Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA


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Butler County PFA Lawyer

PFA Orders Help Abuse Victims

702075.TIFAre you or your children victims of domestic abuse?

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.

No Guns For PFA Defendants

PFA Pic9Should Pennsylvania adopt stricter gun laws in an attempt to reduce domestic violence?

Many states have recently done so. For instance, Maine last year passed a law prohibiting people convicted of domestic violence crimes from owning guns for five years after completing their court-ordered sentences.

In Pennsylvania, people with active Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders against them are prohibited from possessing firearms. PFA defendants must either relinquish weapons to their local sheriff’s office or give them to a friend or family member for safekeeping.

Some activist groups want to further restrict PFA defendants by eliminating the state’s third-party safekeeping provision.

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.

Want a PFA? Just Ask.

PFA Pic3In Allegheny County, judges approve nearly all requests for Temporary Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders.

Indeed, more than 90 percent of requests for a Temporary PFA are granted in all counties surrounding Pittsburgh, including: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland.

But recent reports show that a whopping 44 percent of PFA petitions were denied by judges in York County, located in South Central Pennsylvania. Public meetings have been scheduled in York County to address the disparities.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants at PFA hearings. For a free consultation, call (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Hearings And Child Custody


PFA Pic9If you’ve been served with a Temporary Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order, it is likely that you’ve been evicted from your home and restricted from having any contact with your children. This can be devastating for a parent.

Under Pennsylvania law, the alleged “abuser” gets no opportunity to contest the accusations until the PFA Hearing some 10 days later. If you are a parent served with a PFA, we strong advise that you hire an attorney with experience in both criminal defense and child custody matters.

“Victims” of abuse get free attorneys to represent them at PFA Hearings in Pittsburgh and all surrounding counties — Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

If you go to PFA Court without an attorney – or with an attorney who does not routinely handle child custody matters – you risk losing custody of your kids for an even longer period of time.

It is commonly known that many “victims” of abuse exploit the PFA system in an attempt to gain leverage in a child-custody battle. Do not let this happen to you.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation in all PFA and child custody matters. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

In A PFA, What Is Third-Party Contact?


PFA Pic2Victims of domestic violence, harassment, and stalking are often instructed to obtain a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order that restricts contact between the parties. A PFA is also known as a restraining order or no-contact order.

In Allegheny County, a PFA Order typically states that the alleged abuser shall not contact the victim, including through third persons. What does that mean exactly?

Third-party contact refers to having a friend or family member contact the victim about the PFA. For instance, if you are a defendant in a PFA matter, you cannot have a mutual friend pressure the victim into withdrawing the PFA.

Indeed, you cannot communicate any message to the plaintiff whatsoever. Even a non-threatening message such as “I miss you” could get you arrested for violating the no-contact order.

Spivak Law Firm provides aggressive representation for defendants and victims at PFA hearings. To schedule a free consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What Can I Ask For In A PFA?

Expunge Pic7In a Protection From Abuse (PFA) petition, you can ask the judge to:

  • Order the abuser to stop threatening, abusing, harassing or stalking you and your children
  • Have the abuser evicted from your joint home or excluded from your residence
  • Keep your new address or location confidential
  • Grant you temporary custody of your children
  • Grant you temporary child or spousal support as well as other reimbursements of out-of-pocket expenses that were caused by the abuser
  • Order the abuser not to have contact with you or your children, or family members
  • Restrict the abuser from contacting you at school or work
  • Order the abuser to turn over firearms to the sheriff
  • Order any other appropriate relief, for instance, requesting the return of your pet, car keys, important papers, etc.

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

Spivak Law Firm In Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

TS Headshot - FINALThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has again featured Attorney Todd Spivak, owner of Spivak Law Firm, as an authority in Protection From Abuse (PFA) and child custody law in Pennsylvania.

In Crack Down on Domestic Violence in Allegheny County, Attorney Spivak addresses the issue of Allegheny County registering more domestic-violence fatalities than any other Pennsylvania county. The article focuses specifically on the grisly death of Pittsburgh resident Maureen Karr that occurred over the holidays, and calls for increased judicial involvement at PFA hearings.

In Improve Pennsylvania’s Domestic-Abuse Law, Attorney Spivak proposes ways to fix Pennsylvania’s PFA law to limit false claims of abuse. His recommendations include criminally prosecuting filers of bogus PFA petitions and removing PFA records from the public database if the order is withdrawn or dismissed.

In Child Custody For Rapists?, Attorney Spivak exposes a loophole in Pennsylvania law that enables men who father children through rape to assert child custody and visitation rights. The Pennsylvania legislature may make it easier for a woman who has become pregnant as a result of rape to have her assaulter’s parental rights terminated while maintaining his duty to pay child support.

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

Crack Down on Domestic Violence In Pittsburgh

PFA Pic9The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the following article by Attorney Todd Spivak, owner of Spivak Law Firm, which handles all areas of family law and criminal defense with an emphasis on child custody and Protection From Abuse (PFA).

Maureen Karr got a temporary protection-from-abuse order against her husband on grounds that he threatened to burn their house down. Two weeks later, according to police, James Karr made good on his promise and his wife died in the fire.

In Pennsylvania, more than 150 people die every year from incidents involving domestic violence. Astonishingly, Allegheny County for two straight years has tallied more domestic-violence fatalities than any other Pennsylvania county, even Philadelphia. In 2013, there were 28 domestic-violence related deaths in Allegheny County, representing nearly one-fifth of such fatalities statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Some conclude that PFAs are useless, that they’re just a piece of paper,” says Spenser Baca, a third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who represented Maureen Karr at a PFA hearing hours before she was killed. “But PFAs help the majority of clients.”

In December, after 14 years of marriage, Maureen Karr told her husband she wanted a divorce. According to her PFA order, James Karr flipped out: he broke her stuff, slashed her car tires and threatened to set fire to their home in Duquesne. Ms. Karr took refuge at a neighbor’s house and called police. James Karr was arrested, briefly incarcerated and charged with public intoxication.

Charges of harassment and terroristic threats would have served Ms. Karr better. James Karr’s bond conditions did not even include a restraining order.

So, on Dec. 15, Maureen Karr obtained the temporary order that evicted her husband from their home and prohibited all contact. “He was threatening to set the house on fire,” Maureen hand-wrote in the PFA petition.

Similarly, last September, Nancy Bour of Ross Township wrote on a PFA petition against her husband: “Threatened to burn the house down if I try to get divorce.” The next day, according to police, Thomas Bour poured gasoline on their house and set it ablaze. Thomas Bour faces trial next month on multiple felony charges of arson and risking catastrophe.

Defendants always make threats,” says Mr. Baca. “It’s surreal when they make true on their threats.”

On Dec. 29, Maureen and James Karr appeared separately on the third floor of family court Downtown. Ms. Karr sought a final PFA order lasting three years — the maximum allowed under Pennsylvania law. But a hearing never occurred, as the defendant suddenly dropped to the floor and convulsed violently. Although James Karr receives disability benefits based on a seizure disorder, Mr. Baca suspects he faked a seizure to avoid the hearing. The parties left the courthouse without even seeing a judge.

In Allegheny County, court administrators estimate that only 5 percent of PFA cases ever go before a judge for a final hearing. Attorneys frequently work out agreements and draft court orders signed by the parties. An administrator will stamp a judge’s signature on them, but there is no direct judicial involvement whatsoever in the vast majority of cases.

Other counties surrounding Pittsburgh handle PFA cases differently. For instance, Westmoreland County judges insist that all parties appear before a judge regardless of how the case is resolved. It’s impossible to know if a judge’s finger-wagging lecture or threat of grave consequences for another infraction would have saved Maureen Karr’s life, but it might have. Allegheny County’s practice of letting administrators stamp court orders must stop.

Moreover, to promote consistency, Allegheny County should have specialized judges with extensive domestic-violence training to handle all PFA hearings. That’s how PFA cases are handled in Philadelphia County, which saw its number of domestic-violence fatalities drop by 33 percent last year.

This is also how things are done across the street in criminal court, where just two judges oversee all of Allegheny County’s domestic-violence cases. But for PFA hearings, 17 family court judges and three senior judges take turns, ensuring an egregious lack of consistency in court rulings.

On Dec. 30, just hours after appearing in court, James Karr showed up at the couple’s red-brick house set on an orange-brick street. The temporary PFA order remained in place, but, according to police, James Karr went in, slammed his wife’s head against a wall, knocking her unconscious, then tied her wrists with floral wire used for making Christmas wreaths, doused her with her favorite Smirnoff vanilla-flavored vodka and lit a match.

Maureen Karr died from smoke inhalation and carbon-monoxide poisoning. James Karr, a South Park native, has been charged with criminal homicide and aggravated arson. The Allegheny County district attorney’s office plans to argue for the death penalty.

It is impossible to know if Maureen Karr’s death might have been prevented. But immediate action should be taken to curb the number of domestic-violence fatalities in Allegheny County. Increased involvement at PFA hearings by judges with advanced training in domestic-violence cases, and the tougher rulings that likely would result, could make the difference.

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

Where Do I Go To Get A PFA?

Family Pic8A person seeking the protection of a PFA restraining order can file in one of the following places:

–The county where the plaintiff resides;

–The county where the plaintiff works;

–The county where the defendant may be served; or

–The county where the abuse occurred

If you are going to ask the Judge to remove the abuser from the home you share, you must file the petition in the county where the home is located.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants at PFA hearings in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

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

Will Police Enforce A Child Custody Order?

Family Pic5If your ex violates a child custody order, the police generally will not get involved. Instead, you can file a motion for contempt requesting a hearing, have a mini-trial on whether the other parent really was in contempt, and then, if you win, receive make-up time with your child and maybe some money for your attorney’s fees.

In other words, the relief is limited and may take a long time to achieve.

But that changes if the child custody arrangement is part of a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order. In such cases, the defendant may be arrested for simply not showing up at a scheduled custody exchange.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants in all PFA and child custody matters.

If you are a PFA defendant, we help assert your child custody rights while also working to ensure that you’re not arrested for violating the restraining order.

If you are a PFA plaintiff, we can help to maximize your child custody time while also working to ensure that you and your child receive the protection you require.

Call Spivak Law Firm today for a free consultation at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.