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Daily Archives: April 25, 2013

5 Common PFA Misconceptions

86505321Many people have misconceptions about Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders. As a result, they might accept a PFA instead of fighting it.  Or they might violate the PFA unknowingly, resulting in criminal charges. Protect yourself by reading Spivak Law Firm’s five most common PFA misconceptions:

Misconception #1: “It doesn’t matter if I get a PFA because I don’t want to see the plaintiff anyway.

Even if you don’t want to have contact with the plaintiff, we strongly advise you to contest the PFA. A PFA stays on the civil docket and can haunt you for years, especially if you seek a job that requires a background check. Protect your future by hiring an experienced PFA attorney to try to get the PFA vacated, withdrawn, or dismissed.

Misconception #2: “The PFA means we can’t contact each other.”

In fact, the PFA means the defendant cannot contact the plaintiff. But the plaintiff can contact the defendant because the PFA restricts the defendant only. If the plaintiff contacts you while the PFA remains in place, do not respond. The plaintiff could be setting a trap to get you arrested. The plaintiff may always seek to withdraw the PFA.

Misconception #3: “I won’t get in trouble for having somebody else tell the plaintiff to drop the PFA.”

A PFA is a no-contact order. No contact includes physical contact as well as phone calls, texts, emails, faxes, and regular mail. It also includes third-party contact. Instructing another person to give any message whatsoever to the plaintiff is a violation of the PFA that could result in criminal charges.

Misconception #4: “A PFA can’t be used to take my kids away.”

Plaintiffs sometimes misuse PFAs to gain leverage in child custody and divorce cases. Plaintiffs may temporarily receive sole custody of a child until the final PFA hearing, causing defendants to go weeks or even months without seeing their kids. Custody provisions are often included in final PFAs that stay in place indefinitely.

Misconception #5: The plaintiff can’t afford a lawyer so I don’t need to get a lawyer either.

In many Pennsylvania counties, including Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties, plaintiffs may receive a free lawyer regardless of income. In these counties, free lawyers are offered to all plaintiffs, not just low-income plaintiffs. Spivak Law Firm strongly advises defendants to hire an experienced PFA attorney to level the playing field.

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

Defining “Income” for Child Support Cases

78287715Child 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 last six months.

But what is “income” for child support purposes? According to Pennsylvania law, incomes 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 public assistance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Social Security payments for a child, and foster care payments.

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

What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police

200274121-001If you’re stopped by the police, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) suggests that you do the following for your safety and the safety of others:

-Activate your turn signal and drive as close as safely possible to the right edge of the road, stop, and park your vehicle safely away from traffic.

-Turn on your vehicle’s interior light as soon as you stop and before the officer approaches, if it is nighttime.

-Limit your movements and the movements of your passengers – do not reach for anything in the vehicle.

-Alert the officer immediately, if you are transporting any type of firearm.

-Place your hands on the steering wheel, and ask any passengers to have their hands in view.

-Keep your vehicle doors closed as the officer approaches, and stay inside your vehicle, unless the officer asks you to get out.

-Keep your seat belt fastened until the officer has seen you are appropriately restrained.

-Wait until the officer asks you to retrieve your driver’s license, registration and insurance cards. Do not hand the officer your wallet – just the requested items.

-Always be polite. It is not in your best interest to argue with the officer at the scene. If you believe you have not been treated in a professional manner, you should contact the appropriate police department at a time following the traffic stop, and ask for a supervisor.

If you are given a citation and disagree with it, you are entitled to a court hearing where you can present your arguments. Spivak Law Firm represents people in traffic court throughout the Pittsburgh area. To speak with a traffic law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.