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Yearly Archives: 2013

Child Custody in Allegheny County (Part 6 of 7)

102719637In Allegheny County, any person involved in a child custody dispute must enroll in Generations, an alternative dispute resolution program that includes an educational seminar and mediation session. To learn about the educational seminar, please click here. To learn about the mediation session, please click here. To learn about waiving the mediation session due to issues of domestic violence, please click here. To learn about the custody conciliation, please click here. To learn about psychological/home evaluations, please click here.

If you and the other party are unable to come to an agreement at the custody conciliation, you may be ordered to appear at a partial custody hearing. A party requests a partial custody hearing after an unsuccessful conciliation by filing a praecipe at the Child Custody Department.

Cases heard by the Partial Custody Hearing Officer involve matters dealing with partial custody/visitation only. In order to proceed to a partial custody hearing, you must prepare and file a pre-trial statement ten days in advance of the hearing date. The original must be filed with the Department of Court Records, a copy must be served on the other side and opposing counsel if represented, and a copy must be delivered to the Custody Department.

The pre-trial statement shall include the following: a narrative statement of the facts, which will be proven; the current custody schedule; the name of each person whom you intend to call at trial as witnesses, including experts, and a report from each of the listed expert witnesses; a list identifying all of the exhibits, which you plan to offer into evidence; a proposed partial custody schedule and proposed order.

At the time of the hearing, you may bring an attorney if you are represented. The parties may come to an agreement; if not, the Partial Custody Hearing Officer will issue a report, recommendation, and interim order to both parties. If neither party files exceptions within twenty days, the order will become final.

To speak with an experienced Allegheny County child custody attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody in Allegheny County (Part 5 of 7)

111787230In Allegheny County, any person involved in a child custody dispute must enroll in Generations, an alternative dispute resolution program that includes an educational seminar and mediation session. To learn about the educational seminar, please click here. To learn about the mediation session, please click here. To learn about waiving the mediation session due to issues of domestic violence, please click here. To learn about the custody conciliation, please click here.

If you and the other party are unable to come to an agreement at the custody conciliation, you may be ordered to submit income information for psychological/home evaluations.  Allegheny Forensic Associates conducts psychological evaluations.

Once an order is issued for psychological evaluations, the assigned evaluator will contact the parties and schedule the appropriate appointments. Evaluators may administer certain psychological tests and conduct interviews and observations. When the evaluation is completed, the evaluator will issue a report to the parties and the assigned Judge.

The moving party may praecipe for a judicial conciliation before the assigned Judge with the docket clerk on the third floor of the Family Court Building once they have received the report, if they wish to go forward.

In custody matters, if requested by either party or if ordered by a child custody officer, hearing officer or judge, parties may be referred for a home evaluation. The officer or judge will determine and allocate the total fee. Requests to reallocate fees will only be addressed in motions court by the assigned judge.

To speak with an experienced Allegheny County family law, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody in Allegheny County (Part 4 of 7)

89793648 (2)In Allegheny County, any person involved in a child custody dispute must enroll in Generations, an alternative dispute resolution program that includes an educational seminar and mediation session. To learn about the educational seminar, please click here. To learn about the mediation session, please click here. To learn about waiving the mediation session due to issues of domestic violence, please click here.

At the custody conciliation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a child custody officer in an attempt to negotiate and resolve their custody case. There is no fee for the conciliation. You should bring with you: your child’s school schedule, your current income information (pay stub and/or W-2), your child’s extracurricular activity schedule, and a proposed custody schedule.

If you and the other party are able to come to an agreement, the custody conciliator will write up an order of court and you will leave with an order of court that day. This will dispose of the custody action filed and you will go no further into the court system.

If you and the other party are unable to come to an agreement: you may be ordered to submit income information for psychological/home evaluations; you may be ordered to appear at a partial custody hearing; or you may be ordered to appear at a judicial conciliation.

To speak with an experienced Allegheny County family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody in Allegheny County (Part 3 of 7)

126998623In Allegheny County, any person involved in a child custody dispute must enroll in Generations, an alternative dispute resolution program that includes an educational seminar and mediation session. To learn about the educational seminar, please click here. To learn about the mediation session, please click here.

The custody mediation session may be waived if either party or any child has been the subject of domestic violence or child abuse within 24 months preceding the filing of a custody action. If you and/or your child has been such a victim and you desire not to attend mediation, you must complete both sides of a waiver form and return it to Generations. If you have received a Protection From Abuse order (PFA order), a copy of it should also be returned with this completed form. You are also responsible for mailing a copy of this form and any PFA order to the opposing party at the same time you mail it to the Generations at: Generations 440 Ross Street, 1st Floor Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

If a mediation session is waived, a custody conciliation shall be scheduled in its place in which attorneys may be present.

To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh child custody lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody in Allegheny County (Part 2 of 7)

ConflictIn Allegheny County, any person involved in a child custody dispute must enroll in Generations, an alternative dispute resolution program that includes an educational seminar and mediation session. To learn about the educational seminar, please click here.

The custody mediation session gives parents an opportunity to meet with a trained mediator to address issues related to meeting their child(ren)’s needs and to finalize a custody arrangement. Neither children nor attorneys participate in the mediation. Parents meet with a mediator for about two hours to discuss approaches to a successful parenting plan.

The goal of mediation is for parents to create their own custody plan, called a Memorandum of Understanding. Mediation is not therapy and does not include legal advice. Rather, the mediation process encourages adults to work together and to be responsible for their own parenting decisions.

Mediation sessions are confidential. The discussions during mediation cannot be recorded or copied. The mediator cannot be required to testify in court. Mediators are often attorneys or mental health professionals with advanced degrees, in addition to having basic and ongoing advanced training in mediation.

To speak with an experienced Allegheny County child custody attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody in Allegheny County (Part 1 of 7)

Beautiful baby of three months old in his mothers hands.In Allegheny County, any person involved in a child custody dispute must enroll in Generations, an alternative dispute resolution program that includes an educational seminar and mediation session.

The educational seminar, which takes place at Wightman School Community Building in Squirrel Hill, is approximately three hours in length and aims to offer parents the skills to reach their own resolution on custody issues. The seminar addresses several topics, including: building a co-parent relationship; developing ways to communicate and problem-solve; helping children cope effectively with their changing family; and identifying how parent conflict can affect the behavior of children.

The educational seminar is also required for children ages 6 to 15, who are grouped by age so that they can identify and share with other children similar experiences in their families. These groups are facilitated with activities, discussions, art, music and play.

To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Dave Wins PFA Hearing, Seeks Custody of Kids

78287715After 17 years of marriage, Tara decided she wanted a divorce from her husband Dave (not their real names). He suggested marriage counseling, if only for the sake of their teenage children, but Tara refused. “I’m going to destroy you in court,” she snapped at him. One morning, after several days of getting the silent treatment from his wife, Dave lost his cool and slammed the palm of his hand against the kitchen stove. Tara went to the county courthouse and received a temporary Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against her husband.

Later that day, a police officer arrived at their home and handed Dave the restraining order, which stated that he was evicted from his home, effective immediately, and that he could not have any contact whatsoever with his wife or kids until the PFA hearing. Emotionally devastated, Dave scrambled to find a friend or relative to take him in for a few weeks.

Seeking an experienced PFA defense lawyer, Dave retained Spivak Law Firm to represent him. Dave had never been apart from his family for so long. Feeling anxious and estranged, he attended his PFA hearing with a feeling of dread. Tara wanted a three-year PFA, the maximum duration allowed by law. We requested a hearing before the judge.

Tara testified that she and was afraid of Dave, but on cross-examination she admitted that Dave only hit the stove – not her or the children. Tara then testified that she never cheated on Dave, which damaged her credibility when Dave’s attorney produced love letters that she had recently written to another man. In the end, Tara confessed to simply wanting Dave out of the house so she could pursue her new love interest.

After a brief recess to consider all the evidence, the judge denied Tara’s request for a final PFA. Feeling relieved, Dave smiled for the first time in weeks. Dave and his attorney then left the courtroom to discuss their next legal actions: expunging the PFA from his record and filing for shared custody of the children.

Spivak Law Firm has extensive experience defending people against domestic-abuse accusations and asserting child custody rights. To speak with a Pittsburgh family law attorney, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

DUI Hotel Gains Popularity in Allegheny County

200274139-001The Allegheny DUI Alternative to Jail Program, known as DUI Hotel, has recently celebrated its third year. Started in October 2010, the program offers first-time DUI offenders the option of spending four nights in a hotel taking educational classes and group therapy sessions rather than up to 72 hours in jail.

Since its inception, more than 1,500 people in Allegheny County have chosen DUI Hotel. The program enables participants to complete their sentences in just four days without having to serve any probation. Participants pay $500 for the program; the hotels contracted to house the participants are located in Oakland and West Mifflin.

To speak with a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What is Family Law?

87486604At Spivak Law Firm, we provide strong, compassionate, and cost-effective representation in all family law issues. Family Law comprises a wide array of legal matters, including:

  • Divorce Litigation  In conventional divorce litigation, parties file suit and use the court system as a framework for litigating and negotiating issues including property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Spivak Law Firm handles divorce litigation; we are also certified in divorce mediation and collaborative divorce.
  • Child Custody  Child custody refers to both major decisions regarding the child as well as where the child resides. At Spivak Law Firm, we handle all child custody matters, including: custody complaints, custody conciliations, custody trials, custody modification hearings, and custody relocation hearings.
  • Protection From Abuse (PFA)  A PFA is a no-contact order that aims to protect victims of domestic abuse. Pennsylvania law defines domestic abuse broadly to include physical and sexual assault, harassment, and stalking. Spivak Law Firm provides strong representation for both defendants and plaintiffs in PFA cases.
  • Juvenile Delinquency  This refers to the process of adjudicating juveniles accused of crimes. At Spivak Law Firm, we handle all juvenile law matters and routinely accept juvenile court appointments from the Allegheny County Office of Conflict Counsel.
  • Child Support  Child support payments continue until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. In Pennsylvania, judges apply statutory guidelines to determine the amount of support payable for each child. This formula is based on several factors, including monthly after-tax incomes of the child’s parents.
  • Spousal Support, Alimony Pendente Lite (APL), and Alimony  These refer to financial support given by one spouse to another. Spousal support and APL are based on a fixed percentage of the differences in the net incomes or earning capacities of the spouses. Alimony is based on the reasonable needs of the dependent spouse.
  • Paternity  Paternity testing may be required to determine the identity of a child’s father. Establishing paternity affects several other family law issues, such as asserting custodial rights and seeking child support payments.
  • Divorce Mediation  A divorce mediator is a third-party neutral who aims to help parties resolve all issues related to the divorce without the financial and emotional cost that often accompanies divorce litigation. Spivak Law firm is trained and certified in divorce mediation.
  • Collaborative Divorce  This relatively new and progressive means of divorce avoids the courtroom in favor of allowing parties to work out agreements with the help of their attorneys. Spivak Law firm is trained and certified in collaborative divorce.
  • Equitable Distribution of Marital Property  This refers to the formal court process for dividing marital assets and debts based on principles of fairness.
  • Adoption  There are many different types of adoption, including stepparent adoption, grandparent adoption, second-parent adoption, international adoption, and surrogate-mother adoption.
  • Estate Planning  Estate planning includes the preparation of various important legal documents, including: wills, trusts, special-needs trusts, and powers of attorney for finances, health care and mental-health care.

To speak with a Pittsburgh family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Who Can File for Child Custody in Pennsylvania?

Little girl wearing sundress holding flowersTo seek custody rights over a minor child, a person must have “legal standing.” A child’s biological parents have legal standing to file a custody action. Who else can file for custody? A person who has acted as a parent to the child and taken on the responsibilities of parenthood for a period of time may have legal standing. Additionally, grandparents may have legal standing to seek custody of their minor grandchildren in limited circumstances as described here.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate representation in child custody matters. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.