Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

412-344-4900

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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.

On Talk Show, Spivak Law Firm Discusses PFA Law

Spivak Law Firm appeared this week on one of Toronto’s largest radio stations to discuss the stigma of domestic violence and how it affects people who are falsely accused of abuse.

Here’s a summary of our interview with Jim Richards on CFRB Newstalk 1010, which was prompted by news that the long-time puppeteer and voice of Elmo on Sesame Street was falsely accused of having sex with a minor:

“We get calls all day long from people who say they were falsely accused of abuse,” said Todd Spivak, attorney and owner of Spivak Law Firm, “whether it’s harassment, stalking, physical violence, or sexual abuse.

“In Pennsylvania, there are restraining orders known as PFAs, and they’re very easy to get. Judges in Allegheny County sign off on about 97 percent of all initial PFA petitions. And then the majority of these claims are either withdrawn or dismissed.

“In Pennsylvania, the PFA remains a public record. It can preclude you from certain job opportunities and promotions, hurt your credit rating, as well as destroy your relationships with your neighbors, your family, and your friends.”

Domestic violence is real. But people who are pulled into this system unfairly, unnecessarily, they have to go on and live with this stigma for the rest of their lives.”

At Spivak Law Firm, we strongly defend people against accusations of abuse. If you’ve been served with a PFA or face criminal domestic violence charges, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

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.