Implications of Summer Travel and COVID-19 Vaccines on Families

Posted by on 06.02.2021 in Posts | Comments Off on Implications of Summer Travel and COVID-19 Vaccines on Families

Implications of Summer Travel and COVID-19 Vaccines on Families

By: Carolyn R. Mirabile

Now that you are vaccinated, is it safe to travel with your child? Many clients are planning a summer vacation this year with the anticipation of being fully vaccinated. The best advice a family lawyer can give is to begin discussions with the other parent as soon as possible. According to the CDC, 50.8% of the United States population is vaccinated with at least one dose as of June 2, 2021. However, there are still plenty of travel restrictions in place domestically and abroad.

What to consider if traveling?

If a parent is planning a vacation outside of the U.S, everyone involved should discuss the logistics of any required testing or quarantine before leaving. Travel within the U.S may be a bit easier as vaccination numbers increase, and cities begin to fully reopen. It is apparent that there are different rules regarding vaccinations, quarantine, wearing a mask, social distancing, and interacting with others across the country and abroad.

Questions both parents should be aware of include the following:

  • Who is going on the vaccination with the family? Are all eligible members of the vacation party vaccinated?
  • Will the children and other members of the vacation party be wearing a mask in public?
  • Where is the trip’s location and what are the COVID-19 restrictions there?
  • If you are traveling with other people who are not fully vaccinated, will they wear their masks around the children?
  • Do you need to show the other parent proof of vaccination?
  • Will the children quarantine upon their return and with whom?
  • What if the child or children has a health condition like asthma? What precautions will be taken to ensure the child is protected?

The best advice is to review all the information about where you are going and plan well in advance. Parents who are traveling must follow all safety requirements of the place they are traveling to and be prepared to be flexible in case there is a change in plans. Further, parents should be cautious when booking flights and verify the safety measurements the airline is taking to help prevent the contraction of COVID.

If you have questions about how summer travel factors into your custody agreement, reach out to our family law lawyers. We are happy to provide you with guidance during this challenging time.

Additional resources:

Divorcing the Microsoft Empire

Posted by on 05.04.2021 in Posts | Comments Off on Divorcing the Microsoft Empire

Divorcing the Microsoft Empire

Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage. What does this mean for Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

In March 2020 Bill Gates stepped down from his roles on the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire-Hathaway to spend more time with his family and focus on the Gates Foundation. The impending divorce may have an impact on several of Bill Gates’ investments and Foundation goals.

Both Bill and Melinda have committed to the Foundation, even after the divorce, stating they will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Foundation and continue to work together in their international goals to fight poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. You can read their full statement here. They have invested billions of dollars in education and global health, including resources to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the Foundation may be concerned regarding their future investments and commitment to continue to work together post-divorce. Melinda Gates also has her own foundation for which she may choose to invest in post-divorce.

Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, met Melinda while she worked at Microsoft. Bill Gates has committed to pledge most of the money he earned from Microsoft to charitable organizations. Investors are uncertain whether this commitment to charitable giving will continue or be affected by the divorce.

Although Bill and Melinda do not have a prenuptial agreement, they have signed a separation contract that outlines how their property will be divided if they separated. According to divorce filings, the parties have asked their real and personal property to be divided pursuant to the terms of their separation agreement. Melinda Gates did not request spousal support.

The divorce was filed in Seattle, Washington, which is a community property state. In a community property state, generally, items accumulated during the marriage are considered marital and will be divided equally. Community property includes income earned during the marriage, retirement assets, and interest on investments. Additionally, community property is any property purchased during the marriage or obtained with community funds. The parties may choose in an agreement to divide their property other than equally. The terms of the Gates separation agreement are not public.

Bill Gates’ fortune, which not only includes Microsoft but investments in the Four Seasons Hotel chain, AutoNation, and real estate, could be at risk because of the divorce. Currently, Bill Gates owns 1.3% of Microsoft which is worth more than $26 Billion. Microsoft went public in 1986 but Bill and Melinda did not marry until 1999. Microsoft shares owned prior to marriage are not considered marital in a community property state. Bill Gates is now estimated to be worth $146 Billion. Determining the marital estate will involve tracing efforts and calculation of the community property estate. Division of the Gates’ estate will be watched to see what impact it will have on the Foundation and gifting to charities that Bill and Melinda have committed to both individually and together.

It’s Tax Season

Posted by on 04.13.2021 in Posts | Comments Off on It’s Tax Season

It’s Tax Season

By: Carolyn R. Mirabile 

Tax season always brings up several questions for clients who are divorced, in the process of divorce, or separated. The two biggest concerns are typically determining which filing status is most applicable to your situation and whether or not you should claim your children on your taxes.

First, let’s take a look at your tax filing status. Many questions are probably going through your head at the moment. Do you file as married, separate, head of household, or a joint tax return? These are all great questions, and they are a clear indication that now, perhaps, more than ever, it’s critically important that you enlist the services of an accountant.

This year finding the right filing status for your family is even more important due to the 2020 stimulus checks, unemployment benefits that may have been received, and the increased child tax credit. Clients should also discuss with their accountant deductions that may not have been previously available. For instance, Pennsylvania may permit you to deduct expenses if you worked at home in 2020.

Now is the time to have these discussions with an accountant. Figuring out all of the details in advance of filing will prevent delays. The IRS has extended the date for filing 2020 taxes to May 17, but it is important to do so as soon as possible. The best advice a family law practitioner can give to a client is to speak with their accountant and run the calculations to figure out the best scenario for their family.

Want to learn more? Check out our podcast episode, Let’s Talk Family Law Taxes for an in-depth discussion with Donna Pironti, a forensic accountant specializing in matrimonial litigation support and tax consulting.

Let’s Talk Finding a Family Law Lawyer

Posted by on 02.24.2021 in Posts | Comments Off on Let’s Talk Finding a Family Law Lawyer

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Do you need an attorney for your family law case? How do you find the right attorney for you? When it comes to family law, it’s essential to have the right attorney by your side to help make informed decisions. In this podcast episode, Lawrence J. “Skip” Persick provides tips on how to find the right family law lawyer for you. Learn more by listening to this podcast on your favorite app by clicking the icon below, and share this episode with others who may be interested.

Three Words: Mediation, Arbitration, and Conciliation

Posted by on 02.08.2021 in Posts | Comments Off on Three Words: Mediation, Arbitration, and Conciliation

Three Words: Mediation, Arbitration, and Conciliation

By: Lawrence J. “Skip” Persick 

Mediation. Arbitration. Conciliation. Three words that sound alike and come up frequently in the family law context but have different meanings and implications. I could write a blog post on each one, but here is the “down and dirty” on what you need to know about each one so you can talk intelligently with either your spouse or a lawyer and do not get tripped up along the way.

Mediation is a process where two parties meet with a qualified and neutral third party and discuss their various issues to try to come to an agreement or a series of agreements on those issues. The third person is the mediator. The mantra of good mediators is “getting to yes.” The mediator’s job is to facilitate dialogue and achieve agreement.

In the family law context, mediation is usually parties alone, without lawyers, but any good mediator is going to suggest that each party retain his or her own lawyer because the mediator is not there to give legal advice or assess the pluses and minuses of a proposal. The mediator’s only job is to get the parties to agree.

I have several clients going through some form of mediation and they generally check in with me either before or after each mediation session to discuss either the issues to be addressed in the session or the proposal for a resolution that has come out of the last session. Also, mandatory mediation is of growing popularity among the county courts around Pennsylvania for child custody cases.

For mediation to work, the parties need to feel that they are dealing with each other on equal footing and one party is not using the mediator to “double team” the other party. Another aspect of the parties being on equal footing is full and fair disclosure on the part of the two parties. This is where the skill and experience of the mediator come into play. A good mediator will set the ground rules and expectations of the parties in the first session then build from there.

Mediation is a form of a concept with growing popularity in the legal system called alternate dispute resolution or ADR. A second form of ADR is arbitration. Arbitration is different from mediation in that there are no discussions about working out the parties’ differences. There is a neutral party who listens to the two parties and then makes a decision to which the parties have contractually agreed to be bound. In essence, arbitration is a private court system.

Crowded court dockets and backlogs in recent years have fueled an increase in arbitration as an alternative to the court system. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the court system have increased even further the interest in arbitration. The benefits of the arbitration process are efficiency and a relatively quick resolution of the dispute, at least as compared to the court system. The downside is twofold. First, there is the issue of cost. The two parties are paying the arbitrator hourly. Second, if one party is not happy with the result in the arbitration, there are only limited rights to appeal. Those appeal rights are limited to some fault in the arbitration process and generally do not go to the result, hence the term “binding arbitration.”

Arbitration lends itself to economic family law issues like child support and equitable distribution. Traditionally, child custody has not been an area where arbitration has been used; however, some recent changes in attitudes inside the court system and a proposed piece of Pennsylvania legislation may change the process.

The third of our “-ation” words is conciliation. Conciliation is a part of the child custody procedure in most Pennsylvania counties. When filing an initial complaint for child custody or when seeking a modification of an existing child custody order, the parties will be sent to a custody conciliator to try to resolve the issues. The custody conciliator is a court employee paid by the court system. All the custody conciliators I am aware of are lawyers, some work full-time for the court system and some work part-time.

Depending on the county, some custody conciliators have more authority than those in other counties. After a custody conciliation conference, all conciliators make “recommendations.” In some counties, without question, those recommendations become an interim custody order. In other counties, the conciliator’s recommendations do not carry significant weight. In every county, the parties have the right to a custody trial in front of a judge after the conciliation conference.

Finally, in a bit of an overlap, some Pennsylvania counties have both custody mediation and custody conciliation. In mediation, there are no lawyers, and nothing is binding unless agreed by both parties. In conciliation, lawyers are involved. If there is no agreement, the court can impose a decision, at least in the interim, upon the parties.

The family law attorneys at Weber Gallagher have experience with all three, mediation, arbitration, and conciliation, and can answer any questions you may have. Also, my colleague, Carolyn Mirabile, acts as a Montgomery County Custody Mediator and acts as a mediator in both custody and equitable distribution cases.

Let’s Talk Family Law 101

Posted by on 01.26.2021 in Posts | Comments Off on Let’s Talk Family Law 101

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What is family law, and what does it include? Family law attorney Skip Persick discusses the basics of divorce, child custody, child support, and more. This episode provides information on what is included in a divorce, how to obtain protection from abuse orders, adoption, and marriage.

Family Law Newsletter – January 2021

Posted by on 01.14.2021 in Posts | Comments Off on Family Law Newsletter – January 2021

Family Law Winter 2020 Newsletter

Traveling During COVID-19 With Children

Posted by on 12.07.2020 in Posts | Comments Off on Traveling During COVID-19 With Children

Traveling During COVID-19 With Children

By: Carolyn Mirabile

Is travel during the holidays safe? Many parents who usually would travel over the holidays may have to change their plans. Parents should observe all quarantine rules and restrictions specific to each state. Make sure to research any and all locations you plan on visiting, and the relevant restrictions associated with these destinations, before making travel plans. You can view all travel restrictions for each state on the CDC’s website here.

Communicate Regularly

Whether you’re traveling with a child or not, it’s important to share your travel plans with the other parent as soon as possible. Doing so may help you eliminate the uncertainty relating to custodial issues. If you’re able to document this communication, even better. Having a trail of communication that proves you did your part to clearly and consistently notify the other parent of your travel plans will only benefit you in the long run.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Your child’s safety is of the utmost importance. With this in mind, parents should consider if flying, driving, or taking a train with children on a trip is safe. Which mode of transportation is best for you and your family? You have to weigh the pros and cons of all transportation options to make the decision that’s right for you. If traveling out of the country, a COVID-19 test with pre-quarantine measures may be required before leaving. Parents should ask whether this can be easily facilitated while exercising custody.

Be Flexible

Restrictions related to COVID-19 are constantly changing at a local, state, and international level; and as the number of confirmed cases and deaths continues to rise, greater restrictions are being implemented and enforced. Therefore, above all else, parents need to be flexible when it comes to travel plans. When in doubt about the safety of you or your child, a staycation is the best option. It may not be as fun as you’d like, but quality family time at home and in your neighborhood does offer many benefits.

If you have questions regarding your custody order and the holidays, Weber Gallagher’s Family Law attorneys are here to help!

Let’s Talk Child Custody and Quarantines

Posted by on 11.30.2020 in Posts | Comments Off on Let’s Talk Child Custody and Quarantines

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How are child custody orders being affected during the COVID-19 pandemic? Family law attorney John Zurzola discusses custody litigation during the lockdowns, the timeline of cases, how lockdown ordinances affect custody agreements, and quarantine requirements. This episode provides examples of child custody procedures for Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. John also discusses invoking legal custody and emergency custody due to possible COVID-19 exposure.

School Openings and Child Custody

Posted by on 11.16.2020 in Posts | Comments Off on School Openings and Child Custody

School Openings and Child Custody

By: Carolyn Mirabile

We live in unpredictable times. Schools are opening, schools are closing. One week they’re using a hybrid model for learning, the next week it’s completely virtual — forcing us to be resilient and adapt on the fly. This constant state of flux has parents asking themselves a variety of questions. Is your child’s school opening back up? Are you trying to decide if your child should be virtual or return to the classroom? Do you share custody and need to make important educational decisions with the other parent? Many parents are weighing their options, and shared custody can have an impact on the end decision.

Shared Legal Custody

Parents who share legal custody have a right to participate in making joint decisions regarding school. Some parents believe children need socialization and they think in-person learning is better than virtual learning on a screen. Others think children should remain at home and learn virtually. Each family has different circumstances impacting their decision.

Is it Safe to Return?

One major question is at the center of it all: is it safe to return? Parents should consider whether they have any vulnerable people in their homes, such as elderly grandparents, or someone with an immune-compromised condition. Parents should also seriously evaluate the types of protocols the school will have in place. How will social distancing be maintained? Will students be wearing masks the entire day? Will the school provide transportation? What cleaning remediations will be in place? What if a student or teacher tests positive?

Here When You Need Us

If parents disagree on whether a child should return to school, Weber Gallagher’s family lawyers can assist with filing a Petition to the Court or reviewing your child custody order. You don’t have to go it alone when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We’re here to help you and your loved ones navigate this treacherous terrain, and we always have your best interests in mind.