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Child Custody Lawyer Pittsburgh

PFA Hearings Present Many Challenges

PFA Pic1Under Pennsylvania law, a person served with a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order is entitled to a hearing within 10 days. The PFA hearing represents the defendant’s first and most important opportunity to refute the allegations, which may be false or greatly exaggerated.

In some ways, the expedited PFA hearing is beneficial, as the defendant may have been temporarily evicted from the residence and forbidden by court order to have any contact with his or her children. In such circumstances, the relatively short wait for a PFA hearing is positive.

However, in other ways, the expedited hearing often presents serious challenges for the defendant.

The PFA defendant must quickly (1) come up with money to retain an experienced attorney, (2) work with the attorney to build the strongest possible defense, (3) collect documentary evidence such as emails, texts, phone logs, and social media postings, and (4) possibly subpoena witnesses to testify at the hearing.

At Spivak Law Firm, we are committed to building the strongest defense as quickly as possible for PFA defendants who are accused of abuse. Though it sometimes makes sense to continue the hearing date to allow for more time to prepare, we generally do not recommend it.

So long as the Temporary PFA remains in place, you are at risk of being jailed for allegedly violating it. After all, someone who lies to get a PFA against you may also lie to get you arrested.

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

Stop False Reports To Child Abuse Hotlines

Little girl wearing sundress holding flowersPeople engaged in child custody battles can exploit child abuse hotlines by falsely reporting abuse in an effort to gain leverage in Court.

The public should not be allowed to make anonymous reports to child abuse hotlines, as these calls can result in innocent parents losing their kids, according to family law professor Dale Margolin Cecka of the University of Richmond.

A study of anonymous public reports found that nationally, only 1.5 percent of all reports are both anonymous and substantiated.

Professor Cecka distinguishes between the criminal justice system and Child Protective Services:

“The criminal justice system does not permit lay people to make completely anonymous reports. Before arresting or detaining anyone on the basis of an anonymous tip, police must also corroborate aspects of the allegation made by the confidential caller.”

Child Protective Services, meanwhile, “has an opposite mandate: It must visit a home after an anonymous call, if the allegations meet the legal definition of ‘abuse’ or ‘neglect.’”

The public should never be allowed to anonymously call a child abuse hotline, Professor Cecka concludes.

Spivak Law Firm provides aggressive representation in all high-conflict child custody and child abuse cases. To schedule a free consultation, call (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

A Brief History of Child Custody

Beautiful baby of three months old in his mothers hands.In child custody cases today, both parents increasingly enjoy significant amounts of parenting time. Recent studies show that child custody norms are changing significantly in the 21st century, with the proportion of parents sharing custody rising dramatically.

Historically, shared custody was never the norm.

In colonial times, American Courts followed the English common law rule that upon divorce the father retained custody of the children. Fathers had the right to the physical custody, labor and earnings of their children in exchange for supporting, educating, and training them to earn their livelihoods. At that time, mothers did not have legally enforceable parental rights.

This bias toward men flipped in the early 20th century with two cultural transformations: the industrial revolution’s remaking men into marketplace wage earners and the emergence of women as domestic caregivers. Under the “tender years” doctrine, custody of young children was almost exclusively awarded to mothers upon divorce.

Mounting divorce rates in the 1960s and ensuing decades provoked a lively debate about parental roles and custody issues. The movement for gender equality, along with the rise of fathers’ rights groups, called attention to the importance of both parents in the care of children.

In most states today, including Pennsylvania, the standard for deciding custody cases is based on the best interests of the child. This standard opens up the possibility of excessive judicial discretion as well as a threat of inconsistent rulings, resulting in hotly contested custody battles.

But it has also led to the rise of shared custody orders, as judges increasingly follow the recommendations of family psychologists who espouse the benefits to children who have equal time with both parents.

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

Tips for Discussing Your Child’s Weekend Away

102719637Whether or not you like your former spouse and whether or not you agree with his or her parenting style, there is not much you can do about what occurs at the other home. Children are generally entitled to spend time with both parents.

Your task is to send them off in the same way you would if you were sending them anywhere else where you wanted them to have a good time while they’re away from you, such as camp or school. Family counselors recommend the following transition tips on discussing your children’s weekend spent away at the other parent’s home:

  • Ask your children how their weekend was. To not ask about what goes on when they are apart from you would send the wrong message. Your child might think that you are not interested, or that you can’t stand to hear about them enjoying time with the other parent.
  • The motivation for asking about the weekend should be to serve the child’s needs, not to have your curiosity satisfied.
  • When children sense that they are being used as spies to report on what is going on in the other home, or when you react to the news with frowns, raised eyebrows, or sarcastic comments, the kids sense that you are not genuinely interested in sharing their lives with them as much as you are about getting some gossip about the other family.

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

Becoming a Better Parent Through Divorce

78287715Divorce can be an awakening for parents that results in them actually becoming better parents and taking more active roles in the children’s lives. If you were the main caregiver before divorce and did most of the work, wondering why your ex couldn’t take a greater parental role, his or her turnaround after the divorce can be frustrating.

But while it may be upsetting at first, ultimately you should come to realize that it is better for your children to have both parents involved in their lives. It may also make things easier for you if you find that you can share responsibilities such as driving the children to their friends’ homes, program, and other events.

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

Helping Ellen Get Her Kids Back

Empty Pittsburgh BridgeWhen Ellen’s mother died, she became deeply depressed. She started drinking heavily for the first time in her life. Knowing that she was suddenly unfit to care for her two young sons, Ellen signed over custody rights to her ex-husband.

A year passed before Ellen stopped drinking and emerged from her depression. But by then she had lost everything – her home, her job, and her kids. She wanted her life back.

Ellen landed a job and let a three-bedroom apartment hoping to one day fill it with her two sons. Spivak Law Firm has spent the last year helping Ellen exercise her custody rights pro bono. It has been a long difficult journey, but this month we helped her get the child custody schedule of her dreams.

“I am so happy,” Ellen told us. “Finally, I get my kids back.”

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