Coronavirus prompts changes in Delaware court proceedings

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new information.

DOVER — The New Castle County clerk of the peace will not be performing marriages or issuing licenses until the state of emergency due to the coronavirus is lifted.

The ban goes into effect Thursday.

Certified copies of marriage records can be obtained at gocertificates.com

The Court of Common Pleas announced Friday it is canceling most criminal proceedings through the end of April due to the coronavirus.

All jury trials will be rescheduled. Meanwhile, hearings and the like involving people in custody, as well as emergency reviews of bail, will not change dates but will take place over telephone, video conferencing or another method where appropriate.

Treatment courts will continue at the discretion of the judge and where the treatment is determined to be clinically necessary. The court also may order certain non-jury matters to proceed as scheduled on a per-case basis.

Limited civil proceedings will take place via telephone or video conferencing if possible.

These restrictions are in place starting Monday and will continue until May 1.

Several other courts are also making adjustments due to the virus, such as urging people not to come if they feel sick or believe they have been exposed to the virus. More information on each court’s response and what anyone who has business in a court should do can be found at https://courts.delaware.gov/aoc/covid-19.

Additionally, the Office of Defense Services said people seeking an attorney from the office should not visit in person. Beginning Monday, non-incarcerated individuals in need of legal defense are urged to call 255-0130 (New Castle County), 739-4476 (Kent County) or 856-5310 (Sussex County).

Information is also available at www.ods.delaware.gov.

“The Office of Defense Services is taking all necessary precautions to balance our employees’ safety and our clients’ constitutional right to an attorney. We are increasing our usage of the state’s videophone network to meet with incarcerated clients and our services will remain available as needed,” Chief Defender Brendan O’Neill said in a statement.

The virus has forced changes to the New Castle County clerk of the peace’s schedule as well. The 60 couples scheduled to be married by the clerk of the peace over the next month are asked to postpone their ceremonies, Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden said.

Those who wish not to change the date will be limited to two guests instead of the normal 25. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Boulden said he will extend the expiration date for any couple already possessing a marriage license but worried about vendors and venues canceling.

The office also will not be accepting walk-in requests for certified copies of marriage records and is suspending the issuance of single status certifications and non-resident marriage license application affidavits for the time being. Individuals can apply online at gocertificates.com instead.

There are no changes for the clerk of the peace in Kent and Sussex counties.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.