Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA


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Elmo Puppeteer Falsely Accused of Abuse?

At Spivak Law Firm, our phone rings every day from people who say they’ve been falsely accused of abuse. We aggressively defend these people against bogus PFAs and false complaints of harassment, stalking, assault, and other forms of domestic violence.

Their stories don’t make headlines. But every once in a while a story like theirs will make the news, shining a light on how these people’s lives are ruined by lies.

This week, the gossip website TMZ published a claim that Kevin Clash, the voice and puppeteer of Elmo on “Sesame Street,” had sex with a minor. The very next day, his accuser recanted.

But the stigma remains. Elmo’s puppeteer endured a months-long investigation by his employer before the false allegations went viral online.

Like so many of our clients, Clash has endured the hell of being defamed publicly. In Pennsylvania, all PFAs are public records easily viewable for free by employers, family, friends, neighbors, and anyone else who wants to dig into their backgrounds.

And like so many of our clients, he must try to put these false accusations of abuse behind him and get on with his life.

If you’ve been served with a PFA or accused of abuse, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or (800) 545-9390.

Winning Social Security Disability

Applying for Social Security Disability? You better follow your doctor’s orders to have any chance of receiving SSD or SSI benefits. As stated in Spivak Law Firm’s 10 Tips for Winning: “Social Security routinely denies claims for benefits if people stop seeing their doctor, stop taking their prescribed medications, or continually fail to appear at scheduled doctor appointments.”

But what if your doctor’s recommendations do more harm than good?

Back problems represent the most common basis for approving Social Security Disability benefits. Doctors commonly recommend that patients with back problems receive spinal injections with a steroid medicine for relief. In 2011, some 5 million Americans received lumbar epidural steroid injections, according to the International Spine Intervention Society.

These are the same injections that have led to a fatal meningitis outbreak that has so far killed 7 Americans and left thousands potentially exposed.

Making matters worse, there is no evidence that steroid injections for back pain even works. A recent report in The New York Times states: “The Cochrane Collaboration, an international group of medical experts, reviewed the data last year and found there was ‘no strong evidence for or against’ the injections.”

The ongoing meningitis outbreak should serve as a wake-up call to Social Security. People seeking Social Security Disability should not be penalized for ignoring or rejecting a doctor’s recommendations – especially given that a doctor’s orders can prove lethal.

Spivak Law Firm proudly helps people nationwide win Social Security Disability benefits. We handle applications, appeals, hearings, and much more. To speak with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

In The News: Spivak Law Firm

Spivak Law Firm has been in the news a lot lately.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published our column on how Pennsylvania law handles child custody matters in rape cases, just weeks after announcing the opening of our firm at West Liberty and Potomac avenues in Dormont, three miles from downtown Pittsburgh.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association publication At Issue is about to run our latest column on family law matters. Our previous article on Protection From Abuse (PFA) restraining orders in Allegheny County ran this past spring.

Patch.com, an online community news outlet, ran a profile of Spivak Law Firm that was featured in its Dormont-Brookline and Chartiers Valley editions. And just today, the Allegheny County Bar Association publication Lawyers Journal joined the others in announcing the opening of our firm.

Spivak Law Firm handles all matters involving Family Law, PFA Defense, Criminal Defense, DUI Defense, and Social Security Disability. To schedule an appointment, email us here or call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody for Rapists?

The  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published our article on how Pennsylvania law handles child custody issues in rape cases.

Pennsylvania has received national attention for offering rape victims protection against rapists who later seek child custody privileges. But even Pennsylvania’s protections are limited because judges have discretion over all child custody matters.

“We’re not going to be stupid and give custody to a rapist,” Allegheny County Common Please Judge Kathleen Mulligan told us.

But it can happen, says Chicago-based attorney and women’s rights advocate Shauna Prewitt.

“For instance,” our article states, “a rape victim may be forced to interact with her rapist for months or even years if a custody hearing precedes a rape conviction. By the time the father is eventually convicted of rape, Ms. Prewitt says, a court may find that it is in the child’s best interests for the father to have custody rights because he has established a parental presence with the child.”

To read the entire article, please click here.

Spivak Law Firm handles all family law and criminal defense matters. To make an appointment, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

It is widely believed that in child custody disputes courts favor giving primary custody of the child to the mother.

But the law rejects this notion.

Pennsylvania law states: “In any action regarding the custody of the child between the parents of the child, there shall be no presumption that custody should be awarded to a particular parent.”

Thus, under the law, both parents are presumed by the court to have equal custodial rights over their child or children.

In some limited situations, a person who is not the child’s parent – a grandparent, for instance – may also assert custodial rights over the child. But even in these cases, the parent’s custodial rights take precedence.

Pennsylvania law states: “In any action regarding the custody of the child between a parent of the child and a nonparent, there shall be a presumption that custody shall be awarded to the parent.”

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

Pennsylvania May Suspend Life Sentences for Juvenile Offenders

Pennsylvania is still grappling with how to interpret the United State Supreme Court’s recent landmark ruling in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment.

The main question is whether the ruling should be applied retroactively to include the 470 people across Pennsylvania now serving mandatory life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles. That’s more than any other state.

Not surprisingly, criminal defense organizations support retroactivity while prosecutors oppose it.

Many prosecutors even go so far as saying that Miller v. Alabama does not abolish mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders. Instead, they say, such sentences may be given but only after there is a special sentencing hearing similar to those given in death row cases.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears arguments on these issues this week.

Why You Need an Experienced PFA Lawyer

In Pennsylvania, any person who files a PFA restraining order gets a free attorney. But people who are served with a PFA do not. We strongly advise that you hire our experienced PFA attorney to strongly defend you and help level the playing field. In most cases, we get the PFA dropped.

Many people who are served with a PFA make the mistake of not taking it seriously. They may not show up for their hearing. Or they may choose to represent themselves at the PFA hearing. But a PFA has severe consequences that can haunt you for years like a criminal record. If you’ve been served with a PFA, you need to take it seriously.

If you fail to appear at your PFA hearing, a judge may hit you with a no-contact order lasting three years, the maximum penalty allowed under Pennsylvania law. You can be jailed for six months for violating any provision of a PFA order – even if your accuser is lying.

If you choose to represent yourself, you run the risk of being manipulated by your accuser’s attorney. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your accuser’s lawyer is looking out for your best interests. Only your own lawyer will do that.

Many cases of alleged harassment, stalking, and abuse simply do not rise to the level of a PFA. We know Pennsylvania PFA law and can defend you from false allegations and exaggerations. If you’ve been served with a PFA, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pennsylvania Ends Disability Aid for Mentally Ill

Pennsylvania continues to hack away at social services for its poorest citizens.

This week, the Department of Public Welfare ended a program that expedited the process of getting Social Security disability payments to low-income, disabled women suffering from mental illness.

The move came just weeks after Pennsylvania abolished its General Assistance Cash Grant program, which provided $200 per month to people with no other sources of income.

Please join us in opposing these budget cuts by contacting your state lawmakers today.

“Legitimate Rape” and Child Custody Laws

Missouri Congressman Todd Akin lit a political firestorm with his statement that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy. “If it’s legitimate rape,” Akin said, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

What is “legitimate rape?”

And how can a woman’s body distinguish the sperm of a rapist from a consensual partner?

But some good may result from the controversy, as Akin’s comment has shifted the political focus to women’s rights.

Today 31 states allow men who father through rape to assert child custody and visitation rights.

I mean can you imagine getting raped, becoming pregnant, having the child, and then having your rapist seek custody rights over the baby and becoming legally bound to you for the next 18 years?

It’s unthinkable.

But that’s precisely what happened to Shauna Prewitt, a rape survivor, attorney, and activist who investigated the custody rights of men who father through rape.

Moreover, Prewitt’s rapist threatened to assert custody of their child unless she stopped pursuing criminal charges against him. Most states sanction this cruel form of blackmail.

Nineteen states, including Pennsylvania, passed laws allowing courts to terminate parental rights of men who father children through rape. Pennsylvania law states: “The rights of a parent in regard to a child may be terminated” if “the parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of a rape or incest.”

Hopefully, Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment will inspire more states to follow Pennsylvania’s lead and pass legislation restricting the ability of men who father children through rape to assert custody rights.

What to Expect at Your PFA Hearing

If you’ve been served with a PFA, your PFA hearing is likely within 10 days. The thought of having to go before a judge can be very stressful. Indeed, it should cause you some anxiety. After all, a PFA has serious consequences: it can evict you from your home, restrict your ability to see your children, and even land you in jail for six months if you violate it.

At Spivak Law Firm, we handle many PFA cases – representing both defendants and plaintiffs. It often calms our clients when we explain what to expect at a PFA hearing. Here are some things we always go over with our clients to help prepare them for their day in court:

First, it’s important that you show up at the hearing on time. In Allegheny County, PFA hearings are scheduled for 9 a.m. If you show up later than 10 a.m., you could be slapped with a full three-year PFA. Running late is a poor excuse, so plan ahead. Expect traffic and difficulty parking. Like an airport terminal, you will likely have to wait in a long line of people to get through a metal detector. We advise our clients to get to the courthouse by 8:45 a.m.

Second, the plaintiff and defendant likely will not see each other. There is a room for defendants and a separate room for plaintiffs. But do not forget that the PFA remains in place even at court on the day of the hearing. A PFA is a no-contact order. If you violate it, you may be arrested. If you see your accuser in the courthouse, stay away. Do not share an elevator or talk to your accuser. Just go to the waiting area – in Allegheny County, it’s on the third floor of the Family Court Building – check in, and wait for your attorney.

Third, you probably won’t see a judge. Most cases get resolved by the attorneys without ever having to appear before a judge. At Spivak Law Firm, we get the PFA dropped in most cases through negotiations with opposing counsel. Nevertheless, you should work with your attorney so you are prepared to make your strongest case before a judge. Bring any documentation that is helpful to your case – phone records, emails, text messages, photographs, etc. If possible, bring eyewitnesses who can testify as to whether the alleged abuse actually occurred.

For more information about what to expect at your PFA hearing, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.