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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Westmoreland County PFA Withdrawn

86505321Joe has an anger problem. And he has a drinking problem. But right now the biggest problem he faces is a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order filed by his ex-girlfriend.

Joe’s ex says he threatened her. Joe denies the allegations.

On the morning of the PFA hearing, Joe and his ex sit in separate rooms. She wants a PFA lasting at least one year.

As Joe’s attorney, I ask to speak with the judge. The judge quickly reviews the allegations and appears ready to order a final PFA against Joe.

But I explain to the judge that the parties are not married, have no kids together, and are not living together because Joe has already signed a lease on a new apartment in Westmoreland County. A final PFA could cause Joe to lose his job, which subjects him to routine background checks.

Because there’s nothing tying the parties together, I argue, the judge should dismiss the PFA and let them move on with their lives.

The judge agrees. He instructs the plaintiff’s lawyer to withdraw the PFA. When I return to the waiting area and inform Joe, he exhales a sigh of relief.

“I wasn’t going to hire a lawyer,” Joe says. “I wasn’t even going to show up at the hearing.”

If Joe had not attended the hearing, he likely would have received a maximum three-year PFA. Instead, with the help of his attorney, the PFA was dropped.

For a free consultation with an experienced Westmoreland County PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm today at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Helping Ellen Get Her Kids Back

Empty Pittsburgh BridgeWhen Ellen’s mother died, she became deeply depressed. She started drinking heavily for the first time in her life. Knowing that she was suddenly unfit to care for her two young sons, Ellen signed over custody rights to her ex-husband.

A year passed before Ellen stopped drinking and emerged from her depression. But by then she had lost everything – her home, her job, and her kids. She wanted her life back.

Ellen landed a job and let a three-bedroom apartment hoping to one day fill it with her two sons. Spivak Law Firm has spent the last year helping Ellen exercise her custody rights pro bono. It has been a long difficult journey, but this month we helped her get the child custody schedule of her dreams.

“I am so happy,” Ellen told us. “Finally, I get my kids back.”

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

PFA DO’s and DON’Ts

At Spivak Law Firm, we provide strong defense at PFA hearings for people accused of domestic violence. In most cases, we get the PFA dismissed.

Based in Pittsburgh, we routinely represent PFA defendants in Allegheny County, Westmoreland County, Beaver County, Butler County, and Washington County.

If you’ve been served with a PFA, protect your future by following this important list of PFA Do’s and Don’ts:

Do Hire an Experienced PFA Defense Lawyer: In many Pennsylvania counties, PFA plaintiffs are entitled to a free lawyer. PFA defendants should retain a lawyer to help level the playing field. PFA is a unique area of law that combines aspects of family law and criminal defense. As one of the few law firms in the greater Pittsburgh area that routinely handles both family and criminal cases, Spivak Law Firm is uniquely qualified to help. Our strong negotiation and courtroom skills help us achieve the best outcomes.

Don’t Blow Off the Hearing: Defendants who fail to appear at their PFA hearing risk getting a maximum three-year PFA. This can be devastating, as a PFA stays on the public docket and can haunt you like a criminal record. It comes up on a basic background check performed by employers, potentially costing you a job or promotion. At Spivak Law Firm, we understand that a PFA is a big deal. If you’ve been served with a PFA, we strongly encourage you to take it seriously by attending the PFA hearing.

Do Bring Evidence: If you’ve been served with a PFA, your hearing is likely just about a week away. That does not leave you or your attorney much time to prepare, so you need to start thinking about your defense immediately. Physical evidence commonly introduced at PFA hearings includes copies of medical records, phone records, emails, texts, and Facebook pages. At Spivak Law Firm, we help our clients prepare for their PFA hearing by collecting – by subpoena, if necessary – all records that help present the strongest possible defense.

Don’t Contact the Plaintiff: A PFA is a no-contact order. While it remains in effect, the defendant must abide by the PFA by having no contact whatsoever with the plaintiff. This includes not just physical contact but also contact by phone, text, email, fax, or regular mail. It also includes third-party contact. Thus, a PFA defendant cannot ask a friend or family member to contact the plaintiff about anything. For instance, having a friend ask the plaintiff to withdraw the PFA constitutes a violation of the court order because it is considered third-party contact. For more information on this issue, please visit our blog post “10 Tips for PFA Defendants to Avoid Arrest.”

Do Bring Witnesses: In domestic violence cases, the only eyewitnesses to the incident are often the parties themselves. Because of the “he-said, she-said” nature of domestic violence, cases are often determined based on credibility. A judge will hear testimony from both parties and make a decision largely based on who comes across as more believable. But when witnesses are present, it is important to bring them to the hearing. Because an eyewitness can be crucial in getting your PFA dropped, Spivak Law Firm works hard with clients to ensure that such witnesses appear at their PFA hearing.

Don’t Violate the PFA: Violating any provision of a PFA can result in a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. Although the main function of a PFA is to restrict contact between the parties, the court order may also contain other provisions that must be followed to avoid arrest. For instance, a PFA may restrict your ability to see your kids, possess weapons, or go to your home and other places frequented by the plaintiff. At Spivak Law Firm, we carefully review the PFA with our clients to ensure that they understand the restrictions imposed by the PFA and the severe consequences of violating them.

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

Protecting Child Custody Rights

116926544Dormont-Brookline Patch, an online news outlet, has published our article about how Pennsylvania law protects the child custody rights of rape victims. The article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and has been reproduced in At Issue, a publication of the Pennsylvania Bar Association:

“At the age of 21, during her senior year in college, Shauna Prewitt was raped. She became pregnant, opted to keep the child and had a baby girl.

“Ms. Prewitt pressed criminal charges against her attacker. Her rapist responded by asserting legal custody rights over their child. Ms. Prewitt promptly withdrew her criminal complaint. Her attacker then followed suit by withdrawing his custody petition.

“‘When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising [child custody] rights,” says Ms. Prewitt, who is now an attorney and women’s rights advocate, “a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child.’”

The entire article is reproduced here.

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