Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

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Bethel Park Family Law

Expanding Your Child Custody Schedule

 

Custody Pic1Young children should have frequent contact with both parents, which includes engaging in daily routines. When planning your custody schedule, you should consider the following:

  • The child’s temperament;
  • Any special needs of the child;
  • The amount of conflict between you and the other parent;
  • The child’s familiarity with the households;
  • The childcare provided by each parent.

If you had less involvement in your child’s daily routine, you may consider exercising custody on a gradual basis to acclimate your child to the change. But once you are more familiar with your child’s daily routine, you may begin exercising more overnights.

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

Child Custody Mediation

dandelion wishing blowing seedsChild custody mediation provides an opportunity for you and the other parent to discuss what is best for your child without attorneys present. It is a time reserved for working out an ideal schedule for both the parents and the child.

Here are four don’ts for mediating a custody dispute:

  • Don’t neglect the needs of your child;
  • Don’t assume one parenting plan works for all children;
  • Don’t go to mediation without a plan; and
  • Don’t denigrate the other parent.

Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law, including: child custody, child support, divorce, and Protection From Abuse (PFA). To speak with an experienced child custody attorney, contact Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

 

Dating After Divorce

Expunge Pic1Dating 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.

4 Tips for PFA Defendants

PFA Pic1It is important to maintain your composure at your Final PFA hearing.

It will be difficult to remain calm while the opposing party makes allegations of abuse against you, but walking into a hearing with a bad attitude may affect the judge’s opinion of you and add to the plaintiff’s credibility – even if the allegations are false.

To avoid discrediting your version of events, follow these four tips at your PFA hearing:

  • Do not raise your voice in anger to the judge, your lawyer, or the other party;
  • Do not shake your head, roll your eyes, or laugh while the other party is speaking;
  • Do not interrupt the other party or the judge;
  • Do not make mean-spirited comments about the other party.

If you have been served with a PFA order, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Tips For Child Custody Hearings

Custody Pic1In a child custody hearing, you may think that the judge’s main focus in the courtroom is on the lawyers. But the judge is mindful of all parties involved and pays close attention to the parents’ body language and demeanor.

When you are in court, pay attention and remain calm. If the other parent says something disagreeable, avoid shaking your head, rolling your eyes, sighing, or squirming in your chair. One of the sixteen custody factors considered by the judge is the level of conflict between the parties. Negative body language may lead the judge to believe that you and your ex-spouse are unable to effectively co-parent in the best interests of your children.

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

Child Custody and Filing Fees

CourtFees052916Rebecca 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.

Child Custody and Relocation

Beautiful baby of three months old in his mothers hands.Under Pennsylvania child custody laws, relocation is defined as any change in residence that substantially affects the custody rights of the other parent. Even if there is no custody order, you must abide by the relocation statute. Indeed, relocating just 20 minutes away could be a violation of the law and result in a contempt action against you.

Proper custody relocation involves either gaining consent from the other parent or obtaining court approval through a formal process.

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

Domestic Violence Penalties

DV Pic5Domestic violence experts say that strangulation is a strong indicator for future homicide.

In 2015, six people were strangled to death in Pennsylvania. Studies show that the odds of becoming a homicide victim increase dramatically for women who reported strangulation by a partner in the past.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are now considering a bill to establish a felony strangulation law. The bill would rank strangulation as a second-degree felony or a first-degree felony if the defendant is named in an active Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order, uses an instrument of crime, or has been previously convicted of strangulation.

Spivak Law Firm handles all matters of family law and criminal defense with a focus on domestic violence. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws

dandelion wishing blowing seedsPeople commonly believe that courts favor mothers over fathers when determining child custody schedules. But Pennsylvania law does not give special preference to mothers over fathers.

In fact, many judges today believe that the ideal custody arrangement provides for an equally shared schedule in order to maximize the child’s time with both parents. The results in any child-custody dispute depend on the particular facts and circumstances of the case.

At Spivak Law Firm, we handle all child-custody matters, including: trials, conciliations, relocation hearings, and contempt actions. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What’s In A Child Custody Order?

Beautiful baby of three months old in his mothers hands.A child custody order can be short – as little as half a page – or very long – running many dozens of pages. Child custody orders typically direct how parents:

–Share responsibility for making major decisions that affect the children

–Share time with the children during the school year

–Share time with the children during the summer months

–Share time with the children during holidays and birthdays

–Communicate about the children

–Communicate their vacation plans

–Transport the children for custody exchanges

–Notify one another if they plan to relocate

Parents need not follow the order so long as they both agree to changes. But in the event parents disagree, the order provides a framework that enables them to co-parent effectively while minimizing conflict.

At Spivak Law Firm, we provide strong, compassionate representation in all child custody matters. Call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.