Getting Out Of Jury Duty As A Single Parent [Including Exemptions]

Being a single parent is hard on the best of days, and a jury summons in the mail makes it feel impossible. Losing a day of pay and needing to pay a babysitter, especially during a pandemic, is a double whammy. Single parents should have a way to get out of jury duty, but do they?

In general, single parents cannot permanently get out of jury duty or be excused forever. However, single parents can easily postpone jury duty for a few months to a year in most places. Many states allow breastfeeding mothers to postpone jury duty until they complete breastfeeding. To postpone jury duty, single parents must request their service be delayed, and they must wait on the court’s approval.

Managing the court’s demands with that of your kids can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, having little ones will not permanently exempt single parents from serving a jury. Read on to learn about options for single parents, especially moms, to deal with the dreaded jury duty summons.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney in your state if you have questions or believe you have a legal situation.

Getting Out of Jury Duty Means Having It Postponed or Exempted

The term “getting out” of jury duty is a bit misleading. What it actually means is having the responsibility delayed, known as postponed, for a period of time.

Very few people qualify for a permanent exemption from jury duty. This is usually only done for someone with a permanent situation, like someone with very poor health.

Although it may seem like it at times, having small children at home is not a permanent circumstance. As a result, any jury duty excusal will not be forever.

The American Bar Association recommends that courts apply a liberal deferral policy. Ideally, the process will be smoother if no juror is experiencing a crisis due to the service requirement.

If someone does go to jury duty but does not have to serve on the jury, that is called being released. Depending on the state and the point at which the release happens, this may count as jury duty service. If so, you will not have to worry about being called for another year.

How Can Single Parents Get Jury Duty Postponed?

The jury summons that informs the recipient of the jury duty requirement should have some contact information on it. This is who to reach out to try to get excused from the scheduled jury duty.

It pays off to respond to the jury duty summons and request a postponement well before the big day. If granted, the postponement means that you do not have to appear at all.

Remember, it never hurts to ask for a postponement. The worst thing that can happen is that the court rejects the request.

Postponements vary in length. Some people indicate that they will be available after a certain date, but that is not helpful for most single parents.

More commonly, someone with an ongoing scheduling problem will just request the maximum postponement. Be aware that some states put a hard limit on the number of consecutive postponements they give to one juror.

For this reason, you may want to attend jury duty now if your child care situation maybe even worse in 6-12 months.

Can You Refuse to Do Jury Duty?

Whether someone fails to show up or refuses to participate, the court can impose consequences. This is because the summons is actually an order from the court to appear.

Penalties may include fines, jail time, and/or community services. In Florida, the fine cannot exceed $100, but in Colorado, it is up to $1,000. In a cost-benefit analysis, a babysitter is likely less expensive.

Additionally, the judges have the ability to issue bench warrants for the arrest of someone who fails to appear for jury duty. Many states allow for 1 to 3 days of imprisonment.

Can I Get Out of Jury Duty If I Have Child?

Mothers who are breastfeeding are most likely to be granted a postponement. Most states will postpone service for at least one year, and that can be renewed if still breastfeeding.

Some states do require a letter from a medical professional before granting a breastfeeding postponement.

While all states entertain requests for postponement due to various work, family, and medical scenarios, some make specific mentions of parents with children. For example, Oregon excuses prospective jurors who are the caretakers of dependents during the court’s business hours.

Florida, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming all have similar provisions. Many courts do predicate the excusal on the lack of no other reasonable alternative caregivers.

These caregiving statutes often do not apply to parents who work outside the home during court business hours. The assumption is that if a parent can get a babysitter for work, so too can they get one for jury duty.

Can You Get Out of Jury Duty If You Are a Single Parent?

While no place makes special provisions for single parents some, like Georgia, do single out primary caregivers. These types of laws make the caregiving excuse available only to parents who are the main person providing child care.

This type of detail in the law really hones in on the needs of single and stay-at-home parents. Both types are more likely to lack someone to rely on for backup care.

What Happens If I Can’t Get Jury Duty Postponed?

Whether you forget to request the postponement, or even if it is denied, there are still options. Just remember that failing to show up is very risky.

When you get to the courthouse for jury duty, there is a long process between walking through the door and actually getting on the jury. Each point in the process is another chance to be released from service.

Remember, going in for a jury duty summons is very different from actually serving on a multi-day jury trial. Here is what you can expect and the different points at which you may be able to end your service:

Going in for Jury Duty

Expect many steps between arriving at the courthouse and actually being seated on the jury. First, courts call more jurors than the need to ensure that they have enough jurors to conduct their trials. Some cases even settle the day the prospective jurors show up, meaning that many people will not be needed.

Many states do not count your time up to this point as jury service. You could receive another summons within 12 months.

If you are not among the lucky few who are immediately sent home, all hope is not lost. Expect several rounds of questions to weed out potential jurors.

These initial rounds will likely be done on paper. They often eliminate people with close professional or personal experience to the trial topic.

Telling the Judge about Your Childcare Problem

Several rounds of questions may occur before you have the chance to express your concerns about being a juror. Before finalizing the jury, the judge will inquire whether prospective jurors have any special scheduling concerns. Some bring up upcoming doctor appointments or big work events.

Single moms should absolutely bring up the caregiving concerns. If you normally use a babysitter or family for care during the day, explain why this is not possible if you are on a jury.

If you are the main caregiver during the day, make sure that you make it clear to the court. The court does not need a lengthy explanation, just a quick run-down of the challenges. Those who are uncomfortable speaking in front of a crowd should practice what they want to say the night before.

It may feel uncomfortable to air your business in public, especially if you have to reveal that a babysitter makes a financial hardship. Know that many others share concerns about the financial consequences of jury duty.

Many people bring up leaving their own sole proprietorship business or not getting full wages from their employer. Even if others are not saying it, they are most certainly thinking about it.

Most of all, the court will not be able to consider your request if it does not know about it. As judges trend younger and more diverse, many more understand how challenging it is to balance work and family.

Can I Get Paid for Jury Duty?

The finances of jury duty present a particular problem for single parents, especially those doing shift work. Hiring childcare for one day of jury duty, let alone for a week, can be a real financial crisis.

Unfortunately, federal and state laws do little to fix this and protect parents and jurors in general. Jurors will be paid $50 per day for federal jury duty.  Of course, some employers do pay employees as usual even if they are away for jury duty.

Only eight states require that an employer continue to pay an employee on jury duty. They are Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee.

Unfortunately, even those states do not require full pay. For example, Colorado only requires that employers pay jurors up to $50 per day and only for the first three days.

Can a Single Mom Get Out of Jury Duty?

The court cannot make jury duty excuses based on sex. In reality, of course, single moms are the ones most likely to meet the caregiving exceptions.

In the states with breastfeeding exceptions, single mothers should absolutely request a postponement based on breastfeeding. Even if the state does not have a specific policy on this, it will not hurt to bring it up.

In reality, scheduling a trial around a pumping schedule is not a task that any courtroom wants to deal with.

Otherwise, single mothers should be sure to request the postponement based on their caregiving requirements or financial constraints. The jury duty may not be postponed prior to the date of service. Be ready to speak about these issues if you advance in the selection process.

Final Thoughts

Jury duty can put single parents in a real bind and disrupt a tenuous family schedule. Fortunately, many jurisdictions recognize the possibility of juggling tight finances, child care, and jury duty.

Do not ignore a jury summons, but do immediately request a postponement. If that request is denied, or you do not receive an answer in time, plan to show up at court.

Hopefully, even if you do have to go to court for one day, you can be released from further service. To have this happen, be prepared to explain your needs to the court.

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