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PFA Hearings Present Many Challenges

PFA Pic1Under Pennsylvania law, a person served with a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order is entitled to a hearing within 10 days. The PFA hearing represents the defendant’s first and most important opportunity to refute the allegations, which may be false or greatly exaggerated.

In some ways, the expedited PFA hearing is beneficial, as the defendant may have been temporarily evicted from the residence and forbidden by court order to have any contact with his or her children. In such circumstances, the relatively short wait for a PFA hearing is positive.

However, in other ways, the expedited hearing often presents serious challenges for the defendant.

The PFA defendant must quickly (1) come up with money to retain an experienced attorney, (2) work with the attorney to build the strongest possible defense, (3) collect documentary evidence such as emails, texts, phone logs, and social media postings, and (4) possibly subpoena witnesses to testify at the hearing.

At Spivak Law Firm, we are committed to building the strongest defense as quickly as possible for PFA defendants who are accused of abuse. Though it sometimes makes sense to continue the hearing date to allow for more time to prepare, we generally do not recommend it.

So long as the Temporary PFA remains in place, you are at risk of being jailed for allegedly violating it. After all, someone who lies to get a PFA against you may also lie to get you arrested.

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

PFA: A Sword Or A Shield?

BU010665A Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order should be used as a shield not a sword.

It is commonly known that many people who seek the protections of a PFA are abusing the court system itself by seeking to gain leverage in child custody and divorce.

They may lie about abuse or greatly exaggerate the level of conflict.

After all, filing a PFA immediately evicts the “abuser” from the home. So if you want your spouse out of the house, a PFA is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to do it.

And if you want primary custody of your children, a PFA is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to get it.

But judges in Allegheny County and throughout Western Pennsylvania have zero tolerance for people who obtain PFA Orders to gain such advantages.

A PFA is meant to serve as a shield offering protections for people who have been physically or sexually abused.

A PFA should not be used as a sword to inflict pain or otherwise gain advantages in family court.

Based in Pittsburgh, Spivak Law Firm provides aggressive representation in PFA hearings. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

How Divorce Affects Young Children

Custody Pic8There is no “one size fits all” way that divorce affects young children, who are both resilient and fragile. They can adjust to the changes cause by separation if their parents develop a good co-parenting relationship and keep kids out of the conflict.

Young children can react to change in ways that seem strange to their parents. They may go back to a previous stage – for example, they now want a bottle when they had been drinking from a cup – or being clingy and anxious. Some children act out by becoming aggressive and angry; others withdraw or lose interest in playing and having fun. These behaviors can be a normal part of the divorce.

Parents sometimes forget that ending their relationship with each other does not end their relationship with their children. It’s hard to put aside anger and hurt, but that’s just what parents must do to help their children.

Remember that divorce doesn’t end a family. It reorganizes a family into two households, and your family values and traditions can continue. Of course, this applies also to parents who have never been married but who have lived together with their child.

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

Don’t Let a PFA Hurt Your Reputation

DV Pic8Getting served with a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order can be upsetting, embarrassing, and downright scary. Police may come to your home or your place of employment. You may be evicted from your home and restricted from seeing your kids. Neighbors, friends, and work colleagues may suddenly perceive you negatively – as an “abuser” – even if the allegations are false.

The mere accusation of abuse can devastate a person’s life and reputation.

At Spivak Law Firm, we aggressively defend people facing allegations of domestic violence and child abuse. We know how the court system works and how to best navigate the system to protect your legal rights. In addition to preparing the strongest possible defense, we pride ourselves on being accessible to clients and treating you with dignity and compassion.

Don’t let a PFA destroy your reputation. Call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Defendants Must Hire An Attorney

DV Pic2Q: Will a public defender represent me at my Protection From Abuse (PFA) hearing?

A: No.

People accused of abuse often make the terrible mistake of appearing in PFA Court without a lawyer to defend them. Many think that a public defender – a “free” lawyer – will be appointed to represent them.

But a public defender is available to low-income people in criminal matters only. A PFA is not a criminal matter. A PFA hearing takes place in family court not criminal court.

A PFA is a civil restraining order that restricts an “abuser” from having any contact with the “victim.” A PFA only becomes a criminal matter if the “abuser” violates the PFA Order.

If you’ve been served with a PFA, you need an attorney experienced in family law and criminal defense to represent you. At Spivak Law Firm, we’ve helped hundreds of people get the PFA dismissed while preserving their child-custody rights and protecting their reputations.

Served with a PFA? Call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

How To Get A PFA Restraining Order

PFA Pic9The process for securing a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order in most Pennsylvania counties starts by filing a paper called a petition at your local county courthouse. In the petition, you tell the court why you feel you need protection. The petition describes the abuse you have suffered and the protection you want from the court. The courthouse has people who must help you fill out the petition.

After you complete your PFA petition, the court will read it and may ask you questions. The alleged abuser is not present during this proceeding.

The judge will likely grant you a Temporary PFA and set a final hearing date within 10 business days. The defendant will get a copy of your petition. At the Final PFA hearing, you may be required to testify about the things you wrote in your petition. A Final PFA Order can last up to three years.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants at PFA hearings in Pittsburgh and all nearby counties, including: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

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

Spanking Kids Yields Negative Results

Custody Pic3Although some 80 percent of American parents spank their kids, the use of corporal punishment as a method of behavior modification is not supported by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Extensive research demonstrates that although corporal punishment may have a high rate of immediate behavior modification, it is ineffective over time, and is associated with increased aggression and decreased moral internalization of appropriate behavior. Additional negative outcomes associated with corporal punishment are:

  • Increased risk for physical abuse
  • Learning that aggression is an acceptable method of problem solving
  • Experiencing physical and emotional pain, which decreases learning capacity
  • Being less likely to learn why a certain behavior or action was wrong
  • Behaving out of fear in the future

Alternatively, parenting programs recommend appropriate limit setting and use of praise to increase positive behaviors, decreasing hostile or coercive family interactions, and enhanced problem solving. These techniques tend to improve the parent-child relationship and decrease the need or utility of corporal punishment.

Spivak Law Firm handles all family law matters with a focus on child custody. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What To Write On Your PFA Petition

702075.TIFApplying for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order can be a confusing and even scary process. The PFA Act says that you must prove to the court that you have been abused, as described in the categories below. Abuse can take many forms, including economic, emotional, and psychological, and you can write about those, too.

Note: The defendant will receive a copy of the petition. It will also be available as a public record at your county courthouse.

In your PFA petition, you can describe any of the following, if they happened to you:

  • “Acts that cause bodily injury or serious bodily injury and/or sexual offenses.” These include hitting, punching, slapping, pushing, strangling, chocking, forcing sex or attempting to do any of these things.
  • “Putting another person in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.” This refers to making threats to harm or kill you, your family, your children, or your pets.
  • “False imprisonment.” This includes restraining your movement or holding you down.
  • “Physical or sexual abuse of minor children.” This includes corporal punishment or spanking that leaves marks or requires medical attention.
  • “A course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another that put the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.” This includes sending threatening emails, following you, repeatedly calling you on the phone, and showing up at your residence, workplace, or school.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate representation for plaintiffs and defendants at PFA hearings in Pittsburgh and all nearby counties, including: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

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

What To Expect At Child Custody Mediation

Expunge Pic4In Allegheny County, any parent who files for child custody must participate in the Generations program, a two-part alternative dispute resolution program administered by the Child Custody Department. Step one is an education seminar. Step two is a mediation session.

Below is information on the Generations mediation session:

  • The mediation is a opportunity for parties to negotiate a detailed, workable parenting agreement outlined in an informal agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding. Only the parents are permitted in the mediation session – neither children nor attorneys may attend.
  • The mediation session is approximately two hours in length.
  • The mediation session is conducted at the child Custody Department on the first floor of the Family Law Center located in downtown Pittsburgh at 440 Ross Street.
  • The mediation session is mandatory. If you fail to attend the mediation session, the custody action may be dismissed or you may be held in contempt of court for not following the scheduling order. Failure to appear at a contempt hearing may result in the issuance of a custody order and/or a bench warrant for your arrest.
  • If you have been the victim of domestic violence, you may complete and file a domestic violence waiver and bring it to the Child Custody Department. You will then receive an order of court canceling the mediation session and scheduling a conciliation session instead.
  • If you and the other party have agreed to a parenting plan at the completion of your mediation session, you may: complete a Memorandum of Understanding, consult with you attorneys, or have the agreement turned into a legally binding, fully enforceable court order by a domestic relations officer, if available (this option will dispose of the custody action and you will go no further into the court system).
  • If you do not agree after your mediation session, you can request a conciliation date at the Child Custody Department window or pursue additional mediation sessions privately with your mediator.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate, cost-effective representation in all child custody matters. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What To Expect At Child Custody Seminar

Expunge Pic1In Allegheny County, any parent who files for child custody must participate in the Generations program, a two-part alternative dispute resolution program administered by the Child Custody Department. Step one is an education seminar. Step two is a mediation session.

Below is information on the Generations education seminar:

  • The education seminar is mandatory for all adults in the custody action and all children between the ages of 6 and 15.
  • The education seminar is approximately three hours in length. It is a parenting education program for adults and an interactive group for children.
  • Security is provided by the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department.
  • The education seminar occurs on the second floor of the Family Law Center located in downtown Pittsburgh at 440 Ross Street.
  • If you fail to attend the education seminar, the custody action may be dismissed or you may be held in contempt of court for not following the scheduling order. Failure to appear at a contempt hearing may result in the issuance of a custody order and/or a bench warrant for your arrest.
  • To reschedule your education seminar date, you may contact the Child Custody Department at (412) 350-4311. You must complete the education seminar prior to the mediation session.
  • There is no childcare available at the education seminar.

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