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PFA Orders

China Mulls PFA Law Similar to Pennsylvania

China appears close to passing a law empowering courts to issue restraining orders for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Chinese culture has traditionally regarded family abuse as a private, not a criminal, matter, according to a recent article in The New York Times. Currently, someone who goes to the police seeking help against a violent family member will generally be advised to return home and “work it out,” the article states.

The Chinese bill is comparable to Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse (PFA) law, which nearly 40 years ago enabled courts to issue emergency no-contact orders at a time when filing criminal charges was the only legal recourse for victims of family abuse.

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

Dave Wins PFA Hearing, Seeks Custody of Kids

78287715After 17 years of marriage, Tara decided she wanted a divorce from her husband Dave (not their real names). He suggested marriage counseling, if only for the sake of their teenage children, but Tara refused. “I’m going to destroy you in court,” she snapped at him. One morning, after several days of getting the silent treatment from his wife, Dave lost his cool and slammed the palm of his hand against the kitchen stove. Tara went to the county courthouse and received a temporary Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against her husband.

Later that day, a police officer arrived at their home and handed Dave the restraining order, which stated that he was evicted from his home, effective immediately, and that he could not have any contact whatsoever with his wife or kids until the PFA hearing. Emotionally devastated, Dave scrambled to find a friend or relative to take him in for a few weeks.

Seeking an experienced PFA defense lawyer, Dave retained Spivak Law Firm to represent him. Dave had never been apart from his family for so long. Feeling anxious and estranged, he attended his PFA hearing with a feeling of dread. Tara wanted a three-year PFA, the maximum duration allowed by law. We requested a hearing before the judge.

Tara testified that she and was afraid of Dave, but on cross-examination she admitted that Dave only hit the stove – not her or the children. Tara then testified that she never cheated on Dave, which damaged her credibility when Dave’s attorney produced love letters that she had recently written to another man. In the end, Tara confessed to simply wanting Dave out of the house so she could pursue her new love interest.

After a brief recess to consider all the evidence, the judge denied Tara’s request for a final PFA. Feeling relieved, Dave smiled for the first time in weeks. Dave and his attorney then left the courtroom to discuss their next legal actions: expunging the PFA from his record and filing for shared custody of the children.

Spivak Law Firm has extensive experience defending people against domestic-abuse accusations and asserting child custody rights. To speak with a Pittsburgh family law attorney, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What is Family Law?

87486604At Spivak Law Firm, we provide strong, compassionate, and cost-effective representation in all family law issues. Family Law comprises a wide array of legal matters, including:

  • Divorce Litigation  In conventional divorce litigation, parties file suit and use the court system as a framework for litigating and negotiating issues including property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Spivak Law Firm handles divorce litigation; we are also certified in divorce mediation and collaborative divorce.
  • Child Custody  Child custody refers to both major decisions regarding the child as well as where the child resides. At Spivak Law Firm, we handle all child custody matters, including: custody complaints, custody conciliations, custody trials, custody modification hearings, and custody relocation hearings.
  • Protection From Abuse (PFA)  A PFA is a no-contact order that aims to protect victims of domestic abuse. Pennsylvania law defines domestic abuse broadly to include physical and sexual assault, harassment, and stalking. Spivak Law Firm provides strong representation for both defendants and plaintiffs in PFA cases.
  • Juvenile Delinquency  This refers to the process of adjudicating juveniles accused of crimes. At Spivak Law Firm, we handle all juvenile law matters and routinely accept juvenile court appointments from the Allegheny County Office of Conflict Counsel.
  • Child Support  Child support payments continue until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. In Pennsylvania, judges apply statutory guidelines to determine the amount of support payable for each child. This formula is based on several factors, including monthly after-tax incomes of the child’s parents.
  • Spousal Support, Alimony Pendente Lite (APL), and Alimony  These refer to financial support given by one spouse to another. Spousal support and APL are based on a fixed percentage of the differences in the net incomes or earning capacities of the spouses. Alimony is based on the reasonable needs of the dependent spouse.
  • Paternity  Paternity testing may be required to determine the identity of a child’s father. Establishing paternity affects several other family law issues, such as asserting custodial rights and seeking child support payments.
  • Divorce Mediation  A divorce mediator is a third-party neutral who aims to help parties resolve all issues related to the divorce without the financial and emotional cost that often accompanies divorce litigation. Spivak Law firm is trained and certified in divorce mediation.
  • Collaborative Divorce  This relatively new and progressive means of divorce avoids the courtroom in favor of allowing parties to work out agreements with the help of their attorneys. Spivak Law firm is trained and certified in collaborative divorce.
  • Equitable Distribution of Marital Property  This refers to the formal court process for dividing marital assets and debts based on principles of fairness.
  • Adoption  There are many different types of adoption, including stepparent adoption, grandparent adoption, second-parent adoption, international adoption, and surrogate-mother adoption.
  • Estate Planning  Estate planning includes the preparation of various important legal documents, including: wills, trusts, special-needs trusts, and powers of attorney for finances, health care and mental-health care.

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

Pittsburgh Dad Loses Child Custody Due to PFA

86505316Rick (not his real name) never spent a single night away from his 4-year-old daughter until his wife got a temporary Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against him. The PFA evicted Rick from his home and restricted him from having any contact with his child until the PFA hearing some two weeks away.

Rick’s wife got the PFA on grounds that he threatened her during an argument and hit her once several years ago. Rick says these things never happened.

Rick’s wife did not include their child as a protected party on the PFA. Rick is not accused of ever harming or threatening to harm his little girl. Still, the court took Rick’s daughter away by denying him any custodial or visitation rights until the hearing.

Rick figures that his wife filed the PFA to gain leverage in their imminent divorce and child custody battle. Emotionally devastated, Rick continues to wait for his day in court.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong representation in all family law matters. For a free consultation, call (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Celebrities and Restraining Orders

Musician Jack White has become the latest in a long list of celebrities to receive a restraining order.

White is engaged in an ongoing child custody battle with his ex-wife who has accused him of sending her harassing emails and texts. Best known as the singer and guitarist for the Grammy Award-winning band The White Stripes, White is barred from having any contact with his children until his hearing date, which remains several weeks away.

In Pennsylvania, restraining orders are known as Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders. The PFA law permits alleged victims of domestic violence to obtain a court order secretly without giving any notice to the defendant, who may be evicted from the home and restricted from seeing his or her children until the PFA hearing usually scheduled within ten days.

In recent years, restraining orders have been granted against musicians Chris Brown, M.I.A., and Courtney Love, as well as actors Mel Gibson, Terrence Howard, and Randy Quaid. Numerous athletes have also received restraining orders, particularly NFL players such as Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens, Randy Moss of the New England Patriots, Shannon Sharpe of the Denver Broncos, Titus Young of the Detroit Lions, and Mike Logan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In California, actors and actres
ses commonly use restraining orders to protect themselves against stalkers. Such actors have included: Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Seacrest, Tyra Banks, Audrina Partridge, Alyson Hannigan, Jeff Goldblum, and Eva Mendes.

In Pennsylvania, by contrast, a person cannot receive a PFA order against a stranger. Rather, the PFA law states that any person can get a PFA against a spouse, a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend, a parent, a child, the parent of his or her child, a former sexual or intimate partner, or any family member related by blood or marriage.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong defense at PFA hearings throughout the Greater Pittsburgh Area, including Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Westmoreland County, and Washington County. To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pennsylvania PFA Orders Restrict Contact

702075.TIFA Protection From Abuse (PFA) order is commonly known as a restraining order or no-contact order. Under Pennsylvania law, “no contact” includes: no physical contact; no phone calls; no emails; no text messages; no mailing letters; no sending flowers, boxes of candy, or gifts of any kind; and no third-party contact, such as sending messages through friends, relatives, neighbors, religious leaders, or acquaintances. If you’ve been served with a PFA, do not try to persuade the plaintiff into withdrawing the PFA. Violating a PFA order can result in a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong representation for people at PFA hearings and Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC) hearings. To speak with an experienced PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or (800) 545-9390.

Accused of Abuse?

147285315Spivak Law Firm routinely defends people accused of domestic violence and abuse. We defend people facing Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders and criminal charges such as simple assault, aggravated assault, harassment, stalking, terroristic threats, child abuse, and reckless endangerment. We also help people facing abuse charges assert child custody and visitation rights.

In family court, it is important to understand that credibility is everything. Someone accused of abuse instantly loses sympathy and credibility in the eyes of the court. Only a rapid, fact-based response can prevent a negative stereotype from attaching to you if you’re falsely accused of abuse. If this happens, it often helps to request a custody or psychological evaluation for both parents and the children, which some judges will order to get beneath the surface and thoroughly evaluate the truth, the dynamics of the parties, and their parenting abilities. Ideally you need to be prepared with a fact-based response to these common types of allegations from the start of the case.

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

Types of Domestic Violence

77005984At Spivak Law Firm, we handle many cases involving allegations of domestic violence, including: Protection From Abuse (PFA), criminal charges such as assault and harassment, and high-conflict divorce and child custody matters. According to family law experts, there are four distinctly different types of domestic violence:

1)    Battering: Also known as coercive controlling violence, battering involves a pattern of power and control by one partner and a pattern of fear in the victim partner. There may not be frequent violence, but when violence occurs, it can be severe and result in bruises, broken bones, and even death. The victim often becomes isolated, loses self-esteem, and finds it very hard to leave. Most batterers seem to have characteristics of borderline, narcissistic, or anti-social personalities.

2)     Situational Couple Violence: This type of domestic violence is the most common type. Instead of a pattern of power and control, both parties in the couple have difficulties resolving conflict peacefully and get into pushing and shoving types of behavior, sometimes with injuries. Neither party lives in fear of the other, and the violence is generally less severe. Research shows that men and women engage in this type of violence fairly equally.

3)    Separation-Instigated Violence: Sometimes there are one or two incidents at the time of separation, but no prior history of violence. Both parties may engage in this behavior, and it is fairly equal among males and females.

4)    Violent Resistance: This term is used when a victim of a batterer fights back, sometimes injuring the usual perpetrator. Sometimes, batterers set up a spouse to fight back, then call the police. Sometimes victims get arrested because of one injury to the batterer, while the batterer gets away with numerous injuries on other occasions that the victim does not report.

To schedule an appointment with an attorney experienced in cases involving allegations of domestic violence, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

5 Common PFA Misconceptions

86505321Many people have misconceptions about Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders. As a result, they might accept a PFA instead of fighting it.  Or they might violate the PFA unknowingly, resulting in criminal charges. Protect yourself by reading Spivak Law Firm’s five most common PFA misconceptions:

Misconception #1: “It doesn’t matter if I get a PFA because I don’t want to see the plaintiff anyway.

Even if you don’t want to have contact with the plaintiff, we strongly advise you to contest the PFA. A PFA stays on the civil docket and can haunt you for years, especially if you seek a job that requires a background check. Protect your future by hiring an experienced PFA attorney to try to get the PFA vacated, withdrawn, or dismissed.

Misconception #2: “The PFA means we can’t contact each other.”

In fact, the PFA means the defendant cannot contact the plaintiff. But the plaintiff can contact the defendant because the PFA restricts the defendant only. If the plaintiff contacts you while the PFA remains in place, do not respond. The plaintiff could be setting a trap to get you arrested. The plaintiff may always seek to withdraw the PFA.

Misconception #3: “I won’t get in trouble for having somebody else tell the plaintiff to drop the PFA.”

A PFA is a no-contact order. No contact includes physical contact as well as phone calls, texts, emails, faxes, and regular mail. It also includes third-party contact. Instructing another person to give any message whatsoever to the plaintiff is a violation of the PFA that could result in criminal charges.

Misconception #4: “A PFA can’t be used to take my kids away.”

Plaintiffs sometimes misuse PFAs to gain leverage in child custody and divorce cases. Plaintiffs may temporarily receive sole custody of a child until the final PFA hearing, causing defendants to go weeks or even months without seeing their kids. Custody provisions are often included in final PFAs that stay in place indefinitely.

Misconception #5: The plaintiff can’t afford a lawyer so I don’t need to get a lawyer either.

In many Pennsylvania counties, including Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties, plaintiffs may receive a free lawyer regardless of income. In these counties, free lawyers are offered to all plaintiffs, not just low-income plaintiffs. Spivak Law Firm strongly advises defendants to hire an experienced PFA attorney to level the playing field.

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

Post-Gazette Features Spivak Law Firm

95732591The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has featured Spivak Law Firm’s article on ways to fix Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse (PFA) law to limit false claims of abuse.

Although a PFA aims to protect victims of domestic abuse, the law itself is frequently abused by plaintiffs who file bogus PFAs to get defendants evicted from a shared residence or to gain leverage in a divorce or child custody matter.

In our article, Spivak Law Firm proposes five common-sense solutions for curbing abuses. Our recommendations include criminally prosecuting filers of bogus PFA petitions and removing PFA records from the public database if the order is withdrawn or dismissed.

Spivak Law Firm, which focuses on family law and criminal defense, was featured in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last September in an article about child custody rights in Pennsylvania. The local newspaper also spotlighted Spivak Law Firm in its South Notables section and includes us in its business directory.

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