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Divorce, Custody and Coronavirus: A Q&A with Melinda Previtera

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put us all in uncertain times. But if you’re divorced or want to divorce, emotions can run even higher. Many people have reached out to us with important questions about divorce, separation, custody, support, and more. Below, firm partner Melinda Previtera answers some of the most pressing questions that have arisen during stay-at-home and shelter-in-place mandates.

Coronavirus and Family Law Questions, Answered.

Petrelli Previtera is still actively representing current and new clients during the coronavirus quarantine. We are staying up to date on all directives, closures, and qualifications for emergency filings. Naturally, our firm has been addressing more questions and concerns during these unprecedented, uncertain times. Partner Melinda Previtera is answering some of the most pressing questions on the Petrelli Previtera YouTube channel.

In Melinda’s videos, she addresses:

  • Receiving support in Pennsylvania and New Jersey during coronavirus pandemic.
  • Getting legal advice and attorney support while socially distancing.
  • Divorcing while living together during the coronavirus quarantine.
  • How to “separate” during a shelter-in-place order in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
  • What to do if you think you should violate your custody order because the other parent has coronavirus or is showing symptoms.
  • Co-parenting when one parent does not follow the custody order during the quarantine.
  • Shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders and their effect on family law proceedings.
  • Enforcing support and child custody orders in Pennsylvania during a stay-at-home order.

Feel free to contact Petrelli Previtera at (215) 399-2355 with any questions or concerns. We are still actively working to move our clients’ cases forward, so do not hesitate to reach out.

If you are a current client of ours and have questions or concerns, we welcome you to contact us for help. Likewise, if you have decided to divorce or need help with a family related legal issue, we are here for you. Contact Petrelli Previtera at (215) 399-2355.

Is the court still enforcing alimony and child support orders? What if my job situation has changed during my state’s stay-at-home policy?

The courts have stated that support orders are still in effect and that they are still taking support funds from paychecks. If you are receiving support, the court will enforce that order.

If you pay support, you may be concerned if you have lost your income, have been laid off temporarily, or your income has decreased. In those situations, your attorney can file a court order modification. The best action you can take is to file the request now. Doing so will timestamp the date and will be retroactive to the date of filing. Contact us at (215) 399-2355 to discuss your situation and whether an order modification will help you.

How can my attorney help me now, while we are socially distancing?
Petrelli Previtera will continue to represent you and push your case forward. Even though we are home, rest assured that we are still working in your best interest. Our team is staying up to date with court directives, closures, and qualifications for emergency filings. We are here to answer all your legal questions and concerns.

Petrelli Previtera offers Zoom video meetings, teleconferences, and phone meetings. We have been using these technological methods long before the coronavirus quarantine, so we are well equipped to stay in touch digitally.

Some of the biggest concerns right now are emergency filings regarding custody, domestic violence, and divorce while living in the same household. We can still address these concerns and tackle serious legal issues under these circumstances.

I want a divorce, but I’m stuck in quarantine with my spouse. What do I do?
Separation is often the first step before divorce. But now that you are quarantined and cannot physically separate, marital problems may be exacerbated. You may have realized that divorce is inevitable.

The courts are not accepting divorce filings at this time. However, by law, separation can begin even if you’re under the same roof. You will need to document “separation” even while you are quarantined. For example, it’s very important to document the date of your decision to separate. You can send a text message or an email to get your intention in writing. A message like this will suffice: “I know we are in unique circumstances, but I want a divorce. Effective today, we are separated.” Timestamping that moment will save you time, money, and stress when you can file for divorce after quarantine.

If you have decided to separate and eventually divorce, we recommend that you try to physically separate from your spouse as much as possible. If you have kids, discuss “parallel parenting.” In other words, divide and conquer tasks like meals while maintaining physical distance. Doing so will help limit hostility and allow you to still effectively parent your kids.

At the same time, remain calm and be on your best behavior. Imagine that the court is watching you and reading all your messages. Meanwhile, call us for advice. Every action you take from now on could affect your case. We can advise you on how to put your best foot forward starting now.

Is custody transfer considered “essential travel” during a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order?
The courts have stated that childcare is still essential travel during the current quarantine. So, you should be complying with your custody order to the best of your ability. The only exception is if your ex is showing symptoms. If that is the case, you will need an order modification.

What happens if my ex is violating our custody order?
If your ex is violating an order, call us right away. Every situation is different. Normally, we do not recommend taking matters into your own hands. The best action may be to file an enforcement petition through the court. Your attorney can give you the best advice. We welcome you to contact us at (215) 399-2355 with questions.

What if I have a custody order, but my ex is showing symptoms of coronavirus? Do I still have to follow the court order?
The health and safety of your children is a priority. So, follow the custody order to the best of your ability unless there is a health or safety risk. If your ex is showing symptoms of coronavirus, stating that he or she is too ill, or indicating that there is a safety risk, you should not be following your order. However, a modification is necessary.

Reach out to us right away to file an emergency order modification. It’s very important to document all symptoms and any issues with making the custodial exchange. This can be through text message or email, but it’s important to have it in writing. Filing emergency orders is one of the few things courts are allowing at this time. If you need your order modified during this time, Petrelli Previtera can help. We are here to answer your questions and help you through any issues that may arise. Contact us at (215) 399-2355.

Client Testimonials

They are amazing! I highly recommend anyone that is in need of assistance with child support hearings to seek out the expertise and experience of this law firm and staff! They handled my case quickly and I feel that my money was put to good use. Much appreciated! Nothing less than five stars!

Alana Deverson

I just want to say GREAT JOB! She is a no nonsense professional with years of experience that qualifies her as a skilled Family Law attorney. She is seasoned, sensitive, and most of all she cares. She made things easy for me. Definitely recommend!

Kimberly Colby

Overall I was pleased with the results of my divorce case. The entire Petrelli Previtera team truly cares about their clients. Luckily for me, I was paired up with an amazing team helping all the way. If you happen to work with this firm and with the lawyers you’ll be in great hands. It was such an excellent service and it was beyond I expected.

A Family Law Client Chevy Chase , MD

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