Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

412-344-4900

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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.

Even the Jobless Often Must Pay Child Support

imagesIn Pennsylvania, parents are legally obligated to support their children. Failing to financially support your child may result in your wages being garnished and even in your arrest.

But what if you don’t have a job? If you earn no money, you can’t be required to pay child support, right? Wrong!

Courts may impute an income equal to your earning capacity if you are found to have “willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment.”

Factors for determining a parent’s earning capacity include: age, education, training, health, work experience, earnings history, and child care responsibilities.

To learn more about earning capacity and other child support issues in Pennsylvania, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

10 Tips for PFA Defendants to Avoid Arrest

SO000183Violating a PFA can result in criminal charges with a maximum punishment of six months in jail. Here are 10 tips for helping PFA defendants avoid criminal penalties:

  1. Do not drive past the plaintiff’s residence.
  2. Avoid all places where you know the plaintiff goes.
  3. Leave a restaurant, grocery, or any other place if you realize the plaintiff is there.
  4. Hang up the phone immediately if the plaintiff calls you.
  5. Do not send emails, texts, letters, faxes, or gifts to the plaintiff.
  6. Do not respond to emails, texts, letters, faxes, or gifts from the plaintiff.
  7. Avoid contact with the plaintiff’s family, friends, and neighbors.
  8. Do not get into arguments or confrontations with the plaintiff’s family or friends – walk away!
  9. If the plaintiff comes to your house, do not let the plaintiff inside – don’t open the door!
  10. Retain an experienced PFA defense attorney.

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

Want to Pay Less Child Support?

126998623In Pennsylvania, child support and child custody are inextricably linked. The amount of child support you owe is directly tied to the amount of time you spend with your child.

A parent who pays child support will receive a 10 percent reduction in the amount of support owed at 40 percent parenting time, increasing incrementally to a 20 percent reduction at 50 percent parenting time, according to state law.

Parenting time is based on the number of overnights the child spends with the parent who pays child support.

Courts are reluctant to grant a parent more custodial time merely in order to reduce child support payments. But such practical considerations must be part of the conversation between you and your family law attorney.

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

Filing for Child Support in Pennsylvania

Does the person who files for child support automatically get it?

No.

In fact, Pennsylvania law explicitly states that child support orders must be entered “without regard to which party initiated the support action.”

In other words, a person who files for child support may end up owing it.

Child support calculations are based on (1) the parties’ incomes and (2) the custodial arrangements in place at the time of the hearing or trial. Generally, the parent with primary custody is entitled to child support.

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

Domestic Violence Can Happen to Anyone

Restraining orders and domestic violence can happen to anyone – even the very rich and famous.

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will appear in court this week in a domestic violence case that has received international attention.

This past Thanksgiving, Berry’s fiancé got into a brutal fight with Berry’s ex-boyfriend that left both men with serious injuries. Each man filed a restraining order against the other.

The incident occurred in Berry’s driveway while her 4-year-old daughter was inside the house.

In Pennsylvania, a restraining order is known as a PFA, or Protection From Abuse order, which restricts contact between the parties and can be used to gain leverage in child custody matters.

In Berry’s case, the restraining orders could affect her child custody case. Last month, a judge denied Berry’s request to move with her fiancé to France because her ex-boyfriend shares custody of the child.

In Pennsylvania, a person cannot relocate with a child unless every person with custody rights to the child consents or the court approves the relocation.

Berry, like many of our clients throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, will spend much of this holiday season in court battling over child custody, restraining orders, and criminal charges arising out of the domestic violence incident from Thanksgiving.

Spivak Law Firm handles all domestic violence matters, including PFA restraining orders, criminal charges, and child custody matters. To schedule an appointment, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.