Attorney for Child Custody

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Mediator/attorney for high conflict custody issue

Sept 2013

My daugher's father left me when I was pregnant. Not only that, he's tried everything to destroy me while I was going through a very hard high risk pregnancy, including domestric violence, threatening me to get me deported (I'm originally from Thailand). He never came to see our daughter until I filed for child support when she was about 1.5 year old... It's a long and sad story, but I will try to keep it short. My daughter's father started to see her since then, but mostly a couple hours per week. And I tried to put away my hurts, thinking that it'd be the best for our daughter to have a father who will hopefully love her, so I always accommondated his schedules. Meanwhile, he made me believe that he's coming back and working things out with me. He even convinced me to drop off child support case saying that he would give me a check each month and there was no reason for us to have attorneys involved or go to court. He never asked to see her more than 2 hours per week, never asked me anything regarding our parenting plan. Then 4 months later he dragged me to court saying that I was blocking his access to our daugher and I was going to abducting our daughter back to Thailand. The biggest lies ever, and he wants 50/50 custody. We've been in the court since then for 3 years. Now our daugher is almost 5...I'm emotionally, physically, financially drained by this manipulative man. When we went to mediation, he would just sit there lying about every single thing. He knows that he could bully me since I do not have my own family in this entire country and that I am by myself without much resources and support. He is mentally abusive and manipulative, he used to make me feel like nothing, and that no one would ever believe me. In his mind he could just walk over me again and again because no one cares to stop him. He's been openly doing stuff to break our agreement, purposely making co-parenting extremely difficult, sending me text messages to harrass me on daily basis. Unfortunately he is the one who has money...Even though he's been ordered to pay some money to cover my legal fees he still enjoys dragging me to court because he knows that I do not have money.

Anyone knows a good mediator and attorney to help me??? I need someone who can see through his manipulation and abusive manner. Up till now he's just convinced me that all he's into is child support money, the more he gets our daugher the less money he pays. Our current mediator is not that helpful. I'm disappointed with my attorney plus I cannot afford her anymore. The challenging part is that he can appear super calm and can be a good talker in front of others...He's very good at acting. Everyday I tell myself that I have to keep going, holding my head high because my daughter needs me, and she is the reason that keeps me going. I;ve cried so much that my hair has started to turn grey at the age of 30. Any help would be appreciated!!! A very sad and desperate single mom Sad mom

I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago with my ex (my son's father). I have some recommendations for you as far as resources and places to start when looking for help: - The Family Violence Law Center helps victims of abuse in situations like yours. Their 24-hour crisis line is (800) 947-8301 . - Bay Area Legal Aid is a great place to start. They help low income people and families in need of legal representation and advice. - I think you should also look at this site. It sounds to me like your child's father is a high conflict personality type, like my ex, such as a Narcissist or a Borderline Personality type. The High Conflict Institute is a good place to start when learning about these kinds of people and what you can do starting right now to manage your relationship with them, such as tips for communication and keeping calm during interactions with them. It was founded by an attorney named Bill Eddy. I have learned a lot from them.

This is just a few places to start, but they should all be able to direct you to other resources. Please call them.

You should also try calling your local county's Bar Association (you can look them up online or in the phone book). For instance, I know that Contra Costa County has a ''Moderate Means Program'' that provides referrals to families with moderate to low income for attorneys who will take cases for reduced fees. I think Alameda probably has something similar. Call your Bar Association, talk to someone there about your basic situation, and they might be able to direct you to more resources.

For my situation, I was able to afford an attorney (barely!) with the help of friends and family, and I definitely recommend him - His name is Kennedy Koblin at the Koblin Family Law Center. I wrote a review for him in response to another question.

No matter what you do, or where you are able to find help, stay strong and SEEK HELP. Get some personal therapy, and possibly some for your daughter, too - that was one of the hardest things for me, but therapy has been so helpful for both me and my son. There are plenty of good therapists in the bay area who offer low and sliding scale fees for low income clients. I would start with , and if they are not in a good area for you, I'm sure they can direct you to other good organizations and therapy resources. A mom who has been there too

Single Mom Seeks Info on Custody Options-Pro Bono?

July 2013

Hi, I am seeking legal support or information on my rights as a single-mom. The father of my small child is not capable of full-time parenting. In case anything should happen to me, I want a friend of 35 years, and a stable mom, to have custody. The father is not financially able or emotionally present enough to hold it down, and I am wondering what my rights are, if he ever decides later that he wants more authority or time with our child. We were never legally married, but his name is on the birth certificate. I do want him to be able to spend time with his child - that is important. He is just not responsible enough to provide safety and well being for a little person. Any thoughts? I can send more info, if needed. Loving Mama

For pro bono services, I would recommend the Alameda County Bar Association at (510) 302-222. Also, there are free legal referral services at the Oakland Public Library through the program ''Lawyers in the Library'' and free sessions at Bananas Inc. in Oakland, both are provided by the Bar Association. You can also get some basic information in Nolo self-help books (i.e. Nolo's Essential Guide to Child Custody and Support) available at public libraries. Hope this helps. anon

African-American Family Law specialist for custody issues

July 2013

Can anyone recommend a family law attorney who is good at handling negotiation of custody arrangements between two partners who have never been married? We would really like someone who is African-American and can understand some of the cultural issues involved. needs help with a sad situation

I highly recommend my colleague, Kim Parker-Wesley. She is a highly experienced divorce attorney and is also a mediator. She is a wonderful, kind person and I am sure she could help you. Here is her contact info: Ariel

Custody lawyer needed, not married

April 2013

I am looking for a custody lawyer. My relationship with my boyfriend has fallen apart and I would like full custody of my 9 month old girl. Her father and I are not married. Looking for advice on how to begin this process and references for lawyers in the Berkeley area. Thanks. Sad Mom

My buddy's ex-wife hired one hell of a custody lawyer, Hannah Sims, who absolutely clobbered his attorney in court. I understand that she has a great reputation and is aggressive. He wished he had hired her instead, so much so that he no recommends his friends to her. Her office is in Oakland. JL

I wholeheartedly recommend Andrea Barr Goldman in Berkeley. I've referred numerous friends to Andrea over the years to assist with divorce and custody proceedings, as well as mediation agreements related to family law. She is a kind, compassionate lawyer, who always looks for a fair solution while keeping her clients' best interests at heart. 510-280-3880 andrea [at]
Deb L

Looking for Child Custody Mediator/Lawyer

March 2013

Hello, I am currently in need of consulting a good child custody mediator or lawyer in the East Bay. My partner and I are not married and have a young son. I am not from the area originally and have no family here to help support me through this painful time. I need to find out my rights as a mother in the state of California, and what to expect as far as custody issues. Thank you all so much for your recommendations. Anon

I can VERY highly recommend Ruth Kalnitsky, Managing Attorney at AARKS Law . She is wonderful to work with, and very knowledgeable. you can reach her at: ruth [at] Tel: 415.200.3600 Best of luck! SFMom

Not sure if you only need custody mediation, or more but I would recommend Larry Rosen who is in Rockridge. He is a great mediator. He helped me and my wife through some real sh_t. We mediated a lot more than custody. But custody was tied up in it all. You'll know right away as soon as you talk to him or meet him that he is unusual. The clarity of his mind jumps out at you. And his good nature is also immediately clear. Some person advice. Make sure you make peace with your ex, especially when it comes to custody. Otherwise life is pretty tough. Some mediators just help you figure out legal issues and some help you make peace. 415-356-9834.

Need a good attorney for child custody issues

Feb 2013

I am looking for recommendations for a family attorney who specializes in child custody disputes. Preferably in Marin county and female. Ruby

Jennifer Keith is the best. She is very experienced and specializes in divorce and child custody. I highly recommend her.

For my divorce and child custody issue I went to Connie Cabello of Cabello in downtown Oakland. I went to Connie on recommendation from a friend -- and after seeing the positive results my friend had in her own horrible custody dispute. She really helped me during a tough time and am so thankful. Not sure if she works in Marin, but I only had to meet with her a few times. We communicated via phone and email mostly, which worked well for me. (her # 510-601-0565) Good luck

2011 - 2012 Recommendations


Family Lawyer for Single Mom seeking Solo Custody

Nov 2012

Hi, I am looking for a recommendation for a Family Law Specialist to obtain advice and/or counsel in Berkeley or North Oakland such as Rockridge or Montclair. I am a single woman who broke up with my boyfriend only to find out that I was pregnant. I am considering giving the baby my last name and I am thinking of not putting the father on the birth certificate. I am wondering the pros and cons of these two actions. Additionally, I want to know what are my rights? What are his rights? Is there anything I can do legally before the baby is born (my due date is February 21, 2013) so that matters are in order. Thanks so very much.

I cannot more highly recommend Hannah Sims who helped me through a very contentious custody dispute. She's practical, settlement oriented, but when she needed to go into litigation mode, she was aggressive, articulate, and clearly well-known and liked by the judges, other lawyers, and courthouse staff. She's hilarious, too. She can be reached at (510) 628-0250 Anon

Custody mediator, attorney

May 2012

I'm looking to request a change in our now 50-50 custody arrangement, to primary custody with me. I would like the advice of an attorney before I approach the other parent, or perhaps a mediator, or both? Mostly to expedite the process, not to drag it out in court! Who do you highly recommend? (Children are 8 and 11). Thank you in advance! ~ C

use the mediator at the couthouse. He's free, super nice and if he agree's will make a recommendation. You can request meeting with him alone. Reenie

Help for child custody

April 2012

Anyone can recommend a good lawyer for child custody? I am a single mother of a 18 months old. My baby's father abused and abandoned me since i was pregnant but now he's asking for custody. Someone recommended Algera Tucker to me yesterday. Anyone had experience with her? From internet, I learnt that she is a ''super lawyer'' and family law specialist. But I have also found very bad reviews about her on the internet. I desperately need your help to find an attorney with good reputation and tons of experience since I hear that CA is pro 50-50 even the father had lack of interest or the mother suffered DV in the past. Many thanks in advance! bornfree

LeAnn Bischoff in Oakland is wonderful family lawyer. bischoff-212267.html Lori

In the interest of full disclosure I am a family law attorney in Alameda County (Oakland). I would be more than happy to speak to you about your case if you like.

That being said, I know Ms. Tucker personally and professionally and she is a very good attorney. There are a lot of very good family law attorneys and some not so great family law attorneys in Alameda County. I suggest that you do check into each and every potential attorney by looking at Yelp, Google, etc...but don't use the person's online credentials, reviews or the number of years of experience to make your ultimate decision (being a family law specialist or having a certain number of years does not necessarily mean one lawyer is superior to another). You should really meet in person or at least do a phone consultation to ensure that you and the potential attorney ''click.'' Your relationship with your attorney can make or break your case. As far as DV cases go, that is really a sub-specialty of family law and there are many attorneys who won't even touch them. I have handled many DV cases and sometimes the DV (or alleged DV) does impact the ultimate custody decision, but not always. While researching cases and law on the internet is not a bad thing, you have to remember that many times the decision in your case will be very fact-specific and creative advocacy can have a huge impact on the outcome. Good luck! michelle

Custody advice for young father

Jan 2012

My nephew (age 22) is struggling as a new father. His ex is irresponsible and unreliable and while he wants his daughter to have her mother in her life, he is struggling with how to make that happen. He works and takes care of the baby when he is not working. She is supposed to take the baby when he has to go to work, but often does not show up or even call. His parents (my brother and his wife) are willing and able to help, but they live in Texas. My nephew, his ex-girlfriend and the baby are all in California. Where can he get good, free legal advice about moving himself and his child out of state, with or without the mother's permission? Is there a free or low cost family law clinic he can go to and find out what his rights are as a father? anon

There is or used to be a program at the Oakland courthouse across from the jail or above the jail where they offer free legal advice. It may have been limited to small claims matters but worth a look. Wiley E Manuel courthouse. I believe there was also a program at the law library on certain days called lawyers in the library where free legal advice was offered by practicing attorneys. Many lawyers offer the initial consultation free so perhaps a few calls to family law lawyers would be worth a try. anon

If your nephew wants to consider changing or redefining the custody arrangement for his daughter, I highly recommend he consult with an attorney on an hourly basis. I do not know of any ''low cost'' or ''free'' legal services for family law issues. This is because it is a highly sensitive and complicated area. One needs to know all the relevant factors in order to advise anything. Many family law attorneys will consult with you for an introductory fee or something reasonable, perhaps $75 for 30 minutes, you should be able to find short term advice on that basis. These matters can be serious, involving charges such as kidnapping, if they are not done in full compliance of the law. Adding to that the issue of moving across the state lines, and you really need to be legally protected to do such a thing. paralegal

Seeding legal advice on custody

Dec 2011

hi, i'm a single mom moved here to the bay area nine monthes ago from HI. i would like to have full legal custody of my son. i am interested in finding out what the process is and what my rights are. any idea how i can go about finding information? i've looked online and all the sites i found required payment for answers to my questions, i'd rather work with a recommended lawyer if i'm going to have to pay. thanks.

I would highly recommend Aly Ebrahimzadeh of Prometheus: A Social Justice Law Firm. He\xc3\x82\xe2\x80\x99s not only a skillful lawyer but he\xc3\x82\xe2\x80\x99s also a trained mediator and a genuinely wonderful person. Here\xc3\x82\xe2\x80\x99s a link to the Child Custody/Family Law sections of his website: Carly

Tova Zeff is an attorney who specializes in estates and wills. She's thorough, very professional, and easy to communicate with. Her phone is 510-593-8393 and email is tovazeff [at] Shoey


Lawyer for disabled mom w/custody issues

Nov 2011

I'm a disabled mom seeking referrals to an attorney experienced with working on disability and custody issues. Thanks! anon

I know of a great family law attorney that specializes in complex custody issues. Connie Cabello and her partner are both easy to work with, great listeners and hard working! Check out their website: Best of luck! Joanna

Bipolor/alcoholic ex wants more visitation

Oct 2011

My ex husband served me with court papers (Alameda County) to modify the custody of our 4 1/2 year old son to 50/50 visitation. I currently have full physical and joint legal custody. As long as my ex seems stable, I typically allow our son to stay with him at his parents' house (where he lives) every sunday overnight. Dad is an unstable person with documented history of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness (bi-polar with suicide attempts and hospitalizations) and legal problems (2 DUIs with parole violation). I do not want to lose the ability to provide the best environment for my son, including being able to adjust visitation based on my ex's mental state and our son's reaction to his time spent at dad's. I used to let our son spend more time with him but he doesn't do well with increased visitation duration/frequency. I've heard that a history of mental illness / alcoholism / jail time, etc. is not a reason for the court to limit visitation. Can anyone tell me their experience in a similar situation? Or recommend a reasonably priced lawyer who has particular experience in this area? Concerned for my child's future.

I recommend the Law Offices of Robert A Goodman in Oakland. You need a very experienced Family Lawyer with a specialty degree in Family Law. Very few family lawyers have the specialty degree in Family Law which is awarded by the CA Bar Association. Your case is complicated and you need a specialist. Getting a good attorney can save you money even if the hourly rate is higher, since they will get what you need done more efficiently. Good luck Been there

Seeking Contra Costa County Family Lawyer for Custody

May 2011

Please suggest a top-notch family law lawyer to represent me in my custody/guardianship case in Contra Costa County. I am especially seeking one who is very experienced in this particular county family court system. Thank you for your assistance. anonymous

Check out Rachael Burley in Pleasant Hill: She specializes in Family Law. Good luck! anonymous

Kathryn S. Korn esq. Work (925)253-1136 E-Mail Kathryn [at] 93 Moraga Way Suite 101 Orinda, CA 94563 Elder law and family law. Very familiar with Contra Costa courts. For our family she managed a minor miracle. -Good Luck! 

Need Family Law Attorney for Legal Custody issue

March 2011

Can anyone recommend a good family law attorney to help with legal custody issues? I have primary physical custody of my 6-year old son 90% of the time, and after issues at school and seeing a variety of therapists and doctors, going through evaluations, etc. it is clear that we are at the point of trying medication to see if it can help him. His pediatrician recommends we try medication. Father, who has joint legal custody, is blocking medication, even though this may make the difference between our son being able to ''make it'' in school, adapt, make friends, etc. We appeared before a judge, as I was asking for final decision making authority with regards to medication. The judge declined to make a ruling, saying we should try to come to agreement ourselves. He also added, ''No one wants to medicate their child, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and give it a try.'' I was representing myself (Father had a lawyer) and now I need a lawyer to help me get somewhere in the legal system. I just want a chance to see if medication will help our son. Can anyone recommend a good attorney for this situation? Want my son to have a chance

I strongly recommend Mary C Rupp if you need an attorney for any type of Family law issues. She won me full custody and a difficult move away order. Shes attentive, answers her calls and keeps you updated all the time. Mary C Rupp Attorney, Rupp, Mary C, Law Office Of 1814 Franklin Street # 502 Oakland, CA 94612-3481 map Oakland, CA Metro Area I feel extremely lucky to have found her. I called about 9 lawyers before I hired her and its the best decision I ever made. Micaela

2009 - 2010 Recommendations

Attorney for Visitation, Termination of parental rights

Oct 2010

My son's biological father has never been in his life (a total of less than 40 hours visitation in three years) and owes $16K in arrears. He says he wants visitation, and we are scheduled to go to court next month. No custody or visitation order has been established. I want to investigate three possibilities:

1) Contempt of court for non payment (can he go to jail?)
2) An official acknowledgement of willful failure to support and/or abandonment
3) Termination of parental rights leading to step-parent adoption (my current fiance would like to adopt my son.)

Please help if you know someone who could help us. My little boy is the light of my life, and I want to protect him from a lifetime of disappointment. I truly believe he would be better off without this person in his life. protectivemother

Sounds like you are really trying to punish your ex. He may be a rotten guy, I don't know, but please consider being open to letting this father have some role in his child's life, or least giving it a try. People can change. Just because this guy was absent for the last 3 years doesn't mean he can't be there for your child in some way for the next 50 years. Your child might want to have known his biological father and resent you did not give him that chance. The past child support is a separate matter between the adults and I'm sure the court will help you address that. anon

Hi according to my recollection the courts handle visitation and child support separately. Since your X may not know that, you might consider mediating so you can get some back support IN ORDER TO SEE THE CHILD. Call Deborah Dubroff Shes a genius

A great recommendation for child support/visitation issues is Joel Tranter in downtown Berkeley. His specialty is exclusively family law. He has a strong emphasis on listening very carefully to his clients. These are always such delicate and pressing issues. I think you can feel confident that he will take good care of your needs in this situation. I wish you the best of luck! Joel Tranter can be reached at: [at] I hope this helps you with your dilemna. Leah

How can he be in contempt if he has no visitation schedule? And how was the child support determined if there is no custody being determined nor a visitation schedule? what court orders do you for the past 3 years?

The way you list the points... is, well, an ultimate target for your personal vision of what should happen, without taking into consideration what is that he may think/want/do. And he does think, want and will do stuff -- he exists! No matter if you want or like that.

I totally understand where you coming from, I am not saying that you should consider the other party's wishes out of some moral or else judgment towards you (this is something for you to do, and you have the right to take any position), I am just trying to point to you the obvious, which every court will look at.

So, don't jump so fast. If he wants to be in the child's life -- the court will give it to him. Abandonment is very hard to prove... And, again -- I can not really give you a real advice based on the information you submit ( it is basically not much, you mostly list your wishes Sofia

I've met many family law attorneys in years of litigation with a deadbeat parent who thought it was a worthy goal to pay zero of our children's expenses. This person used every trick: got paid in untraceable cash, hid assets, lived off a wealthy family, lied to the children and court. Though they made MUCH more money than me, I got a paycheck, and that was the only thing the court saw. Only one attorney was able to handle all this, and I recommend her highly. She's great! Tough, smart, honest, easy to talk to, and she has a genuine commitment to her clients. Diana Weiss in North Berkeley (510) 847-1012. dianaweiss [at] Good luck to you. Anon

Custody Agreements with a Narcissist

March 2010

I recently separated from my child's father due to infidelity, excessive lying, porn and various addictions. He fits the profile of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well as being passive aggressive.

I'm wondering how to engage him in custody negotiations, since anything seen as a threat to doing as he pleases (ie court orders) seem to enrage him, even if they came about as the result of his actions. Is it best to go for the mediated non-threatening approach? I want to, but I'm nervous about creating a parenting agreement that he then feels is just a bunch of rules that he is entitled to break.

If anyone has any experience with how to negotiate your need for boundaries and trust with someone who violates boundaries and lies as a matter of course. Annoyed at NPDs

I just recently learned from a friend who is in the midst of divorce/custody that there is a kind of ''evaluator'', someone you can hire who supposedly does a non-biased evaluation of the situation, then recommends to the court what they think would be the best arrangement for the child. So far, they have both worked with this ''evaluator'' and think he is fair and thorough. He will leave no issue un-dealt with. This way, you would not be challenging your husband and you are leaving the job of judgement to someone else. The truth will come out. The custody evaluator is Dr. Richard Marsh 510-559-8412 crt678 [at] He's supposed to be really good and fair. He should be able to help your problem, I think. Please don't hesitate to give him a call. Good luck. B.

Please get a good lawyer, not a mediator. Plan on the lawyer doing a lot of the work, and make the co parenting agreement as clear as possible. Don't try to handle this yourself, or only by yourself. Been There, Still There.

Use the courts to mediate your initial agreement. Document the dates and times of your exes infractions and re-visit the agreement when it seems to need a re- vision to best serve your kid. Remember it has to be in the best interest of the kid. Just because dad is a pain in your side to YOU has no bearing on his dad skills. If however he puts your kid at risk with his actions then you may have a case. mom to great sons

The father's behaviors that you describe are, as you note, crossings of a boundary of one kind or another. Since he's broken the rules in the past, you're understandably skeptical about trusting him to follow them in the future. Still, a parenting agreement seems to me a plausible aim. Counseling or mediation that does not aim at such an agreement might go around in circles and really have no binding force or reliable consequences. An arbitration or legal case, on the other hand, seems to me more promising because it at least seeks a commitment by all parties that certain responsibilities will be assumed and actions taken. Of course you'll want the responsibilities and rules you arrive at to be spelled out and as clearly-defined as possible. You'll also want there to be some kind of assurance that the father will comply with the agreement. That assurance could take various forms, ranging from legal sanctions to on-going oversight by the agency/person who facilitated the agreement in the first place. There's an important feature of your situation that you do not go into in your message: the nature of the relationship between your child and his or her father. That obviously is an essential ingredient in your custody considerations. Good luck!

RE: advice about co-parenting with narcisicist. I wish I could let you have my email address to help you but I can't post here due to the need for anonimity. I have to tell you that it took 4 months for the attorneys and an expensive, well known team to figure out that my husband is a narcisiitic pathological liar. You need to be very careful when dealing with a narcicist because they can really make you look like the bad guy in front of a judge. I recommend that you approach him about collaborative divorce and seek out a collaborative divorce coparenting team of therapists - A judge will order something like this thru the court anyway that you will have to pay out of pocket for because of your children. Most judges will not recognize narcisisitc behaviour and it will take a psycholgist review to stand up for you. There is a team in Orinda - the name of one of them is Rod Nurse. You can have your attorney request a coparenting therapist evaluation but it could take months of testing for them to realize he is a narciscist. Also - besides narciscism and ''narcisisitic behavior'' there could be other things going on. You yourself should seek therapy to help you recover from having to deal from such a person. One thing about narcisists is that they always want to keep up their appearances to ''other people.'' They may treat you like garbage but they want to appear to other people as ''perfect.'' I am now facing bankrupcty due to the divorce proceedings and the mess my husband has caused. Rather than having bankruptcy appear on his name and a potential foreclosure, he is backpeddling and trying to come up with ways of paying off all these debts that I cannot pay that are largely due to his lack of forsite. Without a doubt they have to be paid off before continuing the divorce proceedings, except that I have to continue to notify my own team regarding his actions which continue to run up the bill. Getting a divorce from a narcisistic personality is almost as bad as living with one because they want to place all the blame on te other person. victim of narcisism

I think you've said it yourself. If this is who he is, the non-threatening approach will not work. If he gets angry when people try to hold him to agreements which he routinely breaks, you need some back up. Whether he gets angry or not is probably out of your control anyway. At least have a court order to back you up so that he has the law to deal with and not just you - a person whose trust he has already violated. S.

2007 - 2008 Recommendations

Good family lawyer for custody case

Oct 2008

A friend of mine is looking for a good family lawyer for a custody case in the Bay Area. It is important to my friend that the lawyer is not only competent but can also be trusted to be reasonable on a personal level: (s)he should sincerely care about what is best for the child and be as sensitive as possible with all the people involved. Since my friend will be flying to California soon, any quick advice would be great. Thanks a lot for your help!!

Bille-Jean Lee is a fantastic and caring family law attorney. I worked with her for years (previously) and have seen her excellence both in court and with clients. She was the validictorian speaker of her Berkeley class and is very personable. bjlee [at] 925-287-6424 Christy

Andrea Barr Goldman is an exceptional and caring lawyer. She has worked with us in our child custody over the last few years. She is kind, trustworthy and conscientious on both a personal and professional level. Andrea is a mother of two herself and is very knowledgeable about what is best for the child(ren) involved and has always been sensitive to all people involved in the custody. I highly recommend Andrea as a family lawyer. You can reach her at: 644-3360. Elizabeth

Family law attorney needed, ASAP, for non-custodial parent's legal action

May 2008

Hello, I unfortunately need a family law attorney, and soon. My DD's non-custodial parent, whom I find difficult to communicate with at best, has now gone bonkers and is communicating only through an attorney. So, I need to hire one myself ASAP. Looking for someone: sharp, competent, quick wit, excellent communicator, practices in Alameda County. Either male or female, just a bright, ''knows their stuff'', straightforward kind of person. I didn't see any recent postings on the web site, so am looking for recent experiences with a family law attorney that may be able to provide expertise & competence, but soon! (Or, if you have the names of persons you'd avoid, I'd like to hear about those too). Thank you, Need legal representation

Call Kathy Perkins at 925.283.7938. She is located in Lafayette, but goes to court all over. She has years of experience and is extremely bright, forthright, high integrity and passionate about helping her clients get what they need. She works really hard and you'll be well represented. Anonymous

I know this is a tough situation but i don't think it's right that you have to hire an attorney. You can still try to communicate with your ex and direct him to mediation or some other route. You can send him a letter saying you don't want to fight because you have read that kids from divorced homes that go through life well are the ones whose parents never put them in between. Or you could write his sisters or brothers or parents or involve his friends. You can do so many things to persuade him to stay out of court (to stay away from fighting lawyers, who zap all your money and emotional energy). I know that may not sound possible right now but it was for me. I read some websites about how damaging litigation is for kids and i pleaded with my former spouse to go to mediation (he had already hired an attorney) and he finally agreed. Maybe it's not always possible but it was for me. I hope it works out well for you, whatever route you choose. jess

Please recomend good, agressive lawyer for custody

Sept 2008

Can you please help me find an agressive and wellknown in the court lawyer in San Francisco for a child custody/support issue. I already have a lawyer for more than 6 months and almost nothing was done. Now she is pushing me to sign an agreement my ex is willing to sign (of course it looks very bad for me and my 4yo son) and refuses to go to the court. Thank you for your help. Loving mother

Nordin Blacker - I just watched him argue and win and very contentious and high profile custody suit for some friends. Good luck and many blessing; I know how toxic this process can be. Anon

August 2008

I need help finding a great family law attorney for child custody and restraining order trial. We have a long, complex case and I really need a very experienced attorney, familiar with abusive relationships dynamic, experienced in representing women in such cases, and practicing in Contra Costa County. I checked the archives, looking for recent referrals. Mediation tried and was useless, my ex-husband never listens to anyone. He lie and will stop at nothing. I need a caring attorney who really fights for his client and not just charging money to drag the case. i am so overwhelmed. Please help! anon

Give Dana Santos a call. She is effective yet understanding. You can locate her contact information on the California Bar website. anon

My heart goes out to you. I can recommend an excellent attorney in Oakland named Sarah Leverett (510/832-6600). She was my consulting attorney when my husband and I went through mediation for our divorce. She pushed me to be tougher with my demands at the same time that she understood the complicated and extremely painful family dynamics when a divorce happens. She's kind but knows how to play hardball when it's necessary. I did a lot of research looking for a consulting attorney and she came highly recommended from several attorney friends. Wishing you the best of luck

Call Kathy Perkins, family lawyer in Lafayette. Her # is 925.283.7938 or e-mail at kperkins [at] She is the kind of lawyer you don't want to be on the opposing side of. She is extremely bright, assertive and passionate about supporting her clients and getting them what is right. She is full of integrity and loves her work. She's also just got a great heart! anon

Feb 2008

Dear parents, I am going through custody battle and in a great need for a excellent family law attorney practicing in Contra Costa County, where our case is. I left my ex-husband due to domestic violence when I was pregnant. Now my child is older but my ex-husband still doesn't leave us in piece. I reviewed the archive of BPN and contacted most of FL attorneys recommended, but most of them of not practicing in Contra Costa County, or not taking new cases etc. During last year I spend $10 000 for an attorney who I found on Yellow Pages, but situation became only worse. I would appreciate greatly if you could recommend a knowledgeable honest attorney with experience of representing woman. Thank you very much. desperate mom

Dana Santos. She's smart, no-nonsense and great with custody issues. She's in Pleasant Hill. email: danasantos[at] 925-487-6706. anon

I would like to recommend Dana Santos. I went to law school with her at Golden Gate, and she is very smart and knowledgable. She is also the past president of the family law section of the Contra Costa Bar Association. She can be reached at the Law Office of Dana L. Santos, 2255 Contra Costa Blvd., Ste. 301, Pleasant Hill, Ca. 94523, phone 925-344-4400 and fax: 925-969-9688. Her email address is danasantos[at] I did get an email from her in response to mine asking if she is taking new clients; she is, but she also let me know that she is moving to San Ramon at the end of the month. Good luck. Lori

Jan 2008

Hello, I am looking for a best family lawyer in SF area. I am dealing with my ex about our almost 2 years old daughter's child custody. We are using a mediator, but seems like it is not going too well. Basically my ex wants to take her to his place after work which is around 7:30-8pm, and bring her back in the morning around 10am. Our mediator told us it will be better if there was as little transition for her to deal with at her age as possible, but he thinks taking her every night is not a problem. He claims that because he is the father, he has a right to keep her 50% of the time. I have been the primary care person in my daughter's life since she was born. even now I only work part time so that I can take care of her because I believe it is better for my daughter to be raised by her parent than in day care or baby sitter it situation allows (I am not saying that putting your kid in a day care or have nanny watch your kid is bad. Please don't misunderstand...) Please help me find a great lawyer who can help me deal with my situation... Thanks anon

I consider Cynthia Podren and Hannah Sims to be top-notch family lawyers. When your daughter's father says as a father he is entitled to 50% custody, he is reciting the mantra of family law in California. But don't despair, because it's also true that courts don't want to see children having too many transitions, and he's asking for 2 transitions each day! (not to mention that the math doesn't work out--he's asking for more than 50% custody, plus the fact that he's asking basically just for nights makes it look like he wants all this custody on paper with the least possible amount of responsibility). Of course, the more custody he has on paper, the lower his support obligation will be.

In my layperson's opinion, I think it's unlikely that a California court would give him nighttime custody only (it doesn't seem to fit the ''best interest of the child'' standard), but it is possible that he will be awarded substantial custody, regardless of how wonderful the attorney is who represents you. Unless a parent is grossly and manifestly ''unfit,'' the courts do lean towards joint custody, but aren't always bent on 50%.

You should also be aware that there is a very strong backlash in CA against nurturing mothers who want to limit the father's role in their children's lives. If you come across as ''relentless'' in your efforts to have full custody, the court might decide you're an ''alienator'' and award full custody to your ex. The fam. court has the most respect for parents who come into the custody dispute with respect for the other parent and a desire for the child to have ''frequent and continuing contact'' with both parents.

I recommend Philip Stalh's book ''Parenting After Divorce''; Stahl is a local mediator/evaluator, and this book has gained national recognition. Best of luck my 2 cents

Try Kelly Robbins. She is an excellent family attorney in SF specializing in cases like yours. kelly[at] Tel 415.788.5400 Good luck, Tammy

Margaret Gannon is a very experienced attorney who handles international custody issues. I know she often works with low-income women, but don't know her rates. I suggest you call her and see if she can offer a free or low cost consultation. Her number is (510) 452-1700. Best of luck. A

Rowena Gargalicana is a great family law attorney. A couple of my friends have used her and praise her. She runs a small, women owned firm in downtown Oakland. Tough, but fair. I think the entire firm name is Gargalicana & Graceffa. 510-251-2000. Lorraine

I think that, except in the rarest of cases, mediation is the route to go in family law. After all, whether you are divorced or not, once you have kids together, you are a family (in some form) for the rest of your life, and if you create (or foster) hostility through litigation, you'll have to live with it. I used Larry Rosen in my divorce and I started the process with anger and left with healing and acceptance. I've had around a half dozen friends who I have referred to Larry Rosen and in EVERY case they came through closer than when they went in, and fully able to care for their kids TOGETHER. So, give him (or some other mediator) a try. He's at and 415-356-9834. Tell him that Jessie referred another, and my deep best of luck to you and your family. Jessie

Dec 2007

Hi all -- I'm looking to legally change the custody agreement that I have with my ex-husband. After several years of sobriety he has begun abusing alcohol again and I would like to speak with a lawyer who has experience in this type of situation, specifically in changing from joint to sole custody. Other people who have been through similar situations have told me about mandated supervised visits and periodic drug and alcohol testing, but I really don't know anything about the various types of provisions I could put in place to keep my children safe while they are with their father. Also don't really know if this is a no-brainer, as my friends seem to think, or if it is likely to be a very difficult change to make. Any recommendations for lawyers familiar with this type of situation would be greatly appreciated! anon

Alcohol abuse is one of a number of factors that are used by the court to determine the ''best interests of the children'' in making custody awards. If your case was originally litigated, then changing custody generally requires a showing of ''changed circumstance,'' which is a legally defined term. If custody was agreed on by stipulation, then the court will usually make a ''best interests of the children'' determination, also legally defined.

What often makes sense to the layperson as a parent, is not necessarily what happens in court, so be wary when friends say your case is a ''no-brainer.'' Each case is different and the outcome is often influenced by the nature and style of attorney representation, who the judge is, the behavior and actions of the other parent, and ultimately the specific facts in the case.

Changing custody is frequent in family law cases, so most family law attorneys are familiar with this process. I always recommend people shop around for an attorney who fits their needs in terms of goals, style of representation, and budget. These cases can take a long time and it it important to work with someone you like and feel comfortabnle with.

I am a mediator and experienced family law attorney would be happy to consult with you more specifically about your case. I generally provide free, 20-minute phone consultations and charge $100 per hour for an in-person consultation. A

Oct 2007

I'm getting remarried and moving with my fiance to the central valley from the east bay. I am a stay at home mom with 3 small children and my ex-husband has served me papers stating that I can't move out of the county with our children. I was referred to an attorney, Tanya Leydiker, in Walnut Creek. Any feedback positive or negative on this attorney? Any other recommendations? Thank you! anon

Your ex-husband can legally prevent you from moving his children too far away. This happened to my friend who was offered a job in another city. She was ordered to stay within a one-hour drive or to give him primary custody. Maybe try working with a family law mediator instead, so you and your ex can come to a mutually-satisfying agreement. If you try to fight, it may be costly and you would probably lose anyway. Oakland Parent

You may want to consider a mediator-attorney who specializes in such issues. Since your ex probably wants to see his children as frequently as possible, a family law mediator will help you two discuss what's best for the children. I recommend two mediators: Andrea M. Eichorn at 510-652-0220 and Larry Rosen at (415) 356-9834. Both are excellent at helping families figure out these issues. Stuart

Oct 2007

Urgently need an experienced, aggressive, communicative attorney for child custody case in which a toddler has been abducted by her mother, for Contra Costa County. Our nice attorney doesn't have experience or resources for this case. Please help with names and experiences. Also organizations that can help. Thanks.

Here are some attorneys I know who are excellent litigators: Hannah Sims, Cynthia Podren, Judy Law, Algera Tucker, Dennis Rothhaar, Sylvia Woods. Feel free to email me if you would like additional information. A

June 2007

Hello. I am hoping you can help me. I have a long road ahead of me with a legal battle with my non working, illegal substance abusing soon to be ex-husband over our child. I want to do a moveaway divorce and therefore need full physical custody of our child. Can you please recomend an attorney who can practice in Contra Costa county who specializes in these types of cases? Thank you so so much for your help. anon

I really understand your need to get your child away from a substance abuser, but unfortunately the substance abuser is her Dad, and the courts may see this in a light different from yours. I am saying this not because I necessarily think the law is always right, but because I am going through a divorce right now and have been brought up short and frustrated by how courts see things, and I just wanted to give a heads-up. Rather than seeking out a ''tough lawyer'' right away, perhaps you should consult with a mediator, a ''soft lawyer.'' A ''tough lawyer'' (not to malign lawyers, now) will be interested in stirring the pot and creating and perhaps stoking an adversarial situation, whereas a mediating lawyer will probably be able to present you a more balanced picture of what could happen if you take the ''tough'' route. You don't have to mediate (you may not be able to, given your circumstances), but it can only help you to have an objective and even-sided look at the situation as it might appear to a judge. Then you can decide whether it will be worth your while to litigate and what you can reasonably expect to achieve through litigation. I think a good mediator can also help you cope better with the way the law sometimes seems to work against the greater good. It has been helpful for me. I can recommend either Judith Joshel or Eva Herzer for that kind of conversation. It's worth it! trying to stay on an even keel

Try Gary Silber, who has been in family law for more than thirty years and recently returned to private practice from the bench. He has expertise in all areas of family law: child custody, support, mediation, acting as a special master, guardianships, and adoption. He is very well-respected in the field. His number is 925-937-1100. anon

Contact Mark Le Clerc. He's an excellent family law attorney! His office is in Walnut Creek. markcleclerc[at] Good luck to you. susan

Sept 2007

Dear Parents, If you know an experienced and professional Family law attorney practicing in Contra Costa County please advice. Desperately need help ASAP. My case is in Contra Costa County where my exhusband lives. I have an endless custody battle with my exhusband, whose only goal is to make my life miserable, retaliating me for leaving him. He didn't visit his child for many months, doesn't care for a child and teaches against me when he does visit, visitations exchanges are a nightmare, but he has an expirienced attorney who is dragging the case and lies in the court. We just had a hearing and I need to file a motion ASAP to set aside the decision of this hearing. Othervice we are facing a new trial. I reviewed referrals in the archive and contacted attorneys but didn't find one (those that I liked the most are not available now). Need somebody who is experienced, smart and professional and not just trying to drag the case to get more money, but actually fight for a client's rights. Will appreciate greatly your advice. Thanks a lot. desperate mom

I am so sorry you are going through this. Divorce is hard enough on everyone involved. My husband heard one time that you meet someone and get to know them and start dating and get to know them better. Then you get married and really get to know them, but you REALLY get to know them when you get divorced. The two lawyers who were involved in my husband's divorce were quite good. Their names are Fenstermacher (a woman whose first name I forget...she was his ex-wife's atty) and Leonard Kully (his atty). Both were very professional and very good. I liked Mr. Kully better, personally. I think they are both in Walnut Creek, but I am not sure. It was a hideous divorce, very similar sounding to yours. Lots of kids, lots of ''confusion''. I hate to say this, but even if you get some sort of legal resolution and a court order that appears to your satisfaction, your ex will, in all likelihood, still play his game. Co-parenting counseling should be mandated in cases like this, but it probably wouldn't really help anyway. After the last 12+ years that I have witnessed as a stepmom and partner, I don't really have much faith in the concept of shared custody, legal or physical, when the parents are at odds. I wish you the very best. Email if you need some moral support. Hoping I've Helped. the_missus

Hello...several of my friends have found themselves in need of a Family Law Attorney. They have found great success with Shane Ford ( I have not used his services so I can't speak from experience, but I know they have been very satisfied with their experience. I believe he is in Pleasanton. Here is what one friend had to say about him. ''He's been great so far - as is his legal assistant Brandon. I'm confident in his abilities and feel that he's very on the ball and aggressive without being hostile. Additionally, I feel his fees are fairly reasonable (although far from cheap - 25/hr) and he's upfront about how to save money (ie.doing some of the legwork yourself, using his legal assistant when needed - as opposed to him and instead of fighting each individual battle - fight them all at once). Not only that, he seems very well connected and knows where and how to get info when needed.

Good luck to you. Hoping this helps...

I would like to recommend Dana Santos. Her office is at 2255 Contra Costa Blvd., Suite 301 in Pleasant Hill, phone (925) 487-6706. She is currently president of the family law section of the Contra Costa Bar Association. I am not sure how busy she is, but I went to law school with her and can recommend her as a very competent attorney. Lori

Rachel Burley in Pleasant Hill. 969-9898 anon

A great family law attorney in Contra Costa is Gary Silber. He recently returned to private practice after several years on the bench, so he may have some openings. He is very experienced (30 or so years) in family law, mediation, and related areas. His office is in Walnut Creek (Shadelands) (925)937-1100. happily divorced

March 2007

After losing too much in what should have been a slam-dunk custody case, I deeply regret having trusted family court to be fair. While I played it honest and clean, the other parent had a lying, cheating, dirty lawyer. It's over for now, but I know that we will be back in court again. I want a tougher, smarter, better lawyer now, to be ready. Little did I know.

For an assertive custody lawyer who will help you stand up for yourself and your children with integrity and toughness, I have these three names:
Cynthia Podren
Linda Cox-Cooper
Frances Kaminer

Best of luck. been there too

I recommend Frank D. Presto, III, of Pleasanton. He works in all of the Bay Area courts and is aggressive, but honest and ethical. He is a strong advocate for his clients. Telephone: 925-846-4494 ra

2005 - 2006 Recommendations

Nov 2006

I am looking for a divorce lawyer for a tricky custody case. I have been given the name of Miriam Steinbock, but am curious whether there is any one out there that has worked with her? Would you recommend her? what was your experience with her? other great family lawyers out there? anon

regarding your question about a custody attorney in a tricky custody situation, I don't know Miriam Steinbock, but I can heartily recommend Linda Cox-Cooper (451-0539). She is really good in difficult custody situations because her focus on keeping the children's need front and center while representing a parent give her an edge in court. She is very ethical, responsible, and assertive and really stands up for her clients, and her focus on a good outcome for children is really helpful to the parents she represents. best of luck

You asked about Miriam Steinbock. Yes, I have used her on two occasions. I was very satisfied with her as an attorney. One of the best things about here is that although she can fight for what you want, she also has a realistic expectation of what can and will happen within the court system, and will give you ''reality checks'' that you may not be able to see when you are emotionally charged about these types of issues. In my case, this probably saved a ton of money and kept me sane amidst what could have become a totally frustrating situation. I also recommended Miriam to a friend of mine, who called me from the Court immediately after his judgment to say ''thanks''! She is great! Ernie

I had a bad experience with Miriam Steinbock several years ago. At first, things went well, but as my ex-husband and his attorney dragged things out, she seemed to become very impatient with me and my case. She eventually ''fired'' me which, since I was already financially and emotionally very invested in her, was devastating. At the time it felt like an incredible betrayal - now, with hindsight the best I can say is that we must not have been communicating - but honestly, her job is dealing with distraught people, so I'm not sure why she couldn't deal with me. Go to Florence Phillips at Minami Tamaki in SF. She is wonderful and picked up the pieces that Miriam left. Good luck to you anon

I can recommend David Bunn in Berkeley, 528-0700. Anon.

Experienced family law attorney for custody

Oct 2006

Looking for an attorney highly experienced in family law, custody. Thank you

I have tremendous appreciation for my family law attorney, Mary Oaklund, who has won multiple court judgements for me and my kids (custody and schooling issues) through her legal wisdom, sharp wit, and silver tongue (no dirty play). These successes are especially notable in that she has been up against an attorney who other lawyers seem to detest dealing with because of her nastiness (not the legal term, I suppose) and legal subterfuge. I highly recommend Mary Oaklund 483-6047 I'm so glad I found her.


Oct 2006

Surprisingly (and it's a good thing I suppose) there are not many recommendations in the archives for lawyers for child custody issues. I'm seeking more.

The father of my kids and I were never married, and have been split up for more than a year. We've been doing okay negotiating custody arrangments on our own, however, sometimes things get heated between us, and I want to be prepared for going to court if we have to. In fact, I may actually choose to take him to court since he's never provided a penny for the kids and I'm the primary caretaker - and I'd like some financial support.

I have no idea what to look for in a lawyer, plus I don't know where to look. Dowtown Oakland would be an ideal location for me, if anyone has recommendations there, but of course most important is someone that's good.

Finding a mediator is not really an option, since he will not help pay for that. And it seems unfair for me to pay for all of someone who is to remain neutral and not represent me.

Any recommendations for lawyers and/or advice about choosing one would be greatly appreciated. Thanks anon

I ABSOLUTELY believe that he should provide you with financial support as these are his children and, in fact, run, don't walk, to a lawyer/mediator to get what you need to provide to your children. My ex and I used a mediator, and while I understand your hesitation in his not wanting to pay for a mediator, in the legal proceedings you can make it a requirement to split the cost (that is part of the mediation). I would actually encourage you to try a mediator first and see if that works. Clearly if he doesn't see that he is responsible for providing financially for his children it may be difficult, but I found that it is much better to try to approach it from a place of partnership vs. an acrimonious place with lawyers and their crazy fees. I have recently contacted a mediator in the east bay (as I need to make an adjustment to my divorce agreement) who was recommended through BPN, Larry Rosen and was inspired to call him just based on his great message on his website and the reality that some lawyers will instantly make it about me. vs. you and I would assume that most of us would dig our heels if someone appraoched us with a tough approach. He seemed to be a realist and not too touchy feely, but someone who understood that this is such a sensitive subject to begin with, that it needs to be approached directly but delicately. Good luck with this and good for you for standing up for your children and making sure he does provide for them. Been through it

I had a similar situation as you. I highly recommend Joanne Schulman. Her office is in San Francisco, easily accessible by BART. However, I only had to meet with her a couple of times in person. The rest was phone, email and fax. She does a lot of work in Oakland, so she is familiar with the judges, etc. I found her to be a great advocate and very straightforward about what's possible. She can be reached at 415-863-5300

I normally just skim through these without contributing, but I had to respond to your post. I just went through this process and have a family law attorney. If you would like to contact me by email I would be glad to tell you who this person is that represented me. This person did a fine job, but the reality is that all attorneys are going to charge by the hour, minute, and second, and I think that quite a bit of that work can be done by a person that does not have a law degree.

Overall, I am pleased with the results but I would just like to say a few things before you spend thousands of dollars.

You mentioned that you did not want to be the one to pay for a mediator because if you are paying you want to be represented fully. I do not know how much that costs, but I doubt that it will cost half as much as getting an attorney to represent you and going through the entire process. And, either way you will end up with a mediator and the judge will try and be as fair as possible.

Our case ended up costing us double what we thought it would. Yes, double what we agreed on in the beginning. The reasons could not have been predicted and are always in the judge's hands--meaning how long the trial takes, how much they put in the order after hearing (that the attorney then types up and files), and how many times the judge tells you to come back! Some judges require you to come back more than once to see how things are going and of course you have to pay the attorney for all of their time. It can be that you are paying this person for hours and hours of additional time. At $300 dollars per hour, which is what you may pay for a very qualified person, that is a lot of money! After spending many thousands of dollars I am quite certain the outcome would have been nearly the same had we just gone to a mediator on our own. Other parent did not pay a dime, and never has, yet now they have more than double the visitation.

Despite everything my attorney did, the other parent and I still had to go to mediation (within the court) and the mediator\xc2\x92s recommendations are almost always what the judge orders because the mediator is a neutral party and the only truly fair person. In addition, I did not get to choose who this person was and I would NOT have picked this mediator on my own.

Please consider all options carefully and speak to as many people as possible that have been through this. k

Sept 2006

I'm a newly single mom who is looking for legal advice. I was not married to my partner, but I would like to find out what the legal parameters are for child custody issues. We have some specific struggles I don't want to mention here, but I would like to know what the current legal structure can do for us. I called the offices of a couple of the attorneys listed from previous years on this site, but I haven't heard back from them. Maybe they are too busy? If someone can still validate any of the previously mentioned lawyers I would still pursue them. Does anyone have any current highly recommended legal contacts at this time, previously mentioned at this site, or not previously mentioned at this site? Thanks, JF
PS - translation: Does anyone recommend a lawyer for a single mom?? Thanks!

If you're looking for a traditional attorney, I recommend Deborah Dubroff in Berkeley. Her work product is high quality, and she is good at dealing with the subtleties of the divorce dynamic. (510) 841-1143, deborah[at]

Though I would encourage you to consider investigating mediation as as an option, if the father of your child is willing, as it is generally less expense, faster, and much less divisive. Andrea

May 2006

need someone to help with legal advice and filing custody paper for parent that needs to represent herself in court. w

Please don't hire a paralegal for this very important matter.

You may not be aware that in California, under California Business and Professions Code 6450(a), a paralegal is to work only under the direction of a licensed attorney. Indeed, it is unlawful under the code for a paralegal to perform services for a consumer without an attorney supervising. I'm sure you could find someone, but I might question both the ethics and the qualifications of any paralegal who would be willing help you without an attorney. Many people refer to themselves as paralegals when they are not.

Also, if something goes wrong and you get bad advice, you will not be able to get the court to ''undo'' the problem, because you freely entered into an agreement with someone you knew not to be licensed or qualified. If you do this by yourself, or you hire an attorney, at least you will have recourse if something goes wrong.

Might I suggest, you check out the Volunteer Legal Services Program, where you can get free (or be directed to low cost) legal help? -- ethical friend

April 2006

Hi all, I am looking for a strong mother's advocate attorney in San Francisco. I was just accepted to a phd program in Chicago but would only consider moving if I could take my children. I have sole physical custody with their father having 30% visitation. He has told me he will use all his resources to block my move even though I have assured him he could have the same percentage of time with them. I can't leave the children with him for many reasons which I won't post here. Thank you for any recommendations. I have worked hard to get into graduate school (and did of course apply to local schools). This has been a dream of mine but it's no dream without retaining primary custody of our children. hoping for a good outcome

You are dealing with what is called a move away case, and the law is ever changing. You should seek out an attorney who specializes in custody cases - and likes them. A few names in SF - Christopher Emley, Kathryn Kirkland, Lorie Nachlis - look up their contact info at or call for a referral to an attorney from the SFBar at 415-989-1616. anon

Feb 2006

I am looking for reccomendations for a really good divorce attorney in alameda county who has experience with complicated custody and/or financial cases. I am hoping for some one extremely knowledgeble, competent, creative (as far as coming up with solutions that will work best for our child), and who is also a supportive, empathetic listener. (I read through the posts, but did not find anything current). We have tried mediation, but my kid's father has not been able to honor agreements made in mediation. I am still hoping the case does not go to court, but I need to be prepared if it does. Any advice on what to do when a parent does not honor parenting agreements would be helpful as well. thank you! anon

Joanne Schulman is the best family law attorney I've seen. She's expert, knowledgeable, strong, and specializes in representing women who've been abused and / or who're being overtly bullied. She's amazing. The only downside is she doesn't take on many new clients -- she takes very few of the cases she's offered. Her rates are reasonable (for this profession) and she's ethical. She'll want to protect the kids. She'll compromise if that's at all possible (as that's least expensive for the client) and she gets along extremely well with other attorneys, which is rare and good. Best of all, she's experienced: she's seen it all, dealt with it all. She really knows what she's doing. Her phone is 415.863.5300 ext. 12. Good luck to you. SF

I am not so sure our situations have much in common other than my child's father never honored an agreement we made either. I strongly reccomend taking it to court. I know it seems stressful and abrasive but it is important for children to have consistancy and once it is over everything will be in black and white and both parties will have to follow the court order. I am using Racheal Gindsurg in downtown Oakland. She is very fair and knowledgable I suggest calling around to get different opions and see how you feel about each person but I am very lucky with her. (510)835-5568 Ashley

I am a family law attorney, though not practicing, so I can give you some referrals of attorneys I know and who I think might be a good fit. Tracey Kaufmann, Peggy Hill, Jane Kaplan, Judy Law, Debra Marx. These are very competent, experiened attorneys who are also savy with complicated custody/financial issues. It is always a good idea to call and have a consult before deciding on hiring an attorney to make sure the fit is right. Re: your husband not following through on agreements- unless the agreement is made into a court order, signed by a judge, there is no remedy for his failure to comply. anon

May 2005

I desperately need help of experienced family law attorney to help me with custody and visitation issues for my 2 years old child and to get a move-out order approved. I need to move out of state due to my job, but my ex-husband filed papers with the court prohibiting taking my child out of state. We separated with him when I was 6 month pregnant due to domestic abuse, and got a divorse 1 year ago. I have always had a sole custody of my daughter, but now my ex-husband suddenly requested 50%. He has a smart attorney and I also need one. Please recommend a knowledgeable experienced attorney (preferably a male because I was told that the judge who will handle our case doesn't like woman) to help us. Will greatly appreciate your help. Thanks a lot.

I can recommend Robert Goodman, family law atty. He is in downtown Oakland, at 12th Street, City Center. As far as costs, they're all expensive, I think he's about 150-200 an hr. Good luck finding an atty for less than that. However, he is consciencetious about costs and does a good job. Forget mediation, or do it yourself divorce. And online divorce I've never heard of. You need someone to advocate for you and the best interests of your child. Susan S

Give Amalia Hartwell a call (she used to sit on my Board of Directors) 415-771-0136, she's a family law specialist. juliette

2003 - 2004 Recommendations

Dec 2004

I read the posts about the spouses with NPD and one post that mentioned a great attorney that helped with visitation etc. (I would love to know who the attorney is....)The marriage I left was abusive though we never did get a diagnosis for him. (He left therapy after the therapist suggested anger mgt for him.... I have been through hell in the contra costa court system (essentially because my ex and his attorney lie so much, and I have an attorney that is not representing me well at all.) I presently have a temporary custody share that is not working for my kids, and I need to change it. I am reluctant to change attorneys however, as I have done so once already and consulted with 4. Changing attorneys drives up the cost and apparently may give the impression that I am difficult. I am very worried though about the direction this case is taking, and the time being lost. This is not a good situation for my kids who are very young. My youngest daughter has suffered immeasurably since the shared custody began. (Apparently courts presently like to assign 50/50 shares in most cases.) I am unwilling to accept this as I do not think it is in the best interests of my children. I am also concerned that my husband (ex) may leave the country with our kids and take them to the Middle East where he originated from. It is a constant and valid fear that I may not see them again if he disappears. I would like to be put in touch with a good attorney to handle custody. Somone who will not run up enormous bills unnecessarily and drag this out for years. I have already spent a fortune and almost lost everything. I would like to find someone who knows the custody evalution process and who is experienced in the very dysfunctional contra costa family law system. I need a strong person who can handle a real slime of an attorney and an ex who would like to eliminate me. (Quite literally.)I have read all the info in the archives and I have consulted with several attorneys. There is one I would like, Brigeda Banks in WC, but she doesn't want the case. (At least that's what I gathered when I never got past the receptionist on the phone, who politely gave me three other names.) Someone out there must have been in my place once surely? frazzled and worn out

I don't know if one of the many attorneys you have already consulted is Deborah Sandler, but she is a very experienced family law attorney in Walnut Creek, 925-943-7456.

To help you understand your situation and what the judge is thinking, you may want to check out the Nolo Press book on divorce in California. You can probably get it from the library. anonymous

Oct 2004

I am having a really difficult time understanding why my attorney is trying so hard to lower my expectations in the custody case I've filed in Alameda County. Mom and I (apart, she since married, we never were) have a one year old son who I have spent a lot of time with (twice a week, one overnighter) and I want a shared parenting arrangement.

I am being told to lower my expectations, and that I'll likely get joint legal with sole physical to mom with some visitation. In her responsive pleadings, mom has made (false) allegations of abuse but the court shouldn't have too much trouble dispensing with them as unfounded. I am feeling very much alone and somewhat tortured because what I read in the family code and what I hear from my attorney are very different.

I am also very conflicted about whether we should be taking the passive ''high road'' approach to mom's allegations or responding aggressively.

Any words of education or recommendations for counsel that you'd like to share would be sincerely appreciated. - Daddy

It would be wonderful if divorce judges were so enlightened as to see through false allegations, but this is not always the case. My husband, who is founder of an organization, ''California Parents United'' (advocating equal shared custody as the default in divorce/custody cases unless a parents can be legally proven to be unfit), is a person with whom you might want to talk. Contact him at RAFink at or at 510-262-0777. You need the wisdom of experience of others who have gone through similar situations. My best to all of you in this time of transition. Ilene

I am not sure if I can help but I want to offer my support. You could call Kathleen Hunt 289-2288. She may not do family law but could steer you in the right direction. Have you thought of going on with out a lawyer. I used a paralegal and I was able to refute the false charges on my own. I am not sure if Alameda county is different but you could also go and observe a family court hearing. I have been to several and there are many people in the court room for most of them. I have went in CC County so it may be different. You may also see an attorney that you may feel more confident in. Don't lower your expectations so quickly. Good Luck concerned mom

May 2004

I've been reading the postings regarding child custody attorneys, but was wondering if anyone can specifically recommend an attorney for child custody advice that is a staunch feminist dealing with lesbian and co-parenting issues. My sons father and I have been able to somewhat amicably raise our son in a co-parenting situation, but the father is becoming verbally and emotionallly abusive to me in front of my son which is completely unacceptable to me. I want to seek advice from an attorney that will help me to find out what my rights are and what kind of boundaries I can set. His father has a history of making agreements with me, even agreements set in ''couples'' therapy that he continues to break one after another. I do not want to go into the court system as I think often that becomes a lose-for all involved. But I do want to set up agreements that he will keep and that will work for the entire family. Mom in Emeryville

Try Rachel Ginsburg downtown Oakland 510-835-5568 Feminist lesbian lawyer Specializes in family law and is a good communicator. anon

There are many feminist family law lawyers in the East Bay. A few names are: Emily Doscow 540-8311 Eva Herzer and Cynthia Podren 527-5901. Some of these may only do mediation. There are lots more in SF - let me know if you want more names. Amy O

May 2004

I have been involved in a custody and child support case for a few years and have been represented by a wonderful SF attorney whom is now retired. I interviewed a few attorneys and finally hired a prominent family law attorney at a major law firm in Contra Costa(about two months ago) who did not work for me. I am looking for a recommendation for an experienced Contra Costa (or Alameda) Family Law attorney, who will not charge more than $350 an hour, and who will be compassionate, RESPECTFUL, aggressive and willing to work hard on my case. I need to move quickly because, even though our next review hearing isn't for 6 months or so, I know it looks bad to switch attorneys in the middle of a custody case. Can anyone suggest such a person? Thank you. M.

the two women who practice at the firm of fox & banks are both very good. they are in walnut creek. good luck

Try Ann Fallon. She's somewhere in Contra Costa County. Experienced and very nice. Amy O

August 2003

I am a single mother who had a relationship for 6 years, ended it, then found out I was pregnant from our final encounter.

Due to the length of the relationship, and the fact that I really wanted my daughter to know who her father was, I asked that his name be put on the birth certificate, and promised him that I would make no demands, financially or otherwise, and that it was his decision how much he wanted to be involved.

He's been a wonderful ''part-time'' father, and my daughter loves him dearly, but I've now got issues with the fact that his name is on the birth certificate. Every time we leave the country (often, as my best friend lives in Vancouver, BC) I have to get a letter from him ''approving'' of our trip. To further complicate things, I am planning to move back to Canada in January, so I will need to get legal custody of her before we go.

It will really be a formality, as he has never paid (nor been asked to pay) a dime, so I'd like to find the cheapest solution possible.

Can anyone recommend an easy solution?

Is it your understanding that if you have sole legal custody, that you will be able to travel freely without the father's written permission? If so, contact the family court facilitator's office in Oakland (208-4969). They can help you prepare papers to file for custody. You will have to start the process with a Petition for Paternity. If the father is in agreement, he can choose not to respond and you can get a default judgement that he is the father, as well as an order granting you sole legal and physical custody. It is not that difficult, unless he contests the case. good luck

August 2003

I'm looking for a recommendation for a mediator--maybe a lawyer, but not necessariuly--who can help my husband and I legalize our temporary child custody agreement. We need someone in downtown San Francisco--all the great recs on the website are for folks in berkeley or oakland. anon

Our trusts and estates attorney, Richard Hill, formerly of Morrison and Forester (sp?), recently gave me the name (Robert Walker--SF) of whom he considers to be the top custody attorney in No. California for a friend of mine who is embroiled in a painful and messy custody suit.

My friend contacted him and found him to be brilliant and sweet and willing not only to talk to her, gratis, on the phone but also he required a much smaller retainer than the other attorneys who had, essentially, committed malpractice in their counsel and performance thus far. My attorney articulated Bob Walker as someone who was so skillful and yet got along with everyone, not further inflaming a historically inflamed situation.

I wish you luck; I know these custody conflicts can be hell for parent and child and anyone else.


My daughter is 12 years old and no longer wants to go to her dad's house for our joint custody agreement. We both feel he is very difficulty to live with and she is being emotionally and verbally abused (not all the time but often enough for her not to want to return). We have 50-50 custody time. I need any recommendations for a good lawyer or advice from anyone here whose dealt with similar issues. At this point, I am allowing her to stay here but her dad has threatened to come up with the police to take her home, etc. Help!

A couple of words of advice. First, consult a family lawyer immediately! Second, in the meantime (if there is any) you MUST perform your obligations to deliver your child to her father as specified in the court orders and/or custody agreement. If you believe this would present a serious danger of child abuse, call a lawyer immediately and get some advice, even if you don't hire them for the long haul. Here's why: Your failure to abide by the terms of the custody agreement/order will be used as evidence against you in the custody proceeding that appears to be coming down the pike at you. It is critical to maintain a clean record that you have complied with the order; otherwise the issues you want to raise will be muddied beyond recognition. Status quo is the rule in custody cases. Unless and until you can convince the court to change the arrangements, your failure to drop her off at dad's will cast you in the role of wrongdoer.

Your daughter's feeling that she is being emotionally and verbally abused is one that many teens and pre-teens feel from time to time. I am not suggesting that her feelings are invalid or not to be taken seriously. However, you must understand that the court will start with the assumption that such parent-child conflicts are within the range of normal. Essentially, anything short of abuse sufficient to call in Child Protective Services probably won't be viewed by the court as justify your violation of the current custody order. The question will be: Why didn't you come to court if you were that concerned? And you can be that her father's attorney will emphasize that question in painting you as a manipulative parent who has influenced her daugher to feel alienated from her father. I'm sure you'll get lots of recommendations for family lawyers. The Alameda County Bar Association lawyer referral service is at . Look for a California State Bar Certified Specialist In Family Law wherever you find one. Good ones charge $300 - $350 per hour, and are worth it. If you need one hour of advice from a real expert to sort things out, call Sarah Leverett, 832-6600. She is the dean of the Alameda County family law bar and a truly kind and compassionate person. Good luck to all of you. Tim

I recently used Mary McNeill in Albany (1604 Solano Ave [at Ordway], 528-7353, email neillaw at for a guardianship case. However, I know she has handled a number of child custody cases, and I was very happy with her work and her prices.

From: anonymous I think the courts have recently sent down mixed signals regarding custody when it involves moving out of state for career purposes. You definitely have to contact a lawyer before you go anywhere. Divorce lawyer recommendations: Sylvia St. A. Keita 1736 Franklin Street, 10th Floor, Oakland 510 444 6222 tel 510 444 1704 fax Margaret Hill 2832 College Ave Berkeley 510 549 1800 Marjory Kaplan 436 14th St Ste 1417 Oakland 510 763 5611

From: anonymous We went through a custody battle a couple of years ago (as many on this list may remember), so I can share my experience with you. In this area, I would recommend Margaret Hill as a lawyer. She used to be on the old Co-op plan, and she had a sliding scale at that time. I know that a friend recently called upon her in a child-support case, and that she is working for a $500 retainer (which is reasonable in the world of lawyers), and intends to ask for the father to pay court fees if it goes to court. I'm sure her phone number must be in the phone book. We consulted her about child support, but couldn't use her for the custody case because the case was seen in Yolo County. If by chance you need a recommendation for Yolo county, I'd be glad to give you our lawyer's name and phone number. For reference, we paid our lawyer a $1000 retainer, with a total cost of about $4000 for the custody case. But that was in Davis, not Berkeley.




I've just rec'd info. about the following new (2nd ed.) Nolo Press workbook in an email from [You probably already know that you can sign up to receive email reports on new (or just interesting) books in various subject categories.] It's probably best for the least terrible situations. As the summary points out, the parents have to be able to work together.

>Child Custody: Building Agreements that Work, by >Mimi E. Lyster. You'll find this book at >

[A personal note: as far as is concerned, my advice as an ex-bookstore employee is to read the reviews & write the titles down and then go to the nearest independent bookstore to buy the books. Of course, it's not the least expensive route...]

2002 & Earlier

Becoming a legal guardian

September 2002

I have taken in my 14 year old niece and would like some advice on legal guardianship. Her parents are divorced and are not contributing to her living expenses. I would like to add her to my health insurance and apply for any financial assistance available while she is under my care at least until her parents can get their act together. Does anyone out there know what I can do to seek legal guardianship?

Please contact Legal Services for Children in San Francisco. Their web-site has lots of information about all sorts of options for kids, including guardianship, emancipation and more informal arrangements. All services are free. LSC only represents children and will follow their wishes, not yours, even if you are right and the kid's in fantasy land. If your neice wants you to be her guardian, then LSC will help both of you through the system. Again, this service is for kids. Please don't call for a child custody modification order. You will be sent to the Bar Association referral number. Best wishes for a happy home. Jenifer