Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

Based in Pittsburgh, PA

412-344-4900

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Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney

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.

Child Support and Social Security Disability

83496541Are Social Security Disability benefits includable as income for support purposes? It depends what kind of disability benefits you receive. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are includable in “income” as defined by Pennsylvania law; but Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are not income for support purposes.

Whether you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) depends on your work history. To qualify for SSD benefits, you must have paid into the Social Security system by working for a certain amount of time. To qualify for SSI benefits, you need not have any work history at all. Unlike SSD, SSI is similar to a welfare program. SSI recipients must be disabled and have a monthly income that does not exceed a certain level.

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

Dave Wins PFA Hearing, Seeks Custody of Kids

78287715After 17 years of marriage, Tara decided she wanted a divorce from her husband Dave (not their real names). He suggested marriage counseling, if only for the sake of their teenage children, but Tara refused. “I’m going to destroy you in court,” she snapped at him. One morning, after several days of getting the silent treatment from his wife, Dave lost his cool and slammed the palm of his hand against the kitchen stove. Tara went to the county courthouse and received a temporary Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against her husband.

Later that day, a police officer arrived at their home and handed Dave the restraining order, which stated that he was evicted from his home, effective immediately, and that he could not have any contact whatsoever with his wife or kids until the PFA hearing. Emotionally devastated, Dave scrambled to find a friend or relative to take him in for a few weeks.

Seeking an experienced PFA defense lawyer, Dave retained Spivak Law Firm to represent him. Dave had never been apart from his family for so long. Feeling anxious and estranged, he attended his PFA hearing with a feeling of dread. Tara wanted a three-year PFA, the maximum duration allowed by law. We requested a hearing before the judge.

Tara testified that she and was afraid of Dave, but on cross-examination she admitted that Dave only hit the stove – not her or the children. Tara then testified that she never cheated on Dave, which damaged her credibility when Dave’s attorney produced love letters that she had recently written to another man. In the end, Tara confessed to simply wanting Dave out of the house so she could pursue her new love interest.

After a brief recess to consider all the evidence, the judge denied Tara’s request for a final PFA. Feeling relieved, Dave smiled for the first time in weeks. Dave and his attorney then left the courtroom to discuss their next legal actions: expunging the PFA from his record and filing for shared custody of the children.

Spivak Law Firm has extensive experience defending people against domestic-abuse accusations and asserting child custody rights. To speak with a Pittsburgh family law attorney, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pittsburgh Dad Loses Child Custody Due to PFA

86505316Rick (not his real name) never spent a single night away from his 4-year-old daughter until his wife got a temporary Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against him. The PFA evicted Rick from his home and restricted him from having any contact with his child until the PFA hearing some two weeks away.

Rick’s wife got the PFA on grounds that he threatened her during an argument and hit her once several years ago. Rick says these things never happened.

Rick’s wife did not include their child as a protected party on the PFA. Rick is not accused of ever harming or threatening to harm his little girl. Still, the court took Rick’s daughter away by denying him any custodial or visitation rights until the hearing.

Rick figures that his wife filed the PFA to gain leverage in their imminent divorce and child custody battle. Emotionally devastated, Rick continues to wait for his day in court.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong representation in all family law matters. For a free consultation, call (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Awarding Alimony in Pennsylvania

ConflictIn Pennsylvania, courts generally disfavor granting alimony, reasoning that divorce should result in a clean break. Alimony, by contrast, links the parties together potentially for years post-divorce by forcing one party to pay the other on a regular basis.

Pennsylvania judges prefer to handle financial inequities resulting from divorce through property division in equitable distribution, the process for dividing marital assets and debts based on principles of fairness.

But courts will grant alimony in limited circumstances – for instance, to pay for one party’s education in order to increase his or her earning capacity.

To learn more about whether you may be entitled to alimony or other forms of spousal support, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Understanding Child Custody in Pennsylvania

102719637When seeking custody of a child in Pennsylvania, it is important to understand the different types of custody available.

First, distinguish between “legal custody” and “physical custody.”

“Legal custody” refers to the right to make major decisions affecting the best interests of a minor child, including medical, religious, and educational decisions. Under Pennsylvania law, there is a presumption that “legal custody” is shared equally by both parents.

“Physical custody,” on the other hand, refers to the actual physical possession and control of a child. Custody disputes usually arise over issues of “physical custody,” as parents disagree about who gets the child and when.

There are several types of “physical custody.”

“Shared physical custody” refers to when parents divide time with the child equally – for example, on a week-on, week-off basis. It does not have to be 50/50; even a 60/40 time split based on overnights spent with the child is considered “shared physical custody.”

Another typical custody arrangement occurs where one parent has “primary physical custody” and the other parent has “partial physical custody.”

“Primary physical custody” refers to the right to have physical possession of a child for the majority of the time.

“Partial physical custody” means the right to take possession of a child away from the custodial person for a certain period of time.

For example, a parent who gets the child every other weekend and for a few hours during the week has “partial physical custody,” whereas the other parent has “primary physical custody.”

Finally, “visitation” means the right to visit a child, but does not include the right to remove the child from the custodial parent’s control. “Visitation” is frequently granted to grandparents or a parent who has been out of the child’s life for a substantial amount of time.

“Supervised visitation” refers to when a court orders that a supervisor be present during the visit. This usually occurs when there are issues of physical abuse or substance abuse that could endanger a child’s welfare. If no such issues exist, the arrangement is known as “unsupervised visitation.”

It is important to remember that child custody arrangements can always be modified so long as the parents mutually consent. To speak with an experienced child custody attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Defining “Income” for Child Support Cases

imagesChild support is largely based on parents’ income. At a child support hearing, both parents are required to bring federal income tax returns, including W-2s, and pay stubs for the preceding six months.

But what constitutes income for child support purposes? According to Pennsylvania law, income includes:

–wages, salaries, bonuses, fees and commissions;

–net income from business or dealings in property;

–interest, rents, royalties and dividends;

–pensions and all forms of retirement;

–income from an interest in an estate or trust;

–Social Security disability benefits;

–Social Security retirement benefits;

–temporary and permanent disability benefits;

–workers’ compensation;

–unemployment compensation;

–alimony;

–lottery winnings;

–income tax refunds; and

–insurance compensation or settlements.

Income does not include, however, public assistance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Social Security payments for a child, and foster care payments.

For more information on child support in Pennsylvania, contact Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Filing for Child Support in Pennsylvania

Does the person who files for child support automatically get it?

No.

In fact, Pennsylvania law explicitly states that child support orders must be entered “without regard to which party initiated the support action.”

In other words, a person who files for child support may end up owing it.

Child support calculations are based on (1) the parties’ incomes and (2) the custodial arrangements in place at the time of the hearing or trial. Generally, the parent with primary custody is entitled to child support.

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

Domestic Violence Can Happen to Anyone

Restraining orders and domestic violence can happen to anyone – even the very rich and famous.

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will appear in court this week in a domestic violence case that has received international attention.

This past Thanksgiving, Berry’s fiancé got into a brutal fight with Berry’s ex-boyfriend that left both men with serious injuries. Each man filed a restraining order against the other.

The incident occurred in Berry’s driveway while her 4-year-old daughter was inside the house.

In Pennsylvania, a restraining order is known as a PFA, or Protection From Abuse order, which restricts contact between the parties and can be used to gain leverage in child custody matters.

In Berry’s case, the restraining orders could affect her child custody case. Last month, a judge denied Berry’s request to move with her fiancé to France because her ex-boyfriend shares custody of the child.

In Pennsylvania, a person cannot relocate with a child unless every person with custody rights to the child consents or the court approves the relocation.

Berry, like many of our clients throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, will spend much of this holiday season in court battling over child custody, restraining orders, and criminal charges arising out of the domestic violence incident from Thanksgiving.

Spivak Law Firm handles all domestic violence matters, including PFA restraining orders, criminal charges, and child custody matters. To schedule an appointment, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Child Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

It is widely believed that in child custody disputes courts favor giving primary custody of the child to the mother.

But the law rejects this notion.

Pennsylvania law states: “In any action regarding the custody of the child between the parents of the child, there shall be no presumption that custody should be awarded to a particular parent.”

Thus, under the law, both parents are presumed by the court to have equal custodial rights over their child or children.

In some limited situations, a person who is not the child’s parent – a grandparent, for instance – may also assert custodial rights over the child. But even in these cases, the parent’s custodial rights take precedence.

Pennsylvania law states: “In any action regarding the custody of the child between a parent of the child and a nonparent, there shall be a presumption that custody shall be awarded to the parent.”

To learn more about your child custody rights, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.