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Upper St. Clair Family Law

Calculating Child Support in Pennsylvania

Little girl wearing sundress holding flowersQ: How do courts calculate child support?


A: Courts follow support guidelines created by the Pennsylvania Legislature when determining a child support order. Under Pennsylvania law, both parents must continue to support their children even after a divorce. The obligation generally continues until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. In determining a child support obligation, courts consider the incomes or earning capacities of both parents. Statewide support guidelines establish a presumptive amount of support with the primary focus placed on income.

Spivak Law Firm handles all family law matters, including: divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, and PFAs. To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

What to Expect At Your Child Support Hearing

Custody Pic5In Allegheny County, many people resolve child support issues without need for a hearing. Parties first disclose their income and expenses to a domestic-relations officer usually in a small office or cubicle. The officer will usually run calculations based on state support guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Legislature. The parties then have an opportunity to reach an agreement as to the amount of support, if any. The officer at this first level does not have authority to enter a recommendation.

If the parties do not reach agreement, they will attend a hearing on the same day. The hearing is a mini-trial in which each party is sworn under oath and permitted to testify, introduce evidence, and cross-examine one another. The hearing officer will hear testimony, accept evidence, and issue a recommendation within 30 days. If either party is dissatisfied with the recommendation, he or she may file an appeal known as exceptions to be reviewed by the judge assigned to the case.

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

Spivak Law Firm Seeks PFA Reforms

PFA Pic1Attorney Todd Spivak recently participated on a panel at Duquesne University School of Law to advocate reforming Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse (PFA) laws.

A PFA, also commonly known as a restraining order, is a powerful tool that can evict you from your home, restrict you from your children, and prohibit you from possessing firearms.

Attorney Spivak has long advocated for reforming the PFA law to curb false claims of abuse. Proposals for reform include as follows:

  • Courts should make it easier to allow defendants to recover attorney fees when a PFA is withdrawn or dismissed.
  • District attorneys should criminally prosecute serial filers of bogus PFAs.
  • Temporary PFAs should be removed from the public database when a PFA is later withdrawn or dismissed.

Other panelists included Allegheny Court of Common Pleas Judge Kim D. Eaton and Attorney Tom Putinsky, winner of the Edgar G. O’Connor Fellows Award for outstanding public service.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong representation at PFA hearings for plaintiffs and defendants. To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

In Her Own Words: PFA Contained Plea For Help

116926544On December 30, 2014, Pittsburgh resident James Karr tied up his estranged wife Maureen, doused her with vodka, and set her ablaze. “He was threatening to set the house on fire,” Maureen Karr wrote just two weeks earlier in a Temporary  Protection From Abuse (PFA) petition filed in Allegheny County.

Charged with homicide and arson, James Karr currently sits in Allegheny County Jail awaiting his preliminary hearing set for January 9th.

Below is a transcript of the Temporary PFA petition that Maureen Karr wrote out herself with a pen just two weeks before she burned to death:

Approximate Date and Time: 12-12-14 @ 7:00 a.m.

Place: 132 Friendship St., Duquesne, PA 15110

James [Karr] threw bottles out onto the street causing glass to go on sidewalk & street. He was threatening to set the house on fire. After I fleed [sic] the house to a neighbors. We witnessed him going outside & stabbing my tires flattening all 4. James then pulled car window down & threw sewing machine & ceiling fan on the street. He called police stating I threw the bottles. While talking with 911 police came & handcuffed James & took him from the premises as he was still outside. He was later 302’d to the hospital. Have received numerous harassing & name calling phone calls[….]

Describe Any Prior Incidents Of AbuseJames becomes irrate [sic] & flips out breaking items in the home. About 3 years ago had a PFA against him because he pulled me down the steps causing me to fall down last two steps injuring my ribs & hip.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants in all domestic violence matters, including PFA, child custody, criminal, and CYF. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Who Can File a PFA?

77005984Under Pennsylvania law, to file a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order, there must be a current or former relationship between the victim and the abuser.

A relationship is defined as a spouse, ex-spouse, or persons who have lived like spouses; a current or former sexual or intimate partner; a parent or child; a brother or sister; or other persons related by blood or marriage.

If you are a minor under 18, a parent, guardian, or another adult household member may file on your behalf.

If you do not meet the relationship criteria above, a PFA Order cannot be entered.

To speak with an experienced PFA 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.

Ray Rice Video Shines Light on Domestic Abuse

The Baltimore Ravens released Ray Rice after the media obtained a long-awaited video of the star running back brutally punching his then-fiancee.

Rice escaped criminal charges of aggravated assault, but his career in the NFL may be over. The NFL, which initially issued a mere slap on the wrist with a two-game suspension, has suspended Rice indefinitely.

The incident has focused the entire country’s attention on the prevalence of domestic violence.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong advocacy for plaintiffs and defendants in Protection From Abuse (PFA) and criminal domestic violence cases. Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Brainwashing Children in Custody Battles

ConflictParent alienation syndrome often occurs in the most bitter and hard-fought custody battles. In this scenario, one parent becomes obsessed with destroying a child’s relationship with the other parent when there is no good reason to do so. Alienation can be mild, moderate, or severe. A parent is engaging in parent alienation anytime children hear him or her speak in a negative way about the other parent.

In extreme situations, children are turned against a healthy parent. The children’s will and choice are removed from them through a form of brainwashing. This is a serious form of child abuse, because if isn’t stopped, the children may be headed for psychiatric disturbances, failed relationships, and dysfunctional lives in which they may pass the behavior on to their own children.

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

The Challenge of Co-Parenting After Divorce

102719637Co-parenting after divorce can be challenging for many families. Co-parenting means that both you and your former spouse must take responsibility for raising your children, even though you are no longer husband and wife. The goal is to keep children out of the middle of your conflict so they don’t feel the stress of the situation.

The children should feel as though they still have a family, just one that has been reorganized. Of course, the ideal way to achieve this is for the parents to get along, do what is in the children’s best interests, and put the children’s needs before their own. But this may be easier said than done.

While change is often difficult, it does not have to be destructive. It may make sense to get psychological support during such trying times.

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

Finding the Right Family Law Attorney For You

95732591Family law attorneys handle divorce, child custody, and support issues. Choosing the right family law attorney is important given the emotional and financial hardships that frequently accompany these issues. Here are some things to consider when making your decision:

  • Does this lawyer seem confident, strong, and experienced?
  • What skills do I see in the lawyer? Is the lawyer smart, resourceful, comforting, strategic, a good listener, and so forth?
  • Is this person a skilled negotiator, trial lawyer, and communicator?
  • What kind of dispute resolution do I want to pursue, and does this lawyer have the appropriate experience and skills to handle the case in this fashion?
  • How will the parenting plan be developed and who will develop it?
  • If there are realistic issues involving personality disorders, substance abuse, or other such problems, does the lawyer have the experience and skill set to deal effectively with them?
  • Do I trust and respect this person? Can we have a good working partnership?
  • Can I be honest with this person? Do I feel comfortable sharing intimate details?
  • Is this person honest and candid with me?
  • Does the lawyer pay attention to me? Does he or she have time for me?
  • Can I afford this lawyer?

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