Allegheny County Family Law
A new Pennsylvania law aims to legitimize collaborative divorce and create a uniform standard of practice.
Collaborative divorce is a relatively new, alternative way for couples to obtain a divorce without need for court intervention.
Collaborative divorce involves a problem-solving approach with interest-based negotiations rather than positional bargaining.
It involves several meetings with two clients, two collaborative lawyers, a facilitative coach who is a mental health professional, a neutral financial professional and a neutral child specialist if needed.
The meetings address all elements of the divorce, including child custody, child and spousal support, and division of the marital assets and debts.
Spivak Law Firm has received specialized training in collaborative divorce with membership in the Collaborative Law Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania. To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
The most effective parents are authoritative, according to the recently published book “Love, Money and Parenting.”
Authoritative parents use reasoning to persuade kids to do things that are good for them.
Instead of strict obedience, they emphasize adaptability, problem-solving and independence.
The book distinguishes authoritative parents from authoritarian parents – defined, by contrast, as issuing directives, expecting obedience from their children, and using corporal punishment to instill fear and inflict punishment.
Kids raised by authoritative parents report better health, higher self-esteem, and are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, according to the authors.
Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law with a special focus on child custody and domestic abuse. To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Criminal domestic violence court can be a site of victim blaming, but not just by alleged abusers. Spivak Law Firm advocates educating judges overseeing cases of domestic violence to avoid using victim-blaming language.
Victim advocates recommend instructing judges to use language that more appropriately describes the effects of domestic violence and holds abusers responsible.
Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants at Protection from Abuse (PFA) and criminal domestic violence hearings. We routinely volunteer with Neighborhood Legal Services Association to help victims of domestic violence obtain protection orders from their abusers.
To speak with an experienced domestic violence attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
In order to avoid needless stress or confusion, let your children know in advance where they will be during the holidays, and assure them they will have a good time.
Although you may be feeling lonely or sad without them, try encouraging them to be happy and have fun.
Spivak Law Firm wishes you a safe, happy Memorial Day weekend.
Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law, including: divorce, child custody, child support, and PFA hearings.
To speak with an experienced family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
The P-G recently published the article, Clean The Slate In Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth Should Make It Easier To Expunge Criminal Records And Give People A Fresh Start In Life, written by attorneys Todd Spivak and Rebecca Canterbury.
The Post-Gazette routinely features Spivak Law Firm, publishing several articles of important legal commentary on Protection From Abuse (PFA), child custody, and criminal-record expungement laws in Pennsylvania.
In Clean The Slate, Attorney Spivak and Attorney Canterbury critique a new Pennsylvania law that for the first time seals criminal information from public view for people convicted of second- and third-degree misdemeanors.
In Impoverished Parents Deserve Their Day In Court, Attorney Canterbury reveals how exorbitant filing fees in Allegheny County prevent low-income parents from asserting their child-custody rights.
In Crack Down on Domestic Violence in Allegheny County, Attorney Spivak recommends that only specialized judges with extensive domestic-violence training oversee PFA hearings.
In Improve Pennsylvania’s Domestic-Abuse Law, Attorney Spivak exposes the issue of bogus PFA orders and recommends ways to curb abuses in the system.
In Child Custody for Rapists, Attorney Spivak explains how sexual predators use family court to harass and intimidate their victims.
Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate, cost-effective representation in all family law and criminal defense matters. To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Dating after divorce may be difficult, especially when children are involved. You must adjust to the idea of no longer being married, and your children must do the same. Ensure that your children have had adequate time to recover from the divorce before introducing them to a new partner.
When sufficient time has passed, it may be best to introduce the children to your new partner while doing an activity the kids enjoy.
But be sensitive to your children’s feelings. If you believe your children are struggling more than is reasonable, it may be beneficial to seek help from a counselor.
To speak with an experienced family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Children eagerly await the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation. But summer vacation can be a stressful time for you and your ex, as this means accommodating one another’s vacation schedules. These five tips can help alleviate some of the tensions that arise when planning vacations:
- Tell your ex your plans ahead of time;
- Do not violate the terms of an existing custody order;
- Give your ex the details of your trip (location, lodging, transportation, phone numbers, etc.);
- Arrange for communication between the children and your ex;
- Confirm the agreement in writing.
To speak with an experienced child custody attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Rebecca Canterbury, who will begin work as an associate attorney at Spivak Law Firm in the fall, recently published an important article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on how filing fees in Allegheny County prevent low-income parents from asserting their child-custody rights.
Canterbury wisely recommends automatic fee waivers for parents with income levels that fall within the federal poverty guidelines, taking into account the number of household dependents. Her article, entitled Impoverished Parents Deserve Their Day In Court, is reprinted here in its entirety:
In Allegheny County, courts frequently turn away low-income parents in child-custody cases simply because they cannot pay the exorbitant filing fees. This must change.
Astonishingly, parents who assert child-custody rights in Allegheny County must cough up almost $500 at the outset of the case. The fee for filing a custody complaint has risen to a whopping $337. Add another $150 in fees owed for court-ordered co-parenting and mediation seminars. Of course, that does not even begin to include the cost of hiring an attorney.
Such filing fees are insurmountable for many moms and dads, raising concerns that poverty alone restricts them from exercising what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court termed a biological parent’s “prima facie right to custody.”
Criminal defendants who are poor have a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney, at no charge. But indigent parents have no such right to free counsel even in legal proceedings where basic human rights are at stake, such as those involving the custody of their children.
In Allegheny County, low-income parents may petition the court to waive the mandatory filing fees. But the guidelines for granting a fee waiver in family court are anything but clear.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has issued opinions directing trial-court judges to consider a party’s totality of circumstances, including income, dependents, monthly obligations and debts. Such subjective criteria have led to inconsistent rulings.
In child-custody actions, domestic-relations officers in Allegheny County have the authority to grant fee waivers. But they do not just consider a parent’s income levels. They also look at a parent’s savings, which most low-income parents can ill afford to drain, and at their expenses, which usually are just enough to scrape by on. Shockingly, domestic-relations officers can deny fee-waiver requests based on the merits of a case even before it reaches a judge.
If denied at the initial level, petitioners may then make their case to a family-court judge. But more than 60 percent of fee-waiver requests are denied, according to Allegheny County Custody Department Manager Amy Ross.
By contrast, the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office takes a simple, objective approach by automatically appointing free attorneys to criminal defendants with income levels that fall within the federal poverty guidelines, taking into consideration the number of household dependents.
Indeed, plaintiffs in Allegheny County who seek Protection from Abuse Orders pay no filing fee at all and even receive a free attorney regardless of their income.
That’s right: A millionaire who files for a PFA gets a free lawyer. But poor parents seeking custody of their children often can’t even get the filing fees waived.
Perhaps that’s why some family-law attorneys and judges believe people are inappropriately using the PFA system as a backdoor to assert child-custody rights.
Last year, when I was a second-year student at Duquesne University School of Law, I worked as a certified legal intern drafting child-custody petitions and frequently seeking fee waivers for low-income clients.
One client, whom I’ll call Jane, was a single mother of four children. Jane sought to modify a custody order because her ex was preventing her from seeing their kids.
Jane was unemployed due to severe medical problems. She had no income and was living on just $347 per month in food stamps. My classmate at Duquesne drafted a petition to modify the custody order and request a fee waiver.
But a court administrator inexplicably denied the request to waive the $250 filing fee. A judge later upheld the decision on grounds that Jane’s bank statement reflected that there was $300 in her account. Sadly, they did not account for the fact that Jane’s rent and utility bills were coming due, for which she needed that money.
A classmate and I initiated a program to subsidize filing fees for applicants whose fee-waiver requests were denied. After several months of preparation and fundraising, we hope to launch the program this year.
While our efforts may bring relief to some, they will not resolve the problem of low-income parents being denied access to the courts. Unless family-court administrators implement an objective process for approving fee waivers for the poor similar to the public defender’s office, the doors to custody court will remain closed to many who cannot pay.
Although there is a great deal of literature discussing the impact of divorce on children, there really is no clear cut way to break the news to them. Each family unit is unique, but the following five tips may make it less traumatic for both you and your children:
- Discuss what you plan to tell the children;
- Agree on what you do not plan to tell the children;
- Tell your children together with your ex-spouse;
- Reinforce to the children that the divorce is not their fault;
- Ensure that the children know the divorce is not reversible.
Spivak Law Firm handles all family law matters, including: divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, and PFA hearings. To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
In Pennsylvania, a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order offers many safeguards, including to:
- Evict the abuser from your household
- Restrict the abuser from you and the children
- Order the abuser to pay financial support
- Prohibit the abuser from contacting you
- Ban the abuser from possessing guns
Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for Plaintiffs and Defendants at PFA hearings in the following counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Indiana, Washington, and Westmoreland.
For a free consultation, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.