Unemployment during COVID-19

We at Williams, McClernan & Stack LLC hope you and your families are getting by and learning new ways of living during this difficult time.  If you have lost employment, either as an employee or freelance worker (self-employed, independent contractor or "gig worker") you may be entitled to unemployment benefits you were not previously eligible for.  Such individuals, with some exceptions, will be eligible if they have been unable to work due to the need to care for children out of school and for other reasons.  This benefit will apply retroactively to January 27, 2020, at the earliest and continue for 39 weeks or until the end of this year.  Furthermore, those employees previously eligible for unemployment benefits may receive an additional $600 per week on top of current benefits, as well as an additional 13 weeks of eligibility.  For more information and to initiate an application for benefits go to http://labor.maryland.gov/employment/unemployment.shtml.  

Joshua S. Brewster, Esquire
Williams, McClernan, & Stack LLC

Sharing Custody During COVID-19 Pandemic

We have been receiving a lot of the same questions from clients who are divorced about what happens to custody exchanges, especially if Maryland goes into a lock-down or shelter in place. Unfortunately, as with many cases, we cannot simply give blanket advice to cover all families as each family has its own unique characteristics. However, the following seven guidelines taken from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts should be viewed as a good guide on how to handle this current situation. 
"1. BE HEALTHY. Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media. 
2. BE MINDFUL. Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic, but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age appropriate. 6525 Grand Teton Plaza, Madison, Wisconsin 53719 Phone 608.664.3750 Fax 608.664.3751 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. www.afccnet.org 
3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements. As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school were still in session. 
4. BE CREATIVE. At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums and entertainment venues are closing all over the US and the world. In addition, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, and games, and communication through FaceTime or Skype. 
5. BE TRANSPARENT. Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus. 
6. BE GENEROUS. Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances. 
7. BE UNDERSTANDING. There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances. Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe."
Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Press Release March 25, 2020. Website: https://www.afccnet.org/

Update regarding WMS Lawyers, the Legal System, and COVID-19 3/16/2020

We are currently going through a difficult time as a nation. Individually, we are all making decisions to best protect ourselves, our family and our community. 
WMS Lawyers is practicing social distancing even though we are a small firm. We will not be meeting with the public in person at this time. However, we will continue to work on all our current cases and continue to respond to phone calls and emails from our current clients.
Those who need legal consultations for your cases, we are providing virtual consultations via zoom meetings and telephone consultations. You can continue to call our office as 240-309-4179 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to set up that appointment. For now, we have turned off the ability to make an appointment via the web.
The judicial system is also doing its best to deal with the current threat faced by COVID-19. The Courts are open for emergency procedures and constitutionally mandated hearings. However, only the attorneys and Plaintiff/Defendants are being allowed into the courthouses. For more information please go to: https://www.courts.state.md.us/coronavirusupdate/
Be safe,
Marsha, Kathleen, Alycia, Joshua and Brenda

Happy Holidays!


From all of us at WMS Lawyers, we'd like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season and a joyful new year!