Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

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PFA Orders

PFA DO’s and DON’Ts

At Spivak Law Firm, we provide strong defense at PFA hearings for people accused of domestic violence. In most cases, we get the PFA dismissed.

Based in Pittsburgh, we routinely represent PFA defendants in Allegheny County, Westmoreland County, Beaver County, Butler County, and Washington County.

If you’ve been served with a PFA, protect your future by following this important list of PFA Do’s and Don’ts:

Do Hire an Experienced PFA Defense Lawyer: In many Pennsylvania counties, PFA plaintiffs are entitled to a free lawyer. PFA defendants should retain a lawyer to help level the playing field. PFA is a unique area of law that combines aspects of family law and criminal defense. As one of the few law firms in the greater Pittsburgh area that routinely handles both family and criminal cases, Spivak Law Firm is uniquely qualified to help. Our strong negotiation and courtroom skills help us achieve the best outcomes.

Don’t Blow Off the Hearing: Defendants who fail to appear at their PFA hearing risk getting a maximum three-year PFA. This can be devastating, as a PFA stays on the public docket and can haunt you like a criminal record. It comes up on a basic background check performed by employers, potentially costing you a job or promotion. At Spivak Law Firm, we understand that a PFA is a big deal. If you’ve been served with a PFA, we strongly encourage you to take it seriously by attending the PFA hearing.

Do Bring Evidence: If you’ve been served with a PFA, your hearing is likely just about a week away. That does not leave you or your attorney much time to prepare, so you need to start thinking about your defense immediately. Physical evidence commonly introduced at PFA hearings includes copies of medical records, phone records, emails, texts, and Facebook pages. At Spivak Law Firm, we help our clients prepare for their PFA hearing by collecting – by subpoena, if necessary – all records that help present the strongest possible defense.

Don’t Contact the Plaintiff: A PFA is a no-contact order. While it remains in effect, the defendant must abide by the PFA by having no contact whatsoever with the plaintiff. This includes not just physical contact but also contact by phone, text, email, fax, or regular mail. It also includes third-party contact. Thus, a PFA defendant cannot ask a friend or family member to contact the plaintiff about anything. For instance, having a friend ask the plaintiff to withdraw the PFA constitutes a violation of the court order because it is considered third-party contact. For more information on this issue, please visit our blog post “10 Tips for PFA Defendants to Avoid Arrest.”

Do Bring Witnesses: In domestic violence cases, the only eyewitnesses to the incident are often the parties themselves. Because of the “he-said, she-said” nature of domestic violence, cases are often determined based on credibility. A judge will hear testimony from both parties and make a decision largely based on who comes across as more believable. But when witnesses are present, it is important to bring them to the hearing. Because an eyewitness can be crucial in getting your PFA dropped, Spivak Law Firm works hard with clients to ensure that such witnesses appear at their PFA hearing.

Don’t Violate the PFA: Violating any provision of a PFA can result in a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. Although the main function of a PFA is to restrict contact between the parties, the court order may also contain other provisions that must be followed to avoid arrest. For instance, a PFA may restrict your ability to see your kids, possess weapons, or go to your home and other places frequented by the plaintiff. At Spivak Law Firm, we carefully review the PFA with our clients to ensure that they understand the restrictions imposed by the PFA and the severe consequences of violating them.

To speak with an experienced PFA lawyer, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Client Relieved as Spivak Law Firm Gets PFA Dismissed

Dave, my client, can’t sit still. About a week ago, he was served with a PFA restraining order from his wife for stalking. Now he’s pacing the third-floor hallway of the family court building in downtown Pittsburgh nervously awaiting his PFA hearing.

I met Dave a few days earlier at my law offices to discuss his case. Dave and his wife were separated for several months. They have a young son together. They both also have children from prior relationships.

She claims he was stalking her by showing up unexpectedly at places like the grocery store, the gas station, Kennywood and Sandcastle. Dave denies following her, and says it was coincidental — after all, they live in the same neighborhood.

Dave was anxious about the PFA. He knew his wife was using it to gain custody rights over their child. The PFA system — though vitally important for helping victims of domestic abuse — is routinely abused by people aiming to get leverage in a child custody case or to evict an ex from a shared residence.

He also worried that she would one day lie about him violating the PFA to get him arrested. Violating any provision of a PFA can land you in jail for 6 months. In domestic violence cases, police routinely make arrests based solely on the complainant’s statement.

I asked Dave to stay in the waiting room with the other PFA defendants while I met with his wife’s attorney. Most PFA cases get resolved by the attorneys without ever having to appear before a judge. But the wife’s attorney insisted on a three-year PFA against my client – the maximum allowed under Pennsylvania law.

I told the attorney that no judge would grant a three-year PFA against my client. But the opposing counsel would not budge. So I said we needed to go before a judge.

At the PFA hearing, I argued that the wife did not allege any physical abuse or threatening behavior. I further explained that the wife does not fear my client, and provided the judge with recent hotel receipts, phone records, and witness statements proving their ongoing relationship.

The judge dismissed the PFA order. My client let out a big sigh of relief and threw his arm around me.

At Spivak Law Firm, aim to provide the strongest possible defense for people accused of stalking, harassment, verbal threats, and physical abuse. In most cases, we get the PFA dismissed. If you’ve been served with a PFA, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pennsylvania PFA Law

At Spivak Law Firm, we strongly defend people served with PFA restraining orders. We know that the PFA system itself is frequently abused, causing many innocent people to suffer. But we also know that domestic violence is real, and we understand the need to provide immediate protections for victims of abuse.

We began handling PFA cases by representing victims of abuse on a pro bono basis for Neighborhood Legal Services Association. We recently recounted our representation of a woman seeking a PFA who was attacked by her husband and son along a busy street in Pittsburgh:

“A rail-thin woman sits hunched in a chair straining to breathe. She clutches a folder to her chest as though someone is threatening to snatch it. I call her name into the crowded room on the third floor of the Family Law Center in downtown Pittsburgh. She throws back her head, revealing two black eyes….”

To read our entire column on Pennsylvania PFA Law, go to page 26 of the Spring 2012 edition of the Pennsylvania Bar Association publication At Issue.