Coronavirus Pandemic Legal Services, Information, and Resources

Updated on 1/28/2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Links for Southeastern PA and NJ Residents

We are continuing to follow state guidelines as we navigate the safe opening of our offices to the public.

For those clients who require in person meetings, accommodations will be made.

As we have since early March, our firm will continue to service our clients with our same standard of excellence and we look forward to our full reopening at the earliest possible date.

Wishing you all good health,

High Swartz Attorneys and Staff



Information for Small Businesses and Employers from High Swartz Attorneys

Business Owners in PA – Your Reopening Questions Answered by James B. Shrimp and Thomas D. Rees

Business Interruption Insurance in PA – Are You Really Covered During the Pandemic? by Joel D. Rosen

A Small Business Game Plan to Follow During the Coronavirus Outbreak by Don Petrille

Does Workers’ Comp Cover Coronavirus? by Thomas E. Panzer

How the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Will Affect Local Business by James B. Shrimp

Employers: Does a Force Majeure Clause in Your Contract Cover You During the Coronavirus Pandemic? by Thomas D. Rees

Can I Collect Unemployment Compensation During the Coronavirus Pandemic? by James B. Shrimp


Important Sites for Small Businesses During the Pandemic

Frequently Asked Questions about The Paycheck Protection Program from the Small Business Administration

The mission of The Smalll Business Administration (SBA), while consulting with the Department of the Treasury is to provide up-to-date guidance to address borrower and lender questions involving the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which was established by section 1102 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

“Borrowers and lenders may rely on the guidance provided in this document as SBA’s interpretation of the CARES Act and of the Paycheck Protection Program Interim Final Rules (“PPP Interim Final Rules”) Currently, the government will not challenge lender PPP actions that conform to this guidance, and the PPP Interim Final Rules and any subsequent rulemaking in effect at the time.”

High Swartz intends to update this information as it becomes available to us.

Coronavirus Tax Relief and Economic Impact Payments: Tax help for taxpayers, businesses, tax-exempt organizations and others – including health plans – affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)

Commonwealth Financing Authority 

Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority


Family Law Insights

Which Parent Gets the $500 Child Stimulus Payment and How Does It Impact Support? by Elizabeth C. Early

PA Support Modifications in the Time of COVID-19 by Chelsey A. Christiansen


Commercial, industrial, or residential property owners in Pennsylvania

Delco: You Could Save Money by Appealing Your Property Assessment by Stephen M. Zaffuto

PA Commercial Property Owners: Should You Consider Appealing Your Property Tax Assessments During the Coronavirus Pandemic? by William F. Kerr, Jr.


Estate Planning During the Pandemic

College-Bound Kids? Why a Power of Attorney is More Important Than Ever

Is it worth getting Short-Term Limited Duration Health Insurance during the Pandemic? by Mary Cushing Doherty

Do I Need to Pay Philadelphia City Wage Tax During the Pandemic? by Kathleen M. Thomas

Update on 3/20/20 at 3:30pm EST


Dear clients, business partners and friends,

On Thursday, March 19, Governor Wolf ceased operations of all non life-sustaining businesses in the Commonwealth.

Although High Swartz physical offices are temporarily closed, our attorneys and staff are working remotely and available to assist you.

Attorneys are also able to receive any deliveries from you. Because of physical office closures, FedEx and UPS shipments need to be delivered to a temporary address specific to your attorney.

If you have a delivery already in transit, please forward your tracking number to your attorney, and we can then reroute it.

Your delivery is important to us, and we ask that you please contact your attorney directly for their temporary address.
________________

Update on 3/18/20 at 5:00pm EST

High Swartz continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation. Below is an update of the firm’s plans and preparedness.

On the advice of Governor Wolf, we have decided to operate both our Norristown and Doylestown offices remotely, effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

All attorneys and staff will continue to work and are available to address your legal needs. Our switchboard remains open during normal business hours, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, to answer your calls and be sure they are routed to the requested party. Email addresses for our attorneys are available here.

Information regarding the re-opening of our physical offices will be relayed as soon as possible.

In the meantime, you may continue to reach your attorney and other employees of High Swartz in the ordinary course.

If you need general assistance, please contact our offices at the phone numbers below or contact info@highswartz.com

The firm wishes you continued good health and safety during these difficult times.

Norristown Office
610.275.0700
40 East Airy Street
Norristown, PA 19401  

Doylestown Office
215.345.8888
116 East Court Street
Doylestown PA, 18901

What Can Landlords Collect During the Eviction Moratorium, and What Can They Obtain After it Expires?

Landlords are eager to collect unpaid rent and repossess their property, but with the CDC’s eviction moratorium in place, what can landlords collect, and when?

In May, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf entered an executive order preventing owners of residential properties from evicting their tenants for the tenants’ failure to timely pay their rent. Though renters were never permitted to permanently withhold rent payments, the executive order also permitted renters to delay making month-to-month payments while they navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Wolf extended the provisions originally set forth in the executive order through July 10, and again through August 31.

However, landlords in Pennsylvania could not resume eviction efforts even after Governor Wolf’s executive order expired on August 31. On September 4, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) entered its own order under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act which placed a nationwide eviction moratorium on residential tenants effective when tenants submit to their landlords a document known as a “CDC Declaration.” The CDC’s order, which aims to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, will not expire until December 31, 2020.

With the prohibition on evictions lasting throughout the calendar year, landlords are undoubtedly anxious to reclaim possession of their rental properties. And though previously unable to collect owed money due to the Pennsylvania moratorium eviction, many landlords are eager to reclaim unpaid rent needed to pay the mortgages, taxes, and utilities on those rental properties.

So what is a landlord entitled to recover once the eviction moratorium expires?

Landlords can actually seek out monetary judgments at this time—the CDC’s order prohibits landlords from evicting tenants throughout December 31. Both Governor Wolf’s executive Order and the CDC’s order do not eliminate the tenant’s obligation to pay rent (though the Pennsylvania moratorium eviction permitted tenants to delay payments). That said, landlords can collect any monthly payments the tenant agreed to make in the lease, including all back rents and (if applicable) utilities. The CDC eviction moratorium merely prohibits landlords from repossessing their property.

What happens if the tenant cannot pay rent after the eviction moratorium expires?

If the tenant cannot pay his rent, but is still bound to several months’ of rent payments, a prudent landlord should inquire what payment the tenant can make. Landlords and tenants are always free to renegotiate the terms of the lease. Agreements to stagger payments of outstanding debts, such as a structured payment plan, can be viable alternatives to litigation. If litigation ensues, it’s best to talk with a real estate lawyer for advice. And, in some cases, agreeing to release a tenant from part or all his lease obligations can be mutually beneficial: the tenant avoids increasing debt from unpaid rent, and the landlord can re-let his property to paying tenants.

What happens if a landlord and a tenant cannot agree on renegotiation of payment?

Under these circumstances, landlords should begin eviction proceedings and would be wise to see the assistance of a real estate attorney.

Not all situations, however, can be resolved. Again, many landlords have gone several months without receiving rent income, and may have no choice but to move on from tenants incapable of meeting their lease commitments. Under these circumstances, landlords should begin eviction proceedings and would be wise to see the assistance of a landlord-tenant attorney. Again, landlords should be mindful that they cannot evict tenants throughout December 31 if the tenant has submitted a CDC Declaration.

What is needed to start the process of tenant eviction?

The first step in an eviction proceeding is the issuance of a “Notice to Quit” letter. The Notice to Quit acts as a formal notification from the landlord to the tenant indicating the landlord’s intent to remove the tenant from the property.

How many days in advance must a Notice to Quit letter be given before eviction?

If the eviction is based on the tenant’s non-payment of rent, the Notice to Quit letter must give the tenant 10 days notice of the eviction. However, a tenant can waive his right to be served with a Notice to Quit, and such a waiver is often contained within the lease.

Can a landlord change the locks or otherwise engage in “self-help” on a tenant who hasn’t paid rent?

Landlords should also know that they cannot engage in self-help to carry out an eviction. This has been the law before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and will continue whether or not the eviction moratorium extends throughout 2021. In other words, in the absence of a court order, landlords cannot change the locks on their property to coerce delinquent tenants to leave, nor can they hire a locksmith to do so. Rather, if the tenant remains in possession of the property after the period detailed in the Notice to Quit, a landlord must obtain an eviction judgment from the relevant court.

How does a landlord get an eviction judgement in Pennsylvania?

Typically, to get that eviction judgment in Pennsylvania, the landlord must file a Complaint with the Magisterial District Court that lies in the same jurisdiction where the rental property is located. That Complaint should request that the Magisterial District Court Judge enter an order for possession in the landlord’s favor as well as a monetary judgment against the tenant for all back rent and court costs. In addition to possession and back rent, the landlord can also request judgment for any new rent that will become due at the time of the hearing, and if the lease permits it, unpaid utilities and attorneys’ fees.

The Court will then schedule a hearing at some later date, at which time the landlord (or the landlord’s attorney) will argue before a Magisterial District Court Judge as to why he is entitled to the relief demanded in the Complaint.

However, the Magisterial District Court will only hear a case when a landlord demands less than $12,000.00 in damages. In light of the protracted eviction moratorium—which will have lasted over eight months by the time the CDC’s order expires on December 31—it is not uncommon for a landlord to claim substantially more than $12,000.00 in back rent, attorneys’ fees, outstanding utility payments, and other potential damages. In this case, the landlord cannot file a Complaint with the Magisterial District Court and instead must look to the local Court of Common Pleas for relief. Cases heard before the Court of Common Pleas can take several months to litigate—much longer than those matters heard in the Magisterial District Court level. That said, a landlord owed a significant balance but more interested in obtaining possession may take advantage of the expedited litigation provided by the Magisterial District Court and agree to cap monetary damages at $12,000.00.

Can a tenant appeal an eviction?

Even if a judge grants an order for possession and other relief in the landlord’s favor, the landlord must wait 10 days before he can file the order for possession. During this 10 day period, the tenant can appeal the judge’s decision. If 10 days pass with no appeal, the landlord can then file and serve the order for possession, but a sheriff or constable will not initiate the eviction until another 10 days after service of the order for possession has passed. During this period, which can last several weeks, if the tenant can come up with enough money to satisfy the monetary judgment and the landlord’s costs in obtaining the order for possession before the constable or sheriff can initiate the eviction, then the tenant may continue to posses the property. (This benefit to the tenant, known as the right to “pay and stay,” is available only when the tenant faces eviction for non-payment of rent.)

Can a landlord evict a tenant for other reasons during the pandemic?

The above information outlines the landlord’s options due to a tenant’s non-payment of rent. The CDC’s order does not prevent landlords from commencing eviction proceedings for other reasons, such as when a tenant engages in criminal activity, destroys property, or otherwise violates provisions in the lease or building code. Under these circumstances, there may be different notice requirements that the landlord must adhere to prior to evicting, and the timeframes set forth in a Notice to Quit are different than in a non-payment of rent matter.

What, exactly, a landlord may recover depends on what he and the tenant agreed to in the lease. An aggrieved landlord should contact a landlord-tenant attorney to review the lease and get a better understanding of what he is entitled to after the eviction moratorium ends.

COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Links for Southeastern PA and NJ Residents

Listed are web links to Southeastern PA and New Jersey Covid-19 vaccine pre-registration and registration for local residents.

Please note we are not affiliated with Vaccine Distribution. We have only provided web links to take you to the Covid-19 Vaccine pre-registration or registration forms for Southeastern PA and New Jersey.

Currently, we are in Phase 1A Distribution which includes:

Residents that are 65 or older, or meet one of the following conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines.
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus 

Montgomery County Residents

For Montgomery County residents, sign ups are available for Phase 1A – anyone 65 years or older or meeting a qualifying condition.  https://veoci.com/veoci/p/form/n8e5ry45jw8y#tab=entryForm

Bucks County Residents

For Bucks County residents, sign ups are available for Phase 1A – anyone 65 years or older or meeting a qualifying condition. Phase 1B and 1C pre-registration is also available but for essential workers only. 

https://buckscovid.powerappsportals.us/Vaccine-Registration/Phase-1A-medical/

Delaware County Residents

The link below is Delco’s pre-registration. If you live (or work) in Delco and want to get the vaccine, fill out this form and you will receive regular updates on distribution timing. https://chesco.seamlessdocs.com/f/delcovac

Chester County Residents

The link below is Chester’s pre-registration. If you live (or work) in Chester County and want to get the vaccine, fill out this form and you will receive regular updates on distribution timing. https://chesco.seamlessdocs.com/f/chescovac

Philadelphia Residents

The link below is Philly’s official Covid-19 Vaccine website. If you live in Philadelphia and want to get the vaccine, fill out this form and you will be contacted later by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health or one of the city’s vaccine partners when it is your turn to receive it. https://covid-vaccine-interest.phila.gov/

New Jersey Residents

Registration is now open. https://covidvaccine.nj.gov/

Thank you and please stay safe.

How to Access the Digital Assets, logins, and passwords of Someone who Has Died

Accessing the digital assets of a loved one after they have passed can be difficult. Below are some tips to make it easier for everyone.

In the age of Covid-19, most of us do everything electronically. Banking, communicating, paying bills, shopping, storing important papers, photos and contacts, filing taxes, keeping a calendar and reminders, sports betting, dating….the list goes on. But where does all of that electronic content go and who can access it for me? What happens if I go on an “extended vacation” – physically, mentally or permanently? Well, things can get messy if you’re not prepared.

I used to tell my partner (half-jokingly) if anything happened to me, to keep my thumb so he could open my phone and computer, to gain access to my accounts/passwords (digital assets) with my fingerprint. Unfortunately, that plan won’t work with the upgrade to facial recognition security, unless he wants to face some tough questioning by the police. And not to mention, the Criminal Fraudulent Access Act prohibits the impersonation of a decedent. So what is he supposed to do when clues of assets and liabilities no longer come through the mail and there is no way to do a global search of assets?

In comes the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), effective January 19, 2021, with a default rule, to help address the frequent challenges fiduciaries (trustees) encounter in accessing the digital assets of a Ward or Decedent.

What is a digital asset?

A digital asset is defined as an electronic record which an individual has a right to or interest in, but not the underlying asset itself (unless we are talking about Bitcoin and the like). For instance, my online bank statement is a digital asset, but the money in the account is not.

The default rule under RUFUDAA, provides methods for a fiduciary to access a catalogue of electronic communications and other types of digital assets, but not the content.

What is a catalogue of electronic communication?

A catalogue of electronic communication “identifies” the person communicating and the electronic address, along with the date and time of the communication. The substance of the communication is not accessible under RUFUDAA.

How can you access a catalogue of electronic communication of a decedent?

In order for a fiduciary to access to the content of electronic communications (documents, photos, emails, basically any information concerning the meaning of the communication stored electronically), the user must specifically do so by an online tool (facebook and Google have these tools) or in an estate planning document.

What if the online tool and estate documents don’t match?

If the online designations conflict with the estate planning documents, the online designation controls. More importantly, the Custodian’s Terms of Service will control what the fiduciary may or may not do with your digital assets.

Tips for legacy planning of your online accounts

Google.

For accounts that have legacy planning, like Google and Facebook, designate a person who can access your data. You can customize the information you want to share, with up to 10 people, if your account is inactive for a designated period of time (3-18 months).

Facebook.

Under memorialization settlings, you can designate a legacy contact who can manage your account after you pass away.

Financial Powers of Attorney.

Have your Financial Powers of Attorney updated to provide your Agent with authority to specifically access digital asset content.

Wills and/or Trusts.

Update these documents to provide your fiduciary with authority to specifically access digital asset content.

  • If you find yourself in Orphans’ Court on a guardianship matter, make sure to include language requesting Custodians of digital assets to disclose a catalogue of electronic communications and digital content to the Guardian of the Estate of the Incapacitated Person, in the proposed Order.

Write it down.

I give all of my estate planning clients the same homework assignment- which always starts off with “Make a binder with the below outline in mind. Identify automatic debits and payments and keep an inventory of digital and cybersecurity assets. Keep a hard copy and a digital copy, and give your estate planning attorney a copy to secure in the law firm’s vault.

The binder should include:

  • A list of logins and passwords for each of your devices (phone, tablet, watch etc.)
  • A list of all online accounts with user names and passwords
    Banks (brick & mortar and online banks)
  • Social media
    • Facebook
    • Pinterest
    • LinkedIn
    • Twitter
    • Snapchat
    • TikTok
  • Email addresses
  • Online shopping sites
  • Online Bill Pay
    • Utilities
    • Phone
    • Internet
  • Payment Services
    • Paypal
    • Venmo
    • Google Pay
    • Stripe
    • Square

Traveling Abroad with Children When You Share Custody

Traveling abroad with children for parents who are separated can present several unique challenges.

Air travel with your children is a special event for a family. But it can be difficult to get on the same with parents of shared custody. Reviewing your options with a child custody lawyer may be your best bet before making any big decision.

Review your current custody order

Often the custody order will spell out what steps need to be taken to gain consent from the other parent, e.g. providing thirty days written notice, a complete itinerary, etc. It is critical that you adhere to your custody order. Failing to do so can result in the other parent asking a court to find you in contempt.

Without a custody order, or if your order is silent on the question of travel, you should get consent from the other party and/or court approval. It’s highly recommended that you speak to an experienced family law attorney about this.

What written documents are required?

Assuming that the other parent approves with your traveling with the children, the next question is what written documentation is required? While there is currently no legal authority in the United States requiring a parent to get a signed consent form from the other parent in order to travel outside of the United States with the children, a parent can still be stopped either by Customs and Border Patrol in the United States or by Customs in the visiting county.

Best practices dictate that you get the other parent to sign and notarize a consent form to take to the airport with you. The Information Center page for the United States Customs and Border Protection provides helpful guidance on this question, specifically, what types of information should be included in the letter, for instance:

  1. The names of the (child) or children on the trip and their primary address, phone number, date and place of birth, and name of at least one parent or legal guardian for each child.
  2. The name of the group and supervising adult(s) such as: School groups, teen tours, vacation groups.
  3. A written and signed statement of the supervising adult certifying that he or she has parental or legal guardian consent for each child. CBP also suggest that this note be notarized, to easily verify the validity of the parental authorization.
  4. For frequent border crossers, the letter should not exceed one year. It is recommended to have the letter in English.

Be Prepared

Once you go through the process of preparing a letter and having the other parent sign and notarize it, Customs and Border Protection may not ask for it when you travel. Remember, if you do not have clear authorization from the other parent and Customs and Border Protection does ask for it, you and your child[ren) could be detained while Customs and Border Protection sorts out whether consent to travel was given by the other parent.

While the United States Customs and Border Protection doesn’t require this authorization the Customs equivalent for the nation you are visiting may. Our strong recommendation as family law attorneys is to prepare a letter. A sample can be found here. Again, the letter should be notarized so the Customs Officer can quickly ascertain that the other parent has given his or her consent.

Why would Customs and/or Border Protection want to see travel authorization from the other parent?

The rationale for requesting confirmation that the other parent has consented to the travel is to reduce the potential for abduction claims. Taking the steps to ensure that you have written consent from the other parent will allow you the peace of mind so you face no potential issues with Customs either in this country, or in the county you are visiting.

Having a notarized letter from the other parent and being prepared for anything when traveling abroad, especially is smart. Stay up to date by visiting the websites we’ve included above, and make sure to keep your child’s parent informed any travel outside of Pennsylvania, especially abroad. Consult with a child custody lawyer if you have any more questions. It’s more important to make sure you are informed than to assume.

Denied Social Security Disability Benefits? Here are your options.

Being denied disability benefits is frustrating, especially during the pandemic. Where to start? How long will it take? You have 3 options moving forward.

If you are denied social security disability benefits, it’s important to understand it might not be your fault. At this point it may be beneficial to enlist the help of a social security disability lawyer to help you navigate your next step. As stated, you have 3 options moving forward. They are:

  1. Appeal the disability determination
  2. Reapply for benefits
  3. Do nothing

Preserving your rights to benefits.

If you choose to reapply for SSDI benefits or let the determination stand, it’s important to understand that you will not be entitled to seek disability benefits for any period of time prior to the date of the disability determination. The only way to preserve your right to receive disability benefits for the period of time before the initial date of denial is to file an appeal.

The importance of preserving your right to the benefits before the denial is two-fold:

  1. you may lose retroactive disability payments. For example, you stopped working on January 1, 2019, due to your disability. You waited until you had been out of work for 12-months and then applied for benefits on January 1, 2020, and you were denied on June 1, 2020. If you had been awarded benefits you would have been entitled to monthly benefit payments starting on June 1, 2019. If you do not appeal the denial, you can never obtain that year of retroactive benefits.
  2. if you do not appeal the denial, you will lose the year of time that passed that would have counted toward your entitlement to Medicare benefits.

How does the appeals process work?

After you receive your initial denial, you have 60 days to file a Request for Reconsideration. The Reconsideration involves having another medical examiner with Social Security review your file. During the reconsideration phase, if you have additional medical records to submit, they will be accepted.

Social Security may also obtain additional records on your behalf if you’ve undergone additional treatment since the last time records were received by Social Security.

What are your chances of getting approved?

Unless you’ve undergone significant treatment, like a surgery, a hospitalization, significant changes in your medication or treatment regimen, etc. you will likely be denied for second time at the Reconsideration level.

Do I need an SSDI Attorney to file a request for Reconsideration?

You do not need an attorney to file a Request for Reconsideration, however due to the likelihood of a second denial, you may want to consider engaging an attorney at this point. The next step if you are denied is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. It is advisable to have an attorney present when you request the hearing. It is not required, however if you come to a hearing without an attorney, the Judge will likely suggest you obtain an attorney prior to proceeding.

How long will it take to get a hearing?

Prior to the pandemic, a request for a hearing was taking approximately 12 to 16 months to get a date. Since in-person hearings andhave not been held since March of 2020, that time frame may lengthen.

I am scheduled for a telephone hearing on my SSDI appeal. How does that process work?

In order to move forward with hearings before Administrative Law Judges during the pandemic, hearing offices have been scheduling telephone hearings. On the day of the hearing, the court reporter assigned to the case will call you, your attorney, the judge and possibly a vocational expert and join you in a conference call. Each party must be in a separate location therefore your attorney will not be with you other than by phone during the hearing. There will be no video, so the judge will not see you when making determinations about your credibility and you will not see the judge.

I really don’t want a telephone or video conference hearing. Do I have options?

Under the law, you are entitled to a face-to-face hearing and you may object to participating in a telephone or video hearing.

What are the pros and cons of an in-person hearing?

There are pros to an in-person hearing especially if you have a visible physical manifestation of your disabling condition. For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis with severe joint swelling in your hands that has not been sufficiently documented by your treatment providers, having the judge see the swelling and how it limits the use of your hands and causes you pain is more compelling than you verbally describing it over the phone. Other examples of visual evidence of the severity of a condition may include tremors, gait abnormalities, dramatic weight loss or gain, etc.

The con of not accepting the telephone hearing is that it will prolong getting a hearing and decision on your claim. An SSDI attorney would discuss the pros and cons in your specific case and assist you in making the best decision about how your hearing should be held.

Navigating a claim through the SSDI process can be daunting especially if you are dealing with physical or psychological impairments and a loss of income. There are attorneys and non-attorney advocates that can assist you in presenting the best initial case possible to Social Security through your application and support you if you are denied benefits and want to appeal the determination.

The questions addressed here are only a very small portion of those that will likely arise during this process. Obtaining an experienced and compassionate attorney that also has a strong medical background will be able to answer these questions for you and provide the assistance you need moving through the process.

Shared Custody and School Decisions During the Pandemic

Virtual? In-person? Hybrid? What happens when parents cannot agree?

As the country continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, parents with shared custody are faced with difficult choices regarding how their children should attend school. Below is some insight and answers as to how best to deal with the decision.

Does my custody stipulation or custody order control who gets to make the decision?

Legal custody is defined in some states as “the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.” While not specifically defined, in the wake of the global pandemic, parents, attorneys and judges alike seem to acknowledge that the decision regarding a child’s means of school attendance, ie. in-person or remote, during a global pandemic constitutes a “major” decision. Thus, when turning to your custody stipulation/order for guidance regarding this situation, it is the legal custody provision you want to review.

For a parent who has been awarded sole legal custody, which is rare, the decision regarding means of attendance may be made by the sole legal custodian. For parents who have been awarded shared legal custody, the decision should be made jointly, as each parent is entitled to participate in the decision-making.

What if the parents cannot agree?

As with other custody disputes, if the parties are unable to agree regarding the child(ren)’s means of school attendance, the matter can be submitted to the Court and the Court will decide. Parties who are unable to agree should seek judicial intervention as soon as possible to achieve a judicial determination prior to school deadlines and to avoid significant disruption to the children’s education.

As with any other custody determination, the Court will decide whether remote or in-person school attendance serves the best interests of the children.

Keep in mind that an issue of means of school attendance is a legal custody issue, which does not change a physical custody schedule. Therefore a Court will not order modification of the physical custody schedule simply to address the issue of the child’s means of school attendance.

If you believe certain adjustments must be made to your shared custody schedule to facilitate the child’s means of school attendance and you seek to modify your physical custody schedule, you will need to file a petition for modification for the court to consider a request for changes to the current physical custody schedule. Contact a family law attorney today to discuss your options.

High Swartz Merges with the Law Offices of Glen-David Schwarzschild, LLC of New Jersey

We are pleased to announce the firm’s merger with the Law Offices of Glen-David Schwarzschild, LLC. Glen is a skilled Real Estate attorney and will continue to practice out of the new High Swartz office in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Mr. Schwarzschild has an active general commercial law practice, consisting of both transactional and commercial litigation matters. His practice concentrates in the areas of real estate tax appeals, real estate, land use, small business representation, commercial litigation, commercial transactions, and related matters.

Practicing law since 1985, Glen brings to High Swartz an established real estate tax appeal practice both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He has successfully represented local, regional and national corporate property owners and national property tax consulting firms, including Fortune 500 companies, national real estate investment trusts, and regional and national property management companies.

“High Swartz reputation in the legal community and its ability to provide me with resources and support will allow me to grow my law practice, and maintain and develop relationships with my current and prospective clients.”, says Mr. Schwarzschild.

Glen earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting with a minor in Business Administration from the University of Delaware in 1979. He obtained his Juris Doctor from Rutgers-Camden School of Law in 1985. He is admitted to practice in federal and state court in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania, and before the United States Supreme Court. Outside of the office, Mr. Schwarzschild looks forward to mentoring business students at the University of Delaware in the Fall semester.

The merger of Mr. Schwarzschild’s practice allows High Swartz to establish a presence in the state of New Jersey. While a number of attorneys at High Swartz are licensed to practice in the state, this will be its first office outside of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth C. Early Elected Partner at High Swartz

The family law attorney and parenting coordinator has also been elected treasurer of the Montgomery County Bar Association Family Law Section for 2021.

Elizabeth C. Early joined High Swartz in 2015 and focuses her practice primarily on divorce, custody, support, equitable distribution, pre and post-nuptial agreements and abuse matters.

Liz became a Montgomery County parenting coordinator in 2019. Parenting coordination in Pennsylvania is a tool available to parties in contentious custody cases that aims to help the parties resolve minor disputes in custody without repeated visits to the Court. In 2019, Liz along with 5 others were appointed to the Subcommittee on Support which serves and reports directly to the Montgomery County Family Justice Advisory Board. The Board makes recommendations to the Court, public policy boards, and agencies that affect family law in Montgomery County.

Ms. Early is an active member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Montgomery County Bar Association and a frequent speaker and writer on family law issues at the local and state levels.

Liz has been listed as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer “Rising Star” as well as Best Lawyer in America© for Family Law. Locally she has been recognized as a “Top Attorney” by both Montco Happening Magazine and Bucks Happening Magazine.