Tips and Updates

November 24, 2021…LOOKING AHEAD…The mix of the familiar routines (advocating for clients in the courthouse for every Family Court hearing) and the newer approaches (Zoom virtual conferences for child support hearings and for divorce settlement conferences) finally feels “normal”.  It seems like we can settle in to this new routine.  Most importantly, I can guide with confidence and accuracy as to how clients’ matters will be handled by the Family Court and what the timing will be like.  Courthouse delays have been up and down but are now more predictable again.

May 20, 2021…JUNE BRINGS CHANGE IN MONTCO FAMILY COURT…Starting next month some of our Family Court conferences and hearings in Montgomery County will return to in-person attendance.  Our child custody conferences with the court conciliators have been conducted by telephone for the last year.  Those will return to in-person meetings at the Family Court building at 321 Swede Street, across from the main courthouse.  The same is true for equitable distribution conferences and hearings (for divorce financial settlements).  I have appreciated the ease of advocating for my clients on a conference call right from my desk.  It is effective and efficient.  For my clients, it has meant being able to participate from home or work without travel to Norristown, time off from work, or figuring out coverage for kids learning from home.

Of course, there is a flip side!  I am anxious to return to the court, where I can collaborate face-to-face with my client, step out of the room to privately plan our approach, and get a “read” on the judge and the opposing lawyer.  There is simply no substitute for in-person interaction.  I am looking forward to it.

November 9, 2020…”EMBRACE CHANGE”…Our local Family Courts have developed temporary protocols that permit our disputes to be heard by the court in different manners, depending on the nature of the dispute.  For example, our child support conferences and child custody conferences in Montgomery and Bucks counties are being conducted via telephone call.  Some master’s hearings, depending on the county, are being conducted via Zoom virtual hearing.  The Bucks County judges are conducting trials in person in the courthouse.  The Montco judges were holding trials for a couple of months and have just scaled that back to mostly Zoom hearings due to an uptick of the virus.  It has been a fluid situation but it is all working.  We are able to keep client’s matters moving forward.  We will continue to roll with it!

June 10, 2020…COURT UPDATES AND RE-OPENING PROCEDURES…Well the Family Courts are back in action, but in a different way like everything else in our world since the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Montgomery County Family Court has resumed scheduling hearings and attending to the cases that were put on “pause” during the court closure.  But for now, nearly all cases except PFAs will be conducted by Family Court Masters and Judges via telephone or Zoom video hearing.  Many folks used Zoom to keep in touch with family and friends during the stay-at-home order.  Now we will be using Zoom to present our cases to the court.  There will be a court reporter taking it down, clients testifying, and documents submitted as evidence, just like a regular trial but all done via technology.

The Bucks County Family Court is also open and is holding more hearings in-person.  Of course, a face covering and many safety procedures are in place at the entrance to the Justice Center.  Some matters, such as child support conference, will be conducted on the telephone.

May 12, 2020…TEMPORARY COURT PROCEDURES DURING COVID-19 EMERGENCY…This has been an incredible challenge for all of us and our families.  The Family Courts have done a great job of balancing the need to stay open to provide a resource to victims of domestic violence and address child-related emergencies while balancing the need to enable court staff to stay safe at home.  Looking forward, the updates suggest that the courts will reopen with restrictions in early June.  In the meantime, we are currently able to file documents electronically with the courts to address our clients’ legal needs.  Some hearings will be scheduled to occur via telephone or video conference with court personnel.  Stay tuned for more updates.

January 31, 2020…Joanna was selected to join a number of local attorneys to present a series of Civics lesson plans to 6th graders in the North Penn School District.  The January lesson plan on the three branches of government and the “checks and balances” of power had some real life examples during this election year.  The students were so engaged and interested in the law and justice issues.  It was an incredibly rewarding experience.  Looked like some future lawyers in that classroom!

January 3, 2020…NEW FAMILY COURT JUDGES…Montgomery County has three new elected judges, who will initially rotate in and out of Family Court.  In addition, all of the Family Court caseloads have shifted due to rotation of judges and a retirement, so some of our active, still-pending cases have been re-assigned by the court to a different judge.

November 19, 2019…Joanna was a speaker at the Montgomery Bar Association seminar entitled “Year-End Best Practices.”  Joanna presented tips and advice on year-end practices to best serve family law clients and the management of one’s law practice.

July 24, 2019…NEW PARENTING SEMINAR IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY…For the last few years, all individuals involved in a child custody case in Montgomery County have been required by the court to attend a parenting seminar.  This requirement was suspended last December, as the Family Court sought to re-boot the seminar.  It has now returned, and will be required attendance for all involved in child custody filings after August 12, 2019.  The new format of the seminar is shorter in length (now 90 minutes) and emphasizes communication techniques and conflict resolution between adults caring for children.  There are hand-outs and takeaways that can be referred to after the seminar.  I had the opportunity to preview the seminar and it was impactful.  Great tune-up to this class.

February 21, 2018…NEW INCOME TAX LAWS…For folks in the midst of divorce, the new tax laws affect many aspects of how we handle financial claims between spouses.  Some changes, like the alimony deduction being eliminated, are time-sensitive.  All of the changes affect how we calculate parents’ incomes for child support.  These changes warrant having a conversation with your attorney and accountant to understand any changes in strategy and how the new laws affect your case.

May 1, 2017…PA CHILD SUPPORT UPDATE…The calculations we utilize to determine the amount of child support to be paid to a custodial parent in Pennsylvania were recently updated.  The new calculations are effective on May 1, 2017.  In most cases, the new formula results in a modest increase in the amount of child support paid.  Give us a call if you want more information about how this update affects the child support you pay or receive and whether you should file for modification.

January 2017…Joanna was appointed by the Montgomery County Bar Association to serve as Co-Chair of the Solo and Small Firm Committee.  This leadership position will guide the committee’s activities including skills training and networking opportunities for the solo and small firm lawyers in the county.