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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Seeking Justice for Juveniles

imagesThe appellate review system for juveniles has been notoriously slow in Pennsylvania. Juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent, removed from their homes, and sent to detention centers often complete their detainment in less time than it takes to process their appeal. Such procedural delays are unfair for juveniles and their families.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has sought to correct this problem by expediting the appellate review of cases where child offenders are found delinquent and placed outside their homes.

The recent changes made to the state’s Appellate Court Procedural Rules “should also help appellate courts identify specific instances of sentencing abuse by individual judges,” Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille recently told Lawyers Journal, a publication of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

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

Practical Advice for PFA Defendants

702075.TIFA PFA is a court order that restricts the defendant from having any contact with the plaintiff. But the plaintiff can contact the defendant without violating the PFA. The Sheriff’s Department of Clarion County distributes a helpful flyer instructing defendants on what to do if they encounter their accusers, which we have reprinted here:

–If you see the plaintiff walking toward you on the street, cross the street, and go in a different direction.

–If you are eating dinner in a restaurant when the plaintiff walks in, you need to avoid any contact with him/her. Get up, pay the bill, and leave, if possible, without making the plaintiff aware of your presence or talking to him/her.

–If you are in a movie theater waiting to see a movie and the plaintiff walks in, get up and leave the theater.

–If the plaintiff calls and says to come over for dinner or to “work things out,” do not go. You should have hung up before all that information was given to you. Do not violate the PFA order by talking to the plaintiff, even when she/he called you.

–If the plaintiff calls you and you can repeat what she/he said, you have violated the PFA order. You should have hung up as soon as you recognized the person’s voice.

–If you receive an email from the plaintiff and respond to it, you have violated the PFA order. You should not send or respond to faxes or emails from the plaintiff.

–If you are told that the PFA order has been changed or vacated and you can have contact with the plaintiff, first check with the court that issued the order. Unless and until court personnel confirm that the order has been changed or vacated or you see a court paper confirming that information, do not have any contact with the plaintiff.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense at PFA hearings in counties across Southwestern Pennsylvania, including: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County. To make an appointment with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Defining “Income” for Child Support Cases

imagesChild support is largely based on parents’ income. At a child support hearing, both parents are required to bring federal income tax returns, including W-2s, and pay stubs for the preceding six months.

But what constitutes income for child support purposes? According to Pennsylvania law, income includes:

–wages, salaries, bonuses, fees and commissions;

–net income from business or dealings in property;

–interest, rents, royalties and dividends;

–pensions and all forms of retirement;

–income from an interest in an estate or trust;

–Social Security disability benefits;

–Social Security retirement benefits;

–temporary and permanent disability benefits;

–workers’ compensation;

–unemployment compensation;

–alimony;

–lottery winnings;

–income tax refunds; and

–insurance compensation or settlements.

Income does not include, however, public assistance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Social Security payments for a child, and foster care payments.

For more information on child support in Pennsylvania, contact Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pennsylvania DUI Law Also Restricts Drug Use

200274139-001Pennsylvania DUI laws include severe restrictions not just on drunk driving but also on any use of drugs and controlled substances.

The law states that a person may not drive if his or her blood contains “any amount” of a Schedule I controlled substance, non-medically prescribed Schedule II or III controlled substances, or a metabolite of any controlled substance.

Schedule I controlled substances include: marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, mescaline, and DMT. Schedule II controlled substances include: Oxycontin, Percocet, Demerol, codeine, and morphine. Schedule III controlled substances include: vicodin, ephedrine, and anabolic steroids.

Additionally, Pennsylvania law restricts a person from driving while under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs, or while under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance.

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

Alimony and Adultery Historically Linked

122499577In Pennsylvania, a spouse guilty of marital misconduct such as adultery cannot obtain alimony, except in rare cases of extreme hardship.

There has long been a link between alimony and adultery. Historically, husbands were only forced to pay alimony to their wives if they committed adultery.

“It was almost a form of damages: the financial penalty the law imposed upon husbands as a result of their wrongful conduct in breaching the permanency clause of the marriage contract,” writes attorney Laura W. Morgan in an article entitled “Current Trends In Alimony Law” published by the American Bar Association.

“The amount of the remedy – the amount needed to attain the marital standard of living – was roughly equivalent to the financial harm inflicted on the wife by the husband’s wrongful conduct, another rule strongly reminiscent of contract or even tort law,” Morgan writes.

Today, Pennsylvania courts may award alimony even when there are no allegations of adultery. Pennsylvania embraces no-fault divorce, allowing courts to grant a divorce in the absence of fault where a court found that the marriage was irretrievably broken.

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