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COVID-19 Family Law and Custody Questions

Family Attorney Sarinia Feinman at a desk. Attorneys are still working with clients remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions. | Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman LLC

At Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman, we know that these are uncertain and unprecedented times in the world. With children at home, custody exchanges, uncertainty over income, and trying to work from home and manage your household, as well as your ex-partner, this can all be overwhelming. We are here for you if you need our guidance or support during these difficult times.

If you have a specific question about a particular county, please refer to the following website for up to the minute COVID-19 resources and information, as it pertains to all counties – https://www.montgomerybar.org/about/covid-19-resources.php. As Vice President of the Montgomery Bar Association, Attorney Sarinia Feinman is at the forefront of information coming out of Montgomery County, which has been at the hub during COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.

Although the courts are generally closed, we are able to file petitions to modify support in order to preserve retroactivity. These cases will not be scheduled until the courts reopen, but this way the retroactivity will be preserved back to the date of filing, once we can get back into court. If you have lost your job due to COVID-19 or your income has been decreased, please give us a call, so that we can get the necessary paperwork prepared and filed with Domestic Relations, so as to preserve retroactivity for you.

At present, the Courts are strictly scheduling, and handling Protection from Abuse and emergency custody matters during COVID-19. If you are not sure if your matter rises to the level of an emergency, feel free to call or email us for guidance on how to proceed.

When it comes to custody exchanges during COVID-19, the general directive from all of the local courts is to continue to do them as required in your Custody Order. Although Governor Wolf issued a “Stay at Home” Order, additional guidelines were issued by the Governor providing that allowable activities and essential travel shall include “travel to care for … minors, dependents … ”; and “travel required by law enforcement or court order.” In addition, the Governor’s Office of General Counsel has confirmed to the President Judges of Pennsylvania’s Judicial Districts that the Governor’s Order does not prohibit necessary travel to effectuate existing custody orders. Accordingly, it is the policy of the local Family Courts that existing custody orders which provide for custodial exchanges of children are to be complied with, absent true exigent or emergency circumstances. If the exchange is to occur in a public place that may create an elevated risk, the parties should consider exchanging at their respective residences (curbside, if necessary) or such other location as they may agree. If a party believes emergency circumstances exist which would justify temporary suspension of custodial exchanges, the party must prepare an Emergency Petition for Temporary Modification of the custody order. Nobody should be unilaterally withholding custody during this time.

If you have any questions or need further guidance during this time, please feel free to reach out to your attorney or any of the family law attorneys at Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman, as we are all working remotely and have access to all information electronically. We are here for you should you need us.