Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

412-344-4900

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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.

5 Goals of ARD in Allegheny County

133338146In Allegheny County, the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is commonly offered to most first-time, non-violent offenders. If participants complete the program’s requirements, they may get their criminal records expunged or erased. There are five goals of the ARD program:

(1)  Clean Slate: To provide first-time, non-violent offenders an opportunity to have their criminal charges expunged

(2)  Atonement: To hold offenders responsible while providing them an opportunity to atone for their criminal behavior

(3)  Rehabilitation: To provide offenders with treatment options

(4)  Restitution: To restore the financial burden incurred by the victim

(5)  Efficiency: To enable the courts to dispose of cases in a cost-effective manner

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

What If Your Ex Violates the Custody Order?

102719637You have a child custody order, but your ex continually violates it. Maybe your ex withholds the child during your custody time or fails to return the child on time. Or maybe your ex unilaterally makes big decisions about where the child goes to school without receiving your input or consent. What can you do?

When a child custody order is entered, family courts expect both parents to comply with its terms. You may seek to hold a non-compliant parent in contempt of court. If a parent is found to be in contempt for failing to follow the court order, the other parent may be awarded make-up time for the missed visits as well as other sanctions such as payment of attorney fees.

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

Improving Justice for Juveniles in Pennsylvania

78023307The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted new rules for the state’s juvenile courts in response to the despicable “kids for cash” scandal that led to federal convictions for two Luzerne County judges. The new rules, which were based on recommendations from the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, include as follows:

  • Limiting the use of restraints on a juvenile in the courtroom;
  • Requiring juveniles to have an attorney present during court proceedings;
  • Establishing an extensive question-and-answer process with the judge before a juvenile can enter a plea agreement; and
  • Creating an expedited appeal process when a juvenile is removed from his or her home as a sentence.

The new rules are a direct response to the “kids for cash” scandal, in which two Luzerne County judges had accepted more than $2.5 million in kickbacks from private juvenile facilities from 2003 to 2008. The judges had removed some 2,500 juveniles from their homes for minor offenses and sent them to juvenile facilities in exchange for money.

To speak with an Allegheny County juvenile law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (12) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Spivak Law Firm Wins Summary Trial

99190846 copy2It was St. Patrick’s Day, and Sam (not his real name) and his wife went out with some friends to a bar on Carson Street in Pittsburgh’s South Side to celebrate. The place was noisy and crowded. They were there for maybe half an hour when a bouncer grabbed Sam and told him to leave for pushing a waitress. Sam had no idea what the bouncer was talking about. Neither did his wife, who was standing beside Sam the entire time. Sam was naturally upset; he ignored the bouncer. A police officer then led Sam outside. Sam protested that he didn’t push anybody, but the officer cuffed him anyway.

Months later, Sam appeared with his attorney from Spivak Law Firm for a summary trial at Pittsburgh Municipal Court downtown. Sam faced charges of public intoxication and defiant criminal trespass. Sam wanted to fight these charges, which he felt were unfair. He also did not want any convictions on his record. At the courthouse, the arresting police officer refused to drop the charges, so we asked for a hearing. In the end, the judge dismissed the charges.

“Mr. Spivak was very responsive to all my questions and concerns,” said Sam. “His professional demeanor was excellent in court.”

Many people charged with summary offenses make the mistake of pleading guilty rather than fighting the charges. Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense for people facing criminal charges. When the charges are dropped, we also help to erase our clients’ criminal records by petitioning the court for an expungement.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pittsburgh Dad Wins Sole Custody of Child

126998623What should you do if somebody kidnaps your child? Call the police, right? But what if the police won’t help? This was Reggie’s dilemma when he recently called Spivak Law Firm seeking help.

Reggie and Arlene (not their real names) had a son but were never married. They never bothered to get a custody order because they figured they did not need one.

Both parents were very involved in their child’s life. They lived close to one another in the same school district just outside Pittsburgh. The child had his own room at each of their residences. Reggie coached his son’s sports teams. “We never had any problems sharing our son,” says Reggie.

But then Arlene died suddenly from cancer. Arlene’s sister (the child’s aunt) one day took the child and refused to give him back. Reggie called the aunt repeatedly but she would not take his calls.

So Reggie went to the police. But they refused to get involved in a child custody matter. Then Reggie went to his local magistrate who also refused to help but advised him to get an attorney.

Reggie was emotionally distraught when he arrived at our offices carrying a copy of his son’s birth certificate. A family member had effectively kidnapped his child and it seemed nobody would help him.

Spivak Law Firm promptly filed an Emergency Motion for Special Relief at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas – Family Division. Our petition explained the situation. We sought a Court Order giving Reggie sole custody of his child and the immediate return of the boy to his father with the help of police.

The next day, the judge granted our request and signed the Court Order.

Leaving the courthouse, Reggie looked at his attorney with tears in his eyes. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he whispered. Then he ran to claim his child.

At Spivak Law Firm, we provide strong, compassionate representation in child custody matters. To speak with an experienced child custody lawyer, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Erasing Your Criminal Record in Pennsylvania

95732591There are many reasons why a person may wish to expunge criminal records. For example, a background check will produce details of criminal cases that might affect future employment opportunities, the ability to be bonded or to obtain a gun permit.

Under Pennsylvania law, you may be eligible to have your criminal records erased if your case resulted in a non-conviction, such as: not-guilty verdict, dismissal, withdrawal or charges, or nolle prosequi. Expungements are also available to people who complete the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program or receive Probation Without Verdict pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act.

Convictions for misdemeanors or felonies cannot be expunged in Pennsylvania, but convictions for summary offenses can be expunged so long as the defendant has been free of arrest or prosecution for five years following the conviction of that offense.

Spivak Law Firm offers a low, one-time fee for expungements, which includes obtaining a certified copy of your criminal records from the state police, filing a motion for expungement with your county’s Department of Court Records, and monitoring your case to ensure that the records are removed from statewide databases.

It may take up to one year for the expungement process to be completed after a judge signs an Order of Expungement.

To speak with an attorney about expunging your criminal records, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

 

 

Understanding Alimony in Allegheny County

ConflictCan you still get alimony even if you had an affair during the marriage?

Yes. Under Pennsylvania law, courts consider 17 factors when determining whether to order alimony. Adultery and other forms of marital misconduct represent just one of those factors. Other factors include the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, and the relative needs of the parties. Courts will consider adultery only if it occurred prior to the date of final separation between the parties. A person cannot continue to receive alimony after moving in with a new partner, unless the parties agree otherwise.

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

Grandparent Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

144806853In Pennsylvania, a grandparent may seek custody rights over a grandchild under one of the following three scenarios:

  • Scenario #1: The grandparent has acted as a parent to the child and taken on the responsibilities of parenthood for a period of time. This is known as acting in loco parentis – or acting “in the place of a parent.”
  • Scenario #2: A grandparent who has not acted in loco parentis still may seek custody of the child if:
    • A parent of the child allowed the grandparent to form a relationship with the child; and
    • The grandparent is willing to take responsibility for the child; and
    • One of the following circumstances exists:
      • The child is deemed “dependent” under Pennsylvania’s child abuse and neglect law; or
      • The child is deemed substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol use, or incapacity; or
      • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months (not counting brief absences) and is removed from the home by the parents.
  • Scenario #3: A grandparent may seek partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in the following situations:
    • The parent of the child has died; or
    • The parents of the child have been separated for at least six months or have started divorce proceedings; or
    • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months (not counting brief absences) and is removed from the home by the parents.

To learn more about grandparent custody rights in Pennsylvania, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

5 Factors for Setting Bail in Allegheny County

SO000183A court uses several factors to determine the amount and type of bail it sets. Under Pennsylvania law, bail is security used to guarantee a person’s appearance in criminal court. A court may release you from jail on a Cash Bail, in which you must post the full amount of the face value of the bond, or a Percentage Cash Bail, in which you must deposit 10 percent of the face amount of the bond, or Release on Own Recognizance (R.O.R.) bond, in which you need not post any cash whatsoever.

In Allegheny County, the five main criteria used in the setting of bail are:

(1)  The nature of the offense charged;

(2)  Prior criminal history;

(3)  Length of residence or community ties in Allegheny County;

(4)  History of prior appearances in Court; and

(5)  Whether or not the defendant poses a threat to the safety of the community.

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