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Monthly Archives: November 2016

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.

Child Custody and the Holidays


custody-pic3The holiday season is a fun but stressful time for families, especially if the parents have recently separated or divorced.

Straying from tradition during the holidays is difficult, but consider developing new traditions that accommodate your respective holiday schedules.

For instance, if you have the children on Christmas Eve, and your ex has them on Christmas Day, consider exchanging gifts that night. If your ex gets the kids for Thanksgiving this year, consider having your turkey dinner on a different day.

After all, the most important thing about the holidays is spending quality time with family.

Spivak Law Firm handles all family law matters, including divorce, child custody, child support, and Protection from Abuse (PFA). To speak with an experienced family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Post-Gazette Features Spivak Law Firm


sq2The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has once again featured Spivak Law Firm on issues involving family law and criminal defense.

The P-G recently published the article, Clean The Slate In Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth Should Make It Easier To Expunge Criminal Records And Give People A Fresh Start In Life, written by attorneys Todd Spivak and Rebecca Canterbury.

The Post-Gazette routinely features Spivak Law Firm, publishing several articles of important legal commentary on Protection From Abuse (PFA), child custody, and criminal-record expungement laws in Pennsylvania.

In Clean The Slate, Attorney Spivak and Attorney Canterbury critique a new Pennsylvania law that for the first time seals criminal information from public view for people convicted of second- and third-degree misdemeanors.

In Impoverished Parents Deserve Their Day In Court, Attorney Canterbury reveals how exorbitant filing fees in Allegheny County prevent low-income parents from asserting their child-custody rights.

In Crack Down on Domestic Violence in Allegheny County, Attorney Spivak recommends that only specialized judges with extensive domestic-violence training oversee PFA hearings.

In Improve Pennsylvania’s Domestic-Abuse Law, Attorney Spivak exposes the issue of bogus PFA orders and recommends ways to curb abuses in the system.

In Child Custody for Rapists, Attorney Spivak explains how sexual predators use family court to harass and intimidate their victims.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate, cost-effective representation in all family law and criminal defense matters. To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Pennsylvania Expungement Law: Clean The Slate


expunge-pic5Attorneys Todd Spivak and Rebecca Canterbury recently published an important article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spotlighting a new Pennsylvania law that for the first time seals criminal records from public view for people convicted of second- and third-degree misdemeanors.

At Spivak Law Firm, we advocate for expanding options for expungement and record-sealing to help people shed the stigma of a criminal record so they can access better jobs, housing, and other basic rights and privileges. Our article, entitled Clean The Slate In Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth Should Make It Easier To Expunge Criminal Records And Give People A Fresh Start In Life, is reprinted here in its entirety:

Pennsylvania offers virtually no relief for people to shed the stigma of a criminal record that denies them access to employment, housing and government benefits.

Fortunately, the commonwealth is taking a step in the right direction as a new law takes effect Monday that for the first time seals criminal records from public view for people convicted of some second- and third-degree misdemeanors, so long as they completed their punishments and stayed free from arrest for 10 years.

It’s an important law, but it does not go nearly far enough.

Historically, Pennsylvania has offered two legal pathways for concealing a criminal record.

First, you could petition the court for an expungement, which completely erases criminal information from public view. But expungements are offered in very limited cases, such as charges resulting in dismissal and convictions for low-level summary offenses such as public intoxication and speeding tickets.

Second, you could seek a pardon from the governor, which restores all rights lost due to a criminal conviction, including voting rights. But a governor’s pardon is hardly a viable option for most offenders, as the process can take years, cost many thousands of dollars in attorney fees and has a dismal success rate of less than 20 percent.

On average, fewer than 100 people receive a governor’s pardon in Pennsylvania each year, whereas more than 40,000 expungements are granted annually.

The new record-sealing law affords far less protection than a pardon or an expungement because the criminal information will remain accessible to law enforcement and state-licensed agencies, such as occupation boards and child-care facilities.

Moreover, the new law excludes all people convicted of felonies, as well as sexual and violent crimes.

Thus, Pennsylvania still offers no relief for people who, say, were convicted of assault for starting a bar fight at age 21 but served their sentence and went another 30 or 40 years without another arrest or incident.

The importance of second-chance reforms cannot be overstated.

Three million Pennsylvanians have a criminal record, comprising 30 percent of the adult population. They are parents of about half the state’s children.

A criminal record can have life-long collateral consequences, restricting access to the most basic rights and privileges, such as employment, housing, public benefits, bank loans, voting privileges, government contracts and child-custody rights.

Employment is considered the single most important influence on decreasing recidivism. Studies show that job applicants who reported having a criminal record were 50 percent less likely to receive a callback or job offer.

During the last five years, nearly half the states passed more than three dozen laws aimed at sealing or expunging criminal records so low-level offenders don’t continue to suffer for minor offenses, according to the Vera Institute for Justice.

Pennsylvania should follow the lead of other states that offer broader pathways for relief.

For instance, earlier this year Kentucky for the first time authorized expungement and restoration of voting rights for nonviolent felony convictions. Missouri and New Jersey significantly reduced waiting periods to expunge felony and misdemeanor convictions. New Jersey went so far as to ensure automatic and immediate expungement of non-conviction records.

By contrast, Pennsylvania requires people to petition the court, pay filing fees and wait about a year to erase a criminal record even though charges were dismissed or withdrawn. People who fail to seek expungement remain burdened by a criminal record that can significantly inhibit employment prospects.

Pennsylvania should join roughly half the states, as well as many major employers, such as Walmart, Starbucks and Facebook, that have adopted ban-the-box policies, which removes the conviction-history question on job applications and delays background-check inquires until later in the hiring process. Research indicates that employers are more willing to hire applicants after first examining their qualifications for the job.

The Pennsylvania Legislature is considering two bills that would further expand options for expungement and record-sealing. These so-called clean-slate bills would automatically and immediately seal non-conviction records such as withdrawals, dismissals and not-guilty verdicts. They would automatically seal records after 10 years for most misdemeanor convictions. They would eliminate the exception that allows occupational- and state-licensing boards to view sealed records.

In addition, the clean-slate bills would save money for taxpayers by reducing criminal-justice costs and increasing tax revenues as more people get back to work. More important, they would improve public safety by giving offenders a fresh start that enhances their prospects of finding employment and living crime-free lives.

Spivak Law Firm Hires New Attorney

rc-headshot-white-fullSpivak Law Firm is pleased to announce that Rebecca Canterbury has joined our family law and criminal defense practice as an attorney at law.

A Pittsburgh native, Attorney Canterbury earned a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law. During law school, she represented clients at Protection From Abuse (PFA) and child custody hearings while working for Neighborhood Legal Services Association and the Duquesne University School of Law Family Law Clinic.

Attorney Canterbury served as a law clerk for the Honorable Kevin G. Sasinoski of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas – Criminal Division, as well as for several private law firms in Pittsburgh focusing on criminal defense and family law. She began as a law clerk at Spivak Law Firm before joining the firm as an attorney.

While serving as president of the Family Law Society at Duquesne University School of Law, Attorney Canterbury organized and moderated a symposium to address whether Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse (PFA) laws strike the right balance for protecting domestic-violence victims while also limiting false claims of abuse.

Earlier this year, Attorney Canterbury wrote an article published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette entitled Impoverished Parents Deserve Their Day In Court on how filing fees in Allegheny County prevent low-income parents from asserting their child-custody rights. The article was reproduced in the fall 2016 edition of At Issue, published by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

This month, Attorney Canterbury co-wrote an article with Attorney Spivak published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette entitled Clean The Slate In Pennsylvania on the importance of making it easier to expunge criminal records and give people a fresh start in life.

Attorney Canterbury focuses her practice on PFAs, child custody, domestic-violence defense, and criminal record expungements.

Spivak Law Firm offers a free consultation on family law and criminal defense matters. To schedule an appointment, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Avoid PFA Violations

pfa-pic3If a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order has been filed against you, you must follow it. Never contact or attempt to pass messages to the plaintiff, even if the contact is non-threatening.

A mere accusation that you violated an active PFA will lead to your arrest. You may then be criminally charged and face a potential six-month jail sentence for Indirect Criminal Contempt.

If you already have criminal charges relating to the same incident that gave rise to the PFA, then the alleged PFA violation could demonstrate to a judge that you intend to continue harassing and abusing the plaintiff.

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

Tips for Co-Parenting

expunge-pic4You may still harbor hard feelings against your ex even after divorce. As difficult as it may be, it is important to put the interests of your children ahead of any ill feelings between you and your ex-spouse.

The following tips may be helpful in co-parenting with your ex-spouse:

  • Communicate with your ex-spouse civilly;
  • Talk to one another regarding rules and discipline of the children;
  • Abide by similar dinner, bedtime, and homework schedules;
  • Avoid high-conflict topics prior to exchanges;
  • Encourage the children to have frequent and continuing contact with extended family;
  • Discuss proposed custody schedule changes with your ex-spouse ahead of time.

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.