Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

412-344-4900

Spivak Law Firm is BBB Accredited

Monroeville PFA Lawyer

Prepare for Your PFA Hearing

 

PFA Pic1If a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) has been filed against you, it is important to begin preparing your defense as soon as possible. The person who filed against you will be prepared to testify and present evidence, so it is important that you present testimony and evidence to rebut the accusations against you.

Preserve text messages, emails, voicemails, and audio recordings that tend to support your version of events. If you have witnesses who were present at the time of the incident, it is important that they appear at the hearing to support your position.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense at PFA hearings in Pittsburgh and all nearby counties, including: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Indiana, Washington, and Westmoreland.

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

Served with a PFA On Thanksgiving?

 

pfa-pic1Thanksgiving is a time to relax and feast with family and friends, but everyone has a relative with whom they don’t quite get along. Spending extended periods of time together could lead to conflict.

If you’re served with a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order during the holidays, call Spivak Law Firm to speak with an experienced PFA attorney. A PFA is a powerful tool that can evict you from your home, restrict you from your kids, threaten your job, take away your guns, and lead to your arrest.

Many attorneys are not accessible during the holidays, but Spivak Law Firm always remains available by telephone even on Thanksgiving Day. If you’ve been served with a PFA, we understand that you are likely under significant stress. We are here to help.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense at PFA hearings in Pittsburgh and all surrounding counties, including: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

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

PFA and Criminal Records

PFA Pic8Q: Will a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order appear on my criminal record?

A: No.

A PFA is a civil matter that appears on the family court docket along with documents relating to divorce and child custody. It will not appear on the criminal docket, though employers increasingly review both dockets when making hiring decisions.

A PFA is not a criminal matter, though it can become one if you are merely accused of violating the Order. A PFA violation can lead to the charge of Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC), which carries a six-month jail sentence and $1,000.00 fine.

Spivak Law Firm handles all PFA, criminal, and expungement matters. Call us today at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Served with a PFA?

PFA Pic1If you’ve been served with a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, you should begin preparing your defense immediately, as your PFA hearing will likely occur within just 10 days.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense at PFA hearings in Pittsburgh and all surrounding counties, including: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County. We work hard to protect your reputation, your job, and your child custody rights.

If you’re served with a PFA, we recommend taking the following actions:

  • Call Spivak Law Firm for a free consultation.
  • Avoid all contact with the plaintiff.
  • Collect documentary evidence such as texts, emails, and photographs for your defense.

Served with a PFA? Call Spivak Law Firm today 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.

“I Still Shiver From The Fear”

 

702075.TIF

The following is the second of three excerpts from a recent column by Nancy Eshelman of the Patriot-News in Central Pennsylvania. Ms. Eshelman’s husband was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a domestic violence related incident.

“The terror is constant. It takes a toll, physically and mentally.

If I think about it, and I try not to, I still shiver from the fear.

Night after night, unable to sleep, convinced that every passing car, every tree branch blowing in the wind is him.

For a victim of domestic violence, peace is elusive, sleep unknown.

I recall rushing home from work and taking a shower because somehow being naked and alone in the bathroom felt less vulnerable in daylight.

The victim longs to feel normal, but normal is no longer part of her existence.

If she’s a mother, she strives to create a semblance of normalcy for her kids. She helps with homework, but can’t concentrate. She attends their activities, but often misses the action.

Instead of watching her son running up and down the basketball court, she’s scanning the stands, terrified she will see that face, the one that haunts her.

As one woman described it, ‘You become like a guerilla warrior – constantly scanning your surroundings, looking over your shoulder, and jumping at every sound.’

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate representation in PFA and criminal domestic-violence cases. For a free consultation, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Strong Defense at PFA Hearings

702075.TIFAttending a Protection From Abuse (PFA) hearing without an experienced attorney often proves disastrous for defendants. A PFA is a powerful tool that can evict you from your home, restrict your child-custody rights, and lead to your arrest based on a mere allegation of violating it.

In Pittsburgh and most surrounding counties, “victims” of domestic violence and child abuse get a “free” lawyer to help them obtain PFA orders.

But PFA defendants do not get a free lawyer. Many PFA defendants wrongly believe that they are entitled to a public defender. But a PFA is not a criminal matter, so public defenders generally cannot get involved.

A Final PFA Order will stay on your record for the rest of your life. It is a public record that may cause embarrassment, tarnish your reputation, and hurt your job opportunities.

Spivak Law Firm aims to provide the strongest possible defense 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 defense attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What To Write On Your PFA Petition

702075.TIFApplying for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order can be a confusing and even scary process. The PFA Act says that you must prove to the court that you have been abused, as described in the categories below. Abuse can take many forms, including economic, emotional, and psychological, and you can write about those, too.

Note: The defendant will receive a copy of the petition. It will also be available as a public record at your county courthouse.

In your PFA petition, you can describe any of the following, if they happened to you:

  • “Acts that cause bodily injury or serious bodily injury and/or sexual offenses.” These include hitting, punching, slapping, pushing, strangling, chocking, forcing sex or attempting to do any of these things.
  • “Putting another person in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.” This refers to making threats to harm or kill you, your family, your children, or your pets.
  • “False imprisonment.” This includes restraining your movement or holding you down.
  • “Physical or sexual abuse of minor children.” This includes corporal punishment or spanking that leaves marks or requires medical attention.
  • “A course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another that put the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.” This includes sending threatening emails, following you, repeatedly calling you on the phone, and showing up at your residence, workplace, or school.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate representation for plaintiffs and defendants at PFA hearings in Pittsburgh and all nearby counties, including: 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.

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.