Garage (and other nearby parking facilities), click on the following link: https://www.cambridgema.gov/traffic/Parking/cityparkingfacilities/cityparkinggarages
If you do not have cash, or prefer to use a credit card, park in the CambridgeSide Galleria Parking Garage. The maximum fee is $35/day.
If you take public transit, the Lechmere stop is the closest T station.
What should I expect at my hearing?
It is best to arrive at your scheduled hearing time so you have an opportunity to check in with the court clerk without risk of being late. Lines can be long. This can be a useful time to prepare for your hearing. I also recommend bringing a book or magazine to keep you occupied while waiting.
Cell phones and chewing gum are not allowed under any circumstances when court is in session.
Be sure to turn your cell phone off!
If you have an active restraining order or you are a party to an open DCF case, you will need to bring your file to the Probation Department after you check in. You will fill out some forms and wait for your case to be called by the probation department.
How should I act during the hearing?
It is important to maintain composure and be respectful in the courtroom. Do not interrupt the judge or other party. You will have an opportunity to speak. I find it useful to write down notes ahead of time, so I don’t forget to say something important.
Navigating Middlesex Probate and Family Court for the first time can feel overwhelming. It is my hope that this article has answered many of your questions and will help you know what to expect before you get there.