Updated: Apr 23
A Providence law firm is offering free advice to help people navigate legal problems resulting from the coronavirus.
McIntyre Tate launched the “COVID-19 Legal Helpline” on Friday, offering a 15-minute telephone consultation with one of the firm’s seven lawyers to help with immediate legal issues. But it is also offering to schedule free work for more complicated matters that can’t be solved over the phone.
“Many folks are just confused by the circumstances,” said Stephen M. Prignano, one of the firm’s partners. “They’ve never been in this type of situation before.”
While the firm handles elder law, probate and business law, it specializes in family law, Prignano said. “There are a whole host of parenting issues people are struggling with that are really in a gray area right now. There’s no playbook for this.”
Some of the issues: child-support obligations, as people are losing jobs and might not be able to make payments. “There are also people on the receiving end of those payments,” Prignano said. “They may be losing their job and may be losing child support. What do they need to be thinking about in the short term and long term?”
Visitation is also a big issue, he said. For people with joint custody, having the right to participate in a child’s medical decisions is important. “When is it the right time to take a child to a doctor or hospital, to any environment where a child might be exposed to this pathogen?” Prignano said.
The firm’s lawyers discussed the idea of a free legal clinic as the pandemic worsened. While they are still working with their own clients, Prignano acknowledged they have some extra time as the court system is closed indefinitely.
McIntyre Tate worked with the company that handles its website so it will let people contact the firm by phone or by filling out an online form. Paralegals are staffing the hotline and will direct callers to a specific lawyer, depending on what the issue is.
Prignano said people also have had questions about business issues. “Contracts, what does that mean for people with supply or service contracts and how does (coronavirus) impact their legal obligations?”
He noted there hasn’t been a lot of guidance from government, other than Gov. Gina Raimondo advising early on, in response to a question, to obey court orders.
“It’s a challenge on our part, too, to field some of these questions and come up with appropriate responses,” Prignano said. “But the more we do this, we feel, the better we’re getting at it.
“We can relate it to some things in other cases and other situations where there are things we have experienced as lawyers advising clients. So some of that knowledge we can apply to this.”
The firm’s website is mcintyretate.com. The hotline number is (401) 443-2005.