Attorney for Divorce

Editor Note: Margaret Gannon, frequently recommended on BPN, has now retired. 

Parent Q&A

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  • I am deep in a messy divorce with a narcissistic x. He prepped and planned for the divorce in advance, is savvy with hiding money and we share a young child. It is messy. His attorney is a bulldog and I need the same. Please help. Alameda County. Thanks.

    I worked with Henry Lewis for several years on my divorce, which was finalized in 2020. He is both a bulldog and very sweet, depending on which side he is on. ‭(510) 451-4822‬, henry [at], Tell him Judy in El Cerrito sent you.

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  • Hello BPN, I am seeking a recommendation for a divorce attorney that can help me navigate the process this process, fair division of assets, buy out or sell family home, teen boys in the mix as well. Rec's in the archives are a bit dated. Thank you - Never thought I'd be here...

    I have several suggestions. First, educate yourself on how it all works. I recommend the NOLO guide to divorce in CA. That way, you can approach the problem with some understanding of what to expect. If things are reasonably amicable, you may or may not need a lawyer -- a mediator may be enough. For mediation, I worked with Rebecca Lovell, of Dubroff, Easely, and Lovelll ( She was even-keeled and even-handed, even in the face of everything my ex could dish out at her (it was extremely helpful to have her as a buffer between the two of us). I also hired a separate lawyer since things were a bit contentitious. I was very, very happy with the service of Hart Ginney ( I worked mainly with Jacqueline Khong and Abe Hart, who were able to guide me through the process, answering all of my questions, and being tough as nails when needed. I'm sorry this is happening.

  • Does anyone have an attorney recommendation or co parenting advice as I try to navigate a divorce with an ex spouse who is narcissistic and emotionally abusive? Thank you!

    Sorry about your situation; I went through something similar and can make a few suggestions --

    I discovered a good lawyer who can litigate if necessary was especially important when dealing with such a difficult person-- initially i wanted to try collaborative divorce or mediation, but eventually I realized that was not sufficient protection for my own interests. Mediators are not supposed to take sides, but if you don't have a strong advocate to help you in negotiating a fair outcome, the dynamic which prevailed in the marriage (just guessing here, but often the interests and preferences of the narcissistic spouse end up prioritized and those of the accommodating spouse are ignored) may continue even after the marriage ends. What you want is a good lawyer who knows how to avoid expensive litigation but can go there if needed. I highly recommend Donna Gibbs ( You don't want to make any decisions lightly just to get through this quickly-- make sure you are making decisions with good advice in order to ensure best long term outcome for yourself and your kids and that you receive what you are entitled to. After being in a relationship like that for awhile, it may have become easy to discount your own needs without even noticing. 

    I found some of the information at this site helpful--

    (especially about how to communicate with my ex )

    Finally once the dust settles, I highly encourage some personal therapy to help understand how you came to choose such a partner-- this helped me a lot. Though I will note I also learned and grew lot through reading books, talking to friends, journaling, etc-- now I am in a much better place, able to coparent relatively peacefully (with really clear boundaries), and SO glad i got out of that marriage. 

    all the best to you-- this is really hard, but just keep moving steadily forward and it will get better. 

  • Need for a lawyer who is effective with a narcissistic coparent

    I highly recommend Donna Gibbs (

    Her calm, persistent demeanor was just the antidote for my difficult ex-spouse. 

    Good luck to you. 

    Dan Preddy, Gonsalves & Kozachenko, 510.770.3900 helped me immensely.  I observed him to be very effective in court (saved me from paying spouse's attorneys fees!) and Dan understands the challenges of difficult/dysfunctional spouses, both in terms of the case strategy and in terms of the understanding and compassion he showed during our conferences.  He is also respected by judges, which can help you feel confident when your matter has to be in court (due to my ex's baseless and narcissistic filings and need to just keep fighting for the sake of fighting). 

  • Hello community,

    I have ARAG insurance and am looking for attorney recommendations for a divorce. Below are some attorneys I found through the ARAG website. Any insights/experience working with any of them? Thank you in advance.

    Rachel Saunders

    Timothy Fricker

    David Olson

    Martin Elmer

    Susanna Tuan

    James Ramsaur

    Jennifer Phillips


    I used Jennifer Phillips for my divorce. The whole process was easy and completely covered by ARAG as it was an "amicable"/non-contested divorce. I would recommend that you carefully review the documents because it seems her staff isn't super detail oriented...

    Good luck!

    Timothy Fricker was my attorney for my divorce, and I'm so glad I went with him. He is a very caring person who is able to help you get through the difficult, messy, time-consuming task of completing your divorce. He is extremely experienced and understanding of all the things that could arise that you may not have thought of. I was in a borderline abusive marriage and needed out asap. Tim talked to me almost as a counselor regarding the logistics of the separation. His casual advice during a very brief visit led me to sell my house almost immediately, get a new apartment, file the divorce, and proceed at a cost I could handle. He honestly was more helpful than my therapist in getting through this very sad and challenging time in my life. He can explain things that seem very complicated in a way that it totally makes sense. I think that his rates were pretty good - normal. And he was super efficient so did not waste my time or money. I couldn't recommend him more. I will try to post this to a wider audience as well, but feel free to share this insight with others if you want. I live in Oakland and his office is down by Jack London - super convenient for me. Best of luck with everything. Keep your head up during this hard time.

  • I am looking for a family law attorney that can help me finalize a mediation agreement.  I recently parted ways with my daughter’s father-she is 4 years old and we are both very involved in her life.  I am struggling financially. He owns a home and makes far more money than I do. He is charming and charismatic with others but is manipulative, threatening, controlling and cruel behind closed doors.  He has a high powered lawyer who also happens to his friend.  So I could use sound legal advice before I finalize the agreement. I would prefer a female attorney who has experience helping single moms.  Many thanks.

    I used Margaret Gannon and highly recommend her. She only represents women. You need someone in your corner who will fight for you. Margaret will help you keep your emotions in check and keep them out of your decision making process. It's a difficult process under the best of circumstances. Good luck. 510-452-1700

    After a horrific event instigated by my husband years ago I was advised to seek legal advice from one of CCC Family Justice Centers for a free one hour consultation. That is where I met Harpreet Sandhu. After my initial consultation she offered to represent me for $150/hr. That was the rate that attorneys who maintain office space at FJC can charge clients they obtain via FJC. The rates may have changed and her rate outside of FJC is higher. Vicious lawyers will charge you more and I can assure you she’s not vicious. She has a strong moral compass and is well versed and experienced in family law. She’s currently working out of the Concord office and you’d have to call them to schedule a free one hour consult with her. She’s very kind and has great relations with the court judges. Best of luck getting through your family law issues. Wish you speedy closure.

    Hello Anonymous,

    I am seeking this as well.  May I ask if posts will be visible?  I'd like to see these.

    Thank you,


    Unfortunately Margaret Gannon has now retired. She was surely a lawyer of her own league! We have been lucky to find someone also honest and ethical. Look up Hannah Sims. And at no given cost should you hire Lisa Radcliffe in Contra Costa county. She is all about money making and does nothing for her client.

    I strongly recommend Donna Gibbs in Oakland.

    I would never have gotten through my divorce without her patient, skilled, and calming support. She has a lot of experience and a clear-eyed perspective. 

    good luck to you. 

  • I need to get a legal separation and  looking  for a lawyer ( female preferably ) who is honest,  low cost and knows how to deal with a narcissist.... 
    Hopefully around the Berkeley Albany Elcerrito area. 

    Thank You

    Well, I've got 3/5 for you (not low cost, but definitely worth it if the stakes are high, like custody issues; and located in San Ramon): Cristin Lowe. She helped us win more than one trial over the years. It was comforting and satisfying watching her in court, especially when she skillfully exposed the narcissist by their own testimony and tripped them up in their lies.

    I worked with Erin Levine of Hello Divorce in Emeryville. She is absolutely competent and friendly. Made a terrible process a bit less agonizing. 

  • Urgently in need of finding a divorce attorney in the Diablo Valley area with knowledge & understanding of  + experience in dealing with narcissism and narcissistic emotional abuse.   Would be so very grateful for any information.  Thank you in advance!

    In my experience, my divorce attorney took all reasons and emotion out of the process. It was just legal, formula-based. Your attorney might want to know the other party is a narcissist, but the other party’s attorney should be the one he is dealing with. I don’t have a recommendation, as my attorney is in west contra costa county. Be advised that the county requires a mediation at the court house after the filing and I’m pretty sure the attorneys did not attend, but maybe that was just me because our divorce was easy.

  • Attorney for QDRO

    Jun 25, 2020

    Our divorce mediator suggested we have our QDRO performed by Moon, Schwartz and Madden, but I found an attorney who is on my ARAG legal plan who can do this.  Has any used Michael Cogen of Larkspur to perform their QDRO and if so, would you recommend him?  If not, would still appreciate any recommendations.    Thank you!

    Moderator Note: QDRO = Qualified Domestic Relations Order, a court order describing how divorcing couples split retirement benefits. 

    fwiw, I'm using Moon for my QDRO.  They are actuaries I believe.   

  • Hi BPN Community,

    I suspect my wife is planning to file for divorce soon, and will seek full or at least more than 50% custody of our young child, and attempt to move out of state. I would be grateful for any referrals for a good divorce attorney that will fight hard for my rights as a father and make sure any settlement is fair and equitable. An attorney in or nearby Oakland would be preferable for me. Thank you.

    HIGHLY recommend Cristin Lowe. We had a similar situation that got really nasty, and she's skilled at putting the true colors of a person on display (super helpful if someone hides their crazy well). We're now many years later, she "won" two trials (though no one really wins in these things), and though the other parent is still combative, our child sees and has ongoing contact with and relationships with both parents- even though the parent who originally filed did end up moving out of state. Cristin is strong, smart, powerful and respectful, and I know from experience she will fight for dads to be equal or even primary parents. She is someone you absolutely want on your side in court. Her office staff leaves something to be desired, but don't let that deter you. She's also experienced enough that she knows the judges and what part of your case will resonate with yours. Be totally open and honest with her, let her help you, and keep your eyes on the prize- your child deserves to have the love and presence of BOTH mom and dad in their life.

    This sounds like a cat and mouse game. Why not skip the attorney and go for a mediator, and start immediately? Most mediators that I've met will absolutely care about your rights and will not recommend anything other than 50/50 custody unless you both want it. Start with mediation, then move to attorney. IF you've cheated or done something that is hurting your family, your wife and children, mediation can still help.

    I recommend Connie Cabello (attorney) - she's amazing!!! And totally helped me out. I'd also recommend Sherna Perez for co-parent counseling - she was instrumental in helping my ex and I sort out an agreement without having to go back to court. Good luck.

  • Looking for an attorney recommendation to create a post-nup (not pre-nup). I'm assuming this will also be a divorce or family attorney. If anyone has created a post-nup, I'd love to hear your experience and how much it cost. Many thanks in advance.

    My husband and I went to Camille King to discuss whether or not we needed a prenup. She was so helpful, knowledgeable, and kind to us during this difficult conversation. I think calling her would be a great place to start. Her email is Camille [at] Good luck.

    I am recently separated and researched post-nup guidelines.  I concluded that basically it needs to be the guidelines of what both parties agree on, as detailed as possible.  Then both parties sign it, and have it notarized.  Both parties get a copy, which then is used in the divorce, if necessary.  You should include things like the schedule for the kids, who gets the pets, where both parties will live (who gets the house), any spousal and/child support payments you decide on, who pays health /property /car insurance, who gets the car(s), etc.  I don't plan to divorce for several years, so I'm assuming a judge at that time in the future will view the post-nup and use it as proof that we stayed true to our word to each other (or not).  Cost:  nothing, except the fee to notarize ~ @$30.

  • I am looking for recommendations for a therapist and divorce lawyer who are familiar with narcissistic personality disorder.  I have been with my husband for 10 years and am ready to move on but I would love to get some support from a therapist and talk to an attorney before starting the process.  Also would love to connect with any moms who have been through this.  We have 2 young kids, 5 and 7 so my first priority is to support them and create a safe environment.  Thanks Anon

    Greg Silva was my divorce lawyer. I think he was quite good. They are all expensive. YOU need to first learn how to manage an attorney--or manage yourself using the attorney--use attorney as if you were running a business. Otherwise your bill will run up so fast to a huge one. There's a book you should read asap about divorcing a narcissist. I forget the title, but divorce and narcissist is in title so you can find it online.

    Lawyer recommendation- hannah sims in oakland. Wicked smart and understands personality disorders

     I don’t know any divorce attorneys but I suggest Cindy Blackett as a therapist. I saw her with my narcissistic ex. She definitely gets how they are and what you go through when you’re married to one. Her office is on Solano. (510) 540-5409.

    I so feel your pain. Divorcing someone that has a personality disorder means you're in for a long fight.  ITA with Altavistamom.  Try to do some ground work yourself.  There are so many resources, but I found that the Nolo Press website and their books were very helpful. 

    Some personal advice to take care of you:  realize you're in for a long battle.  I finally woke up one day and realized that if I just outlasted Mr. BPD, and didn't emotionally react to his crap, I'd be ultimately win.  Best advice I got:  Just let them talk for themselves.  Don't interject, interrupt or add color commentary.  The crazy will display itself, trust me.  

    There is a website called ChumpLady dot com that has a not so common take on divorce and narcissists.  Even if your situation does not involve infidelity (and I'll bet the $13.52 in my purse that it does), it still has useful advice and support for going through a high conflict divorce.

    One last thing:  the mandatory mediators that are part of the Alameda County divorce process are hit and miss.  I got one that couldn't even spell my name correctly as his personal appearance was soooo much more important dontchaknow (sorry, sarcasm off).  If you are uncomfortable or feel that soon-to-be-ex is pulling one over on a weak mediator, stop the process and ask for another.  

    Hoping that your divorce is fast, your settlement satisfactory and you find peace.


  • Hello:

    I am in a high conflict divorce from a very controlling man who tries to alienate our son from me and my family and basically any activity or person he doesn't approve of.  He is emotionally abusive but knows how to behave well in the court room and in front of mediators.  I need an attorney who can speak up for me in court.  Speaking about the things that he has done to me and my son is very difficult for me without getting emotional as I have endured years of threats and verbal abuse, + his trying to turn my son against me.  I need an attorney who is organized and eloquent and quick on their feet.  My case is in Alameda.  Could anyone provide me w/ recommendation(s)?

    Thank you,


    Timothy Fricker in Oakland is excellent -- real fighter for his clients' parental rights and full of practical advice for dealing with an adversarial ex. His number is 510-633-8484. 

    i highly recommend Donna Gibbs in Oakland. Smart, experienced, kind, responsive, and always calm and sensible. My exhusband was (is) also very difficult, but Donna really helped me to figure out when to fight back and when to let it go. She stayed focused on the end goal and helped me through a very difficult time. Her office is very professional and well organized. I would never have been able to get through my divorce without her wise counsel and steadfast assistance. Good luck to you.

  • My friend (male) needs a good divorce lawyer willing to work on a fixed fee. Friend is low income and his wife has all the marital assets. Any recommendations appreciated. Thanks for your help!

    Hi Smokey - I've never heard of a divorce attorney who worked on a fixed fee. Recommend mediation rather than attorney. a mediator's focus is on reconciliation rather than grabbing as much of the assets as possible for their client. Mediation is much cheaper than divorce attorneys. Your friend is in luck if he is in California - this is a community property state. His wife will owe him spousal support depending on how long they have been married. A mediator will explain the law to both parties simultaneously with an eye to reaching an agreement. 6y ears ago we used Eva Herzer on Peralta Ave in Berkeley right off Solano Ave. Good luck. 

  • Does anyone have any experience (good or bad) with the attorneys listed below?  After attempts to work things out peacefully failed, I'm gearing up for what will likely be a contentious divorce process.  My ex has already expressed that he wants to get as much as he can out of this; he doesn't seem to be concerned about what's best for our two children.  I anticipate that there will be significant disagreements about custody, child support, spousal support, and how to deal with the house we co-own (other assets have already been accounted for).  I'm really hoping to find an attorney who has a good record of getting settlements outside what seems to be the current template (50/50 custody, spousal support automatically awarded to the lower-earning spouse, etc.)

    Any feedback on any of these attorneys would be greatly appreciated:

    Sarah Ward

    Philip Allingham

    Henry Lewis

    John Cuerva

    Susanna Tuan

    Jacob Harker

    Ian Van Leer

    Martin Elmer

    Kent Kirmaci

    Jennifer Phillips

    Thank you in advance!

    I used Margaret Gannon and highly recommend her. She only represents women. If your divorce is going to be contentious, you need someone in your corner who will fight for you. Margaret will help you keep your emotions in check and keep them out of your decision making process. It's a difficult process under the best of circumstances. Good luck. 510-452-1700

    I have not heard of any of the above but I did use Hannah sims and she was fabulous. Wicked smart, articulate, and a no BS woman. Highly recommended...

  • Looking for divorce attorney in preferably downtown SF or Walnut Creek but willing to go a little further for the right fit. Need someone extremely familiar with addiction/alcohol abuse and granting one parent sole custody. 


    Vanessa Candelaria in Walnut Creek assisted me with my child custody case, which involved an alcoholic spouse. I highly recommend her. 

    I would highly recommend Ford Family Law in Oakland Shane Ford. Remarkable and respected by the judges and courts. I used him in my divorce case and he is literally one of the two best attorneys in California. 

  • I live in Contra Costa County and seeking a family law Divorce attorney who has experience with: Domestic Violence, Alcoholism, Child Protection.  My husband is an alcoholic policeman (access to a gun) who is also suicidal and has anger issues.  He expressed interest in committing suicide twice this year via a gun and a noose while he was drunk. He's depressed, possibly mentally ill and could be dangerous while under the influence.  I refuse for myself and my girls (8 & 10 yrs.old)  to live amongst this chaos any longer and am preparing to divorce him, carefully.  I suspect when he finds out, he will hit rock bottom with his addiction to alcohol, thus losing his job and we may even need to go to a shelter for safety.   If anyone out there knows of an attorney that has experience in these types of cases, I would be forever grateful for your referral.   I need to protect my girls, Thank you.

    If you haven't already been in touch with them, please get in touch with STAND!  They can recommend a lawyer for you.  They also have a "one-stop shop" set up (I think it's somewhere in Concord?) where you can get a lawyer, find a shelter, apply for a restraining order, etc., all at once.  Their number is 1-888-215-5555.  I have worked with them many times over the years and they are a great organization.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Jan 2020

My divorce was just finalized and I will be eternally grateful to my attorney, Jessica Watson, for her professionalism, integrity, focus, and caring support. I found her by reading reviews on BPN.

Throughout our negotiations, Ms. Watson remained calm and in control, despite highly contentious and aggressive posturing. Documents were withheld, money was hidden, court orders were violated, and yet, Ms. Watson responded quickly and effectively in each situation. Because of her knowledge and expertise, she skillfully kept our negotiations on course, mediating a successful settlement.

Ours was a 30+ year marriage. He had been a professional for 35 years, negotiating with labor unions, contractors, etc. and managing multi-million dollar budgets. He could be charming or intimidating. I was afraid of him and lacked self-confidence. Ms. Watson gave me solid caring support, expert advice, and an open line of communication. She kept me informed of each new development and included me in every decision. As a result, I not only have a very satisfactory settlement, but renewed self-confidence. She truly cares about her clients, is patient, highly intelligent and absolutely ethical. I am pleased to give her my highest and utmost recommendation. Jessica Watson is located in San Francisco CA. jwatson [at]
Deb C.

Need a good divorce lawyer in the east bay

Aug 2014

I am in need of a strong, competent lawyer who will represent a women who is the sole bread winner in the relationship where the ex-husband refuses to work and has anger management/drug/alcohol issues. thanks anon

An excellent divorce lawyer by far is Debra Wilhelmus who is in Martinez. My best friend went to her after talking to many lawyers whom were very expensive and didn't offer much help. Debra is very experienced and represents her clients well. She has experience in knowing how to deal with exes who have drug issues. She is exactly what my friend needed and my friend said Debra is like a mentor and a strong advocate who cares for her clients needs during these horrible times. Debra Wilhelmus number is: 925-228-1800. Maureen.

Hi: Try Paul Thorndal. He has an office near Jack London Square in Oakland. He is a certified family law specialist. Very smart, experienced and efficient. Good luck

Divorce Planner

June 2014

I am strongly contemplating a divorce (or separation). I am looking for recommendation for a professional (not necessarily a lawyer) who can take a look at my situation and help plan for the divorce with the best outcome for me and my kids. I need somebody who can take a look at the finances and make future plans, tell me how to document things and what to do to build a strong case. I am open to anything that would make sense, including moving to another state if appropriate. My husband is a high functional alcoholic with history of anger and depression. Unfortunately besides what we witness at home he has a clean record as he always refused to recognize his situation and see a professional. He recently bought a big boat which should make anybody on this planet happy, but keeps complaining about other bills and refuses to give his daughters a few dollars allowance per week. Something is not right. We have tried counseling after he had an affair 2 years ago and things improved for a while, but now they are back into a slump. I am frustrated to say the least. While money is not the priority, I want to make sure I can provide for the kids and I will fight for 100% custody (I know it is hard). I am not in a hurry to file, but I want to understand my options and make sure that when I take the decision I am fully prepared and ready. --is there a better life?

Despite your request for recommendations for a specific person, I am writing to share my recent experience going through a divorce. I've had many less than satisfying experiences with professionals that I turned to for advice and guidance, just to find that the system is very broken, staff are burnt out/disillusioned/over worked, etc. Hopefully, others will post with more concrete and positive service recommendations for you. My situation sounds very similar to yours, so I wanted to share with you how it went for me.

Like you, I contemplated it for a long time - and tried to plan for the best possible outcome for me and my kids. While my ex (also a ''functioning'' alcoholic) didn't have a squeaky clean record, he didn't have anything outrageous, either. I got my kids counseling. I went to family therapy. Once it became clear that divorce was the best option, we came up with a plan using the therapist (who was also a trained mediator). I felt very satisfied and things were mostly good.

But, then my ex got into a new relationship and began ignoring the plan. Because it wasn't a legal document at that point, I had no way to enforce it. So, I went to court. I went to court, not to fight, but to try and get a workable parenting plan. That led to more mediation. And a million court dates. I spent almost $20,000 in the court process - my ex probably spent a similar amount. And, we walked away with almost the exact plan we had originally developed. The same plan that my ex didn't follow.

He still isn't following it. But to hold him accountable would require going back to court - which honestly terrifies me (and my bank account) at this point. The court process was almost two years and plagued with challenges - including unprepared judges and mediators with huge case loads that really don't have the time to look at what's best for the kids or what's really happening. It was stressful and expensive - impacting my work and ability to parent in very negative ways. My kids crashed and burned in the process.

You may not have that same experience. However, I wanted you to be aware that once you go to court, you have NO control over what happens - and if your ex decides to fight, it can be a truly awful few years. Do your best to work out a plan outside of court - and then just file that agreement in court. I don't regret my decision to divorce. But, I was naive to hope for the best possible outcome. I encourage you to understand the worst possible outcome and make a plan based on that. I also encourage you to become a strong advocate for you and your kids - because honestly, the system is really broken. And what's best for your kids isn't necessarily what people are considering when making decisions. It's an ugly process where lying and manipulation are more effective than honesty and good intentions. I wish you the best with your decision and hope your outcome is more positive than my experience. Good Luck!

Planning for divorce is like planning for an earthquake.... sort of. Mostly because you are not really in control.

Divorce sucks, the family courts are like the well meaning emergency services during an emergency. Overwhelmed, and dealing with the most injured.

Anyway, I was presented with divorce 14 years ago... i found a great divorce attorney in Mark Wurtzel at (415) 291-9800. Office in SF, lives in East Bay. He understands what the courts can do/ won't do. He is direct and caring, but not a therapist.

The best way to prepare: get educated on what legal, financial and potential emotional ramifications there are.

I wish legal wasn't listed first, but it is reality when your spouse is not stable. Safety first, then the rest is easier. Life isn't always easy, but life can be interesting. Big O

Oakland Divorce Attorney

May 2014

I am seeking a divorce attorney in Oakland. I am the breadwinner and divorcing after 11 years of my spouse not financially contributing to our family. We have two children under 5. They each have been in full time childcare since 6 months old, so my spouse was not the primary caregiver. I am looking for someone who is experienced with similar cases. wonder woman

I recommend Rosanne Calbo-Jackson based in downtown Oakland. A lot of experience, reasonably priced (for a divorce attorney). Enjoying working with her. Celia

Wonder Woman - Came across your post and it sounded a bit like me. Married 13 years with an 18 month old who has been in daycare since 5 months old, husband has not worked for ten years. My case is still pending, but I'm working with Lily Kimura in downtown Oakland. Good luck! -Another wonder woman

Evaluating legal & financial aspects of divorce

Dec 2013

I am in a marriage where we are no longer 'a couple' and do not enjoy each other's company but it is convenient to live together for financial reasons as well as the ability for us to easily be with our son. There are some recent reasons for me to look into what it means to be divorced--- social security impacts, access to assets in case of horrible event/death and ability for someone to sue etc another complication is that my husband has a green card so that may have some impact. I do not need a lawyer who will aggressively go after someone. I need someone who has a holistic view of what life before and after means. This does not have to be a lawyer but might be a capable financial advisor who can advise me without saying I need to talk to a lawyer...... Does someone have a recommendation? Thank you

Hi - I found the Divorce Options workshop offered by the East Bay Collaborative Practice folks a great way to have some basic questions answered on a variety of questions (this approach and this workshop in particular uses a team: a lawyer, a financial planner, and a therapist) for a low cost, all in one place. They may not answer all your questions, but it's a good start and they can direct you to other resources. Here's the info: There is one a month it seems. -Good to have facts

Lawyer specializing in divorce/family law

Sept 2013

I am considering divorce and need an attorney to consult regarding the particulars. I don't think there will be any dispute in court over property or custody, but my spouse does not want this divorce at all. I have never been through this nor do I have divorced friends so I don't have any idea how to choose a lawyer or whom to choose. Any recs, preferably female and in Oakland appreciated. unhappy

I recommend Mark Wurtzel. He is a good man, a good lawyer, does NOT get mean, gets the task done efiiciently. He can be reached at (415) 291-9800. happily divorced

Divorce lawyer in Alameda County

Sept 2013

As of this morning, I am looking for a good lawyer to handle a divorce and custody case in Alameda County. If cool heads prevail, this will be amicable(ish). I'd be very grateful for recommendations for a good lawyer or mediator who can guide us through this unpleasant but necessary process. sad but fairly clear-headed

Hello. First, I'm sorry to hear about your divorce, as I know it can be a difficult time. My parents divorced when I was a young adult. Luckily, they did their best to be amicable, and that really helped the situation for all of us. So, I think it is great that you two are trying for that.

I can recommend a superb attorney in Pleasanton who handles cases in Alameda county and Contra Costa Counties. His name is Kennedy Koblin, at the Koblin Family Law Center. He has been handling my custody case for 2 years. He is knowledgeable, experienced, compassionate and down-to-earth. I believe he would be a good fit for the kind of situation you describe, in part because he is not an ''over- litigating bleed-everyone-dry shark'' type - and by this compliment, I mean that he is really great about explaining your options and soliciting your (the client's) input as far as what your desired outcome is, while at the same time being conscious and aware of the particulars of each of his cases and then taking definitive action when warranted. He is a great negotiator and has a very relaxed, commanding presence in court, and will always be completely frank and honest with you. His associate Julie O'Connor is also wonderful, and I recommend her as well for the same reasons. They often work together as a team on many cases. Their schedule is usually pretty full but they do take on new cases when possible, so I would suggest just giving them a call. Phone number is 925-298-4808, and the website is . Best wishes to you. Happy and satisfied client

Divorce/custody lawyer with Domestic Violence experience

July 2013

My family law lawyer just started a new job, and is no longer working on my case. I'm looking for someone else to help me, immediately. It is a contentious divorce/custody case (our daughter is 23 months old), and though it is not classified as domestic violence, I believe that it is emotional abuse. I am looking for someone with DV experience. I am also looking for someone who can work with someone with a mental health diagnosis. My lawyer charged $200 per hour. Any suggestions? Thanks. need legal help

I used Rachel Ginsburg almost 7 years ago in a custody/DV case. She was timely, professional, advised me fairly and is the person who suggested I go to family court via the DV court. I have first hand knowledge that she can do this. I was so scared of my son's father that I was afraid to meet him in person for arbitration. She gave me a voice when I was too meek to have one myself. Like you, I wasn't sure how my case would fit into a DV case, because I was never physically struck. But I assure you she is wonderful in this situation. I was able to get a restraining order but also allow for visitation. He was not allowed to harass me, but only contact me about visitation. Years later when we reconciled she also handled changing the agreement without ever having to meet in her office. My son was about 3 years-old when all this happened and 8 when we changed the agreement. He is 11 now and if I ever had to go back to court again she would be the first person I would call. Rachel D. Ginsburg 1970 Broadway Ste 1200 (between 19th St & 20th St) Oakland, CA 94612 (510) 835-5568
DV experienced mama

Divorce Attorney needed - or chance for mediation?

June 2013

I am trying to avoid a high-conflict distructive divorce, but I am not sure if my spouse has the same interest.

Communication is not our strong suit and my spouse is rather angry and aggressive. We have a special needs child and do not agree on daily routines and treatment. I have suggested mediation and got ''I will think about it'' as a response - 2 months ago. I suggested discussing arrangements and got: ''I am not ready yet'' as a response. Question 1: Will a mediation help with this, or does this basically exclude mediation? Responses from mediators would be appreciated. Question 2: Do you have a recommendation for a mediator who can handle a situation like this?

We kind of agreed to announce and change living arrangements after summer break, in September. I feel I need to better understand my rights and prepare myself for understanding legal implications of different scenarios. I have read through the vast recommendations for lawyers and also about mediators. I do not want a 'shark' for an attorney, but rather somebody who can provide me with strategies how to approach and how to ask for what I want. Custody arrangements are my biggest concern as I think a weekly change of routines will do more damage than necessary. Any recommendations for an attorney who is not primarily concerned with getting the most $ out of the case and prolong the legal battle?

I live in Berkeley and would like somebody as close as possible. Concerned

Dear Concerned, It's been 10 years, oh no, 13 years, since i first contacted Mark Wurtzel who is at (415) 291-9800. He is in SF, but most work is over the phone and he lives in the east bay. He is awesome. A reasonable man, calm, not a shark, not a wimp... yet a good lawyer who understands the challenges people face with uncommunicative and uncooperative spouses. My former spouse hired a shark who threatened to break me... Mark explained the law, the rules, etc... eventually spouse fired their attorney and Mark and I presented a settlement (custody, $, etc.) that followed the guidelines of the courts that was reasonable. Spouse flaked on their commitments, so Mark and I went to court and had support adjusted to reflect my 99% custody... blah blah blah. Good luck and take care of yourself and your child. Big O

My Ex and I used Marcy Sharafian to do our MSA for our divorce. Marcy works out of the East Bay. I love her! She is calm, smart, steady very funny and can ride through even the toughest mediation sessions. We had a very difficult contentious divorce and Marcy was able to calm us both down when things got very heated. She is also very fair and will show you both sides of each situation she will tell you Ca Law and then give you options of how to handle in mediation. The thing I loved the most about working with her is that she was very accessible I could call or text her late at night or on the weekends and she would always get back to me and be there to help. When you are going through a divorce quite often things come up after hours and Marcy will jump in in a pinch and help out. I could not have gotten through the process with out her. She relates equally well to both men and women. I have sent many of my friends to her and they all love working with her. Please email back if you have any other questions. I can't say enough good about her and her wisdom. you can reach her at 925-408-1736. Megan

Ultra-Cheap Divorce Lawyer for friend

June 2013

Hello, All. I am writing on behalf of a dear friend who is going through a very nasty separation. My friend's husband moved out of the family home about a year and a half ago, leaving my friend as the sole caretaker of their two children. He recently lost his job, so he is not contributing anything financially (he was paying her a paltry sum before, but at least it was something). My friend has her own business and does okay, but she does not make enough to support the family entirely on her own. She has so much to contend with, but the two main issues are as follows: 1) she has no health insurance for herself or her children and makes too much to qualify for Medicare and 2) she is in need of a divorce lawyer (NOT a mediator as her husband is really shirking his parental duties and needs to be held responsible), but has no money. She is in the middle of claiming bankruptcy due to her soon-to-be-ex husband's reckless spending, so that should help her a little bit with monthly expenses - - but not enough. She has really been through hell for the past couple of years, yet she tries to remain positive for the sake of her children. She is on anti- anxiety meds, but is running out due to her lack of insurance. I am able to help her a bit financially, but not entirely. Any thoughts or suggestions? Desperate to Help

Your friend has several options of getting help. The DA office has a family support division that seeks payments from the non-custodial parent. She can also file for support on her own. Does she know his income? Sharon

Strong divorce lawyer in Contra Costa County

Feb 2013

I am looking for a referral for a strong divorce attorney in Contra Costa County for a very difficult situation. I have been a housewife for the past 18 years, have 3 young kids, and have very limited financial resources. My husband has left the house and has not provided any support for the children. I will be seeking full custody. Any recommendations or advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Gary Sparks in Walnut Creek. Very solid, knowledgeable guy. Best of luck to you. Kelley

To ''looking for strong divorce attorney'' give Dominic Porrino a call. He's a partner at Hilliard & Porrino. His office is in Oakland but he handles cases in CC County. His specialty is child support and child custody cases. His # is (510) 653-8886. Good luck. Maria

Both Fox & Bank and Whiting, Fallon, Ross & Able are both excellent family law firms in Contra Costa. As a heads up, California law is unfriendly to single parent custody except in very extreme circumstances. You will want to discuss options with your lawyer. CG

I am so sorry that you are going through this. I know how awful it is - I am in the middle of a divorce myself. I live in Contra Costa County as well. Let me suggest you talk to Rachael Zeiph in Pleasant Hill:

I am using Erin Levine of Levine Law Group in Emeryville and really like her. She is covered by my legal insurance, so that is why I'm not using someone locally. I do most of my meetings with her by phone, which is convenient.

And let me also recommend to you a great workshop on divorce that I just started last week. It is offered fall, winter, and spring. It's the Divorce Recovery Workshop and is held in Lafayette. It has been recommended by a number of people on this list and that is how I found it.

Good luck to you. It is a rough road. It will get better (I couldn't have said that until about a week ago, but I finally turned a corner). Divorce is worse than death, but there is light at the end of the tunnel

I'm very sorry to hear what you are going through. I highly recommend you reach out to divorce attorney Thomas Wolfrum in walnut creek. He is a 'shark' when representing clients. He is a very kind person with compassion and empathy. He helped my friend through divorce. My friend is very happy. I also know a couple of well connected attorneys send their friends to see Tom. Here's the website and ph# (925) 930-5645 . Best, Lan

2011 - 2012 Recommendations

Looking for a hard-hitting aggressive lawyer

July 2012

Hello, I am looking for someone who can recommend a divorce lawyer that is not good, but GREAT. I am going to have custody issues with my ex and need someone who can dig deep to help me achieve my goal of full custody. Ex has had addiction issues to Vicodin and Oxycontin pills for 5 years and I am done and want my children removed from him. Thank you! Time to Move On!

I would be careful about what you wish for now, while you're angry. My ex looked for a tough aggressive divorce lawyer and ended up with an unethical dolt who did nothing but churn the case to generate fees. Half the work in the case involved correcting that lawyer's over-zealous mistakes and challenges. In the end, we wound up with a settlement that looked very much like one I had proposed 2 years earlier -- except for the huge attorney fee bills. I advise you to look around and to research everyone who's recommended to you. anon

Looking for great divorce lawyer

July 2012

Although we've tried working on the marriage, it seems that my husband and I are headed for divorce. He has a substantial savings and income (and I've been a stay at home mom for several years), and says that he will fight me so that I don't get any of ''his'' money. I'm in need of a very strong, competent lawyer. We live in the Walnut Creek/Lafayette area, but I'm obviously willing to talk to a lawyer in other areas. There are also children involved, and at this point, I believe I would want to have primary custody. Also, I believe that my husband may be/have been unfaithful, and I'm wondering if that helps my case at all. Never thought this would happen to me

Divorce is hard, and the laws make it more challenging. I used Mark Wurtzel at 415-291-9800. He is VERY competent and fair. He coached me through and believes in ''do today what you will not regret next year'' in these matters I read the need for aggressive lawyers, but really, everyone has issues, people have addictions, people 'cheat'... as for kids, safety first... i won't give advice on what is possible, what courts should do about sole custody (though i think that is rare). I had 99% custody of some of my kids (these things are always complicated). Good luck. happily divorced dad

Try Katherine Shlaudeman: (415) 397-1110. She's skilled enough at what she does that she might be able to help you keep things from escalating. She helped me with a fairly simple prenup, but I've known two other people who used her: the first was able to get a fair prenup agreement from an unreasonable fiance, and the second was a divorce similar to how you describe yours. Both agreed that she was a tough advocate for them, but that she kept things rational, calm, and civil. Elizabeth M.

Sf based divorce lawyer - affordable and excellent

May 2012

I am in the process of going through a divorce, using a mediator, but would like to consult my own attorney - we own a home and have a young child - I can not afford a high end attorney, but still would like to consult someone who would be a strong advocate, and willing to work with someone who is in mediation, hoping to avoid going to court, and on an hourly basis. Thank you. need help!

Joe Keiser on Geary. He is patient and caring and realistic. Also a parent. Good luck!

I recommend Lisa Auer or Roxanne Hoegger of Auer & Hoegger. Both are excellent family law attorneys but because they now have their own firm you may find them more affordable than some of the larger private client firms. Ria

Mark Wurtzel... excellent family law guy, office in SF, his number is: (415) 291-9800. ~~been there

Good feminist divorce lawyer?

May 2012

I am looking for a referral for a good, feminist divorce lawyer in the Berkeley/Oakland area. Any recommendations (and advice) welcome... Thank you!

Margaret Gannon ONLY represents women and saved my house, custody of the kids, and created a college fund. She knows everything the judge will do and say, cause shes been in that courtroom twice a week for over 30 ys. She's smart and aggressive in a disarming ''Grandmother Willow'' kind of way. She and I went thru three judges and each and everyone trusted her judgement. I NEVER lost a case against a very aggressive X, who dragged me in over and over for senseless reasons, and she at last came up with a solution that put a lid on it.

She's steep, $400 an hour. Yet she'll listen to you for free and give you a quote on start to finish with keen accuracy. If your divorce is a slam dunk, I can refer you to a less expensive, efficient gal. Over the years, I've watched them all in action. You can email me if you want. Reen

Divorce Lawyer for Mom w 2 kids

Jan 2012

Hi, I checked the archives, but wondering if anyone had suggestions for my particular situation. In brief, I'm a late 40s mom with 2 young kids with special needs and lots and lots of medical and therapy bills. I gave up my lucrative professional practice 10 years ago to focus on the kids' needs and have become totally financially dependent on my husband. After 20 years, my husband (high wage earner) is in a hurry to get a divorce probably because he's met someone else. He says he wants to be amicable and provide for my future, but I can't count on him. Need to protect myself and my kids' financial future. Custody not an issue. I tried to go back to work several times with no success and will probably have a hard time securing a decent income stream being a single mom to 2 high-needs kids. I live in Oakland, but am willing to go out of area for the right lawyer. Thanks for any recommendations. Scared about the future

Contact Andrea Goldman She is smart and great! anon

Divorce Lawyer who speaks Japanese

Jan 2012

I am looking for a divorce lawyer who speaks Japanese. Any recommendations? Thanks!

Miho Takarada. She is an associate at Schoenberg Family Law Group in San Francisco. 415.834.1120. I think you'll be in good hands with Miho (and the firm), and she is completely fluent in Japanese. Joel T

Divorce attorney in san francisco

Oct 2011

I need to file for divorce from my husband, and desperately need legal advice. I have very limited financial resources, but my situation is complicated (I did go to the free legal aid clinic, and they told me I needed to retain an attorney)... I have a four year old son who I will be seeking full custody of (though I fully intend to do everything I can to maintain his relationship with his father), and I will also be seeking child support so I can keep my child in the bay area to live near his father (not something I could do without his financial assistance). I need someone who is very knowlegeable, and will ideally let me work with them on an hourly basis. And perhaps I should see a mediator first? Anyway, please, if anyone has any recommendations (someone based in San Francisco), I would be very grateful. anon

I am a divorce attorney myself and am therefore well acquainted with the pros and cons of various attorneys. You want to hire counsel who regularly practices in that county. There is a fantastic attorney, who is kind, compassionate, extremely bright, and actually takes sliding scale cases in San Francisco. Her name is Jessica Watson and I had a case against her and it was a pleasure to work with her. She didn't cut corners but also didn't engage in any unnecessary drama. I was very surprised to learn that she takes cases on a sliding scale basis. I'd say RUN and don't walk to Jessica given your current set of circumstances. She really is lovely and smart as hell. (415) 864-4640. Good luck! Hannah

Dylan Miles is an experienced family law attorney and mediator. 870 Market Street, Suite 621 San Francisco, CA 94102 415 298 9033 Ilene

I highly recommend Chris Sawyer of Sawyer Mediation. He is an excellent family/divorce attorney who specializes in mediation so that you don't have to go to court to get divorced. Sawyer Mediation: 220 Jackson Street, Third Floor, SF (415) 420-9590 chris [at] Tammy

Contact VLSP (Volunteer Legal Services Program) in SF

Here's from the Bar Associations Website: ''To find out if you qualify for [pro bono representation] services, please call the Lawyer Referral & Information Service (LRIS) at 415-989-1616. LRIS staff can be contacted by phone Monday through Friday, PST, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.''

Don't be discouraged! It may take some time for them to get back to you, and you must have proof of income (or lack there of), and provide everything they ask, but stay on it. I had an AMAZING attorney lead me through my entire, year- long complicated Family Law (w/ kids) drama, even after it had already been started.

There ARE resources out there to help! You're Not Alone

Looking for a good family divorce lawyer

Sept 2011

hello, I am looking for a great family/divorce lawyer, do you have a recommandation? My case involve custody of my dawther, and a difficult relation with my ex spouse. Alex

Two people I know have used Trina Chatterjee and she took very good care of them. (510) 893-5200. She offers a free initial consultation. good luck to you. Laura

Jamie Calloway in Berkeley. She's been great during my divorce and working out custody for my young child. Very smart and articulate and really good at advocating for me. I also like her because she is reasonable and open to helping the case be settled outside of court if that is possible (mediation, conferences between lawyers) rather than just taking it to court, which is the most expensive option. Unfortunately the more reasonable options haven't work for me because all my ex wants to do is fight, but I at least know my attorney guided me through the best possible scenarios for working out the conflict first rather than just thinking in terms of money and court only. anon

Attorney for unexpected divorce

June 2011

My older friend in Walnut Creek is devastated that her husband has left her and wants a divorce. She is also anxious about losing her house and health care. She needs a referral to a divorce lawyer for a consultation. I appreciate your suggestions as I'm very worried about her. Anonymous

I am going through a contested divorce myself and after a lot of searching was directed to Robert H. Cashman in San Francisco and he has been incredibly helpful. I don't envy anybody going through a contested divorce but if you have no choice Bob is the best person imaginable to help you through it. I couldn't imagine going through the last two years without him helping me and there have been some very hard days! Bob was educated at Cornell, has been through a divorce himself and re-married with children from both marriages, has been in practice over 40 years, and holds some very prestigious certifications most divorce lawyers don't have. Thus far we have prevailed in court. Bob is not cheap but offers a free initial consultation. He is located near Montgomery BART in SF. We have become friends and regularly have lunch together (off the clock) before our meetings. Though I would have much preferred a non-contested divorce and peaceful settlement to litigation and it's extreme costs (and strongly advise you to do the same) I have no doubt I have chosen the right attorney to represent me. You can reach Bob at 415-439-8341. No harm seeing him for the free consult and some good advise. grateful

Tell your friend that she (and any kids) are eligible for COBRA coverage through the husband's plan IF she is covered by it currently. If she is getting divorced, she should negotiate to have her and the kids'COBRA paid for by the spouse in the settlement. It's expensive. She should also stay on top of the health care reform laws and their implications on COBRA in 2014. Don't settle for a specific amount, just say she wants the health care paid for. Denise

Seeking Divorce Lawyer in Berkeley/Rockridge Area

May 2011

Hello. I am unfortunately in need of finding an attorney who specializes in divorce. This whole process is overwhelming and extremely upsetting to me, especially with young children involved. I hope to find someone who is approachable, reasonably priced, kind, compassionate, experienced (especially in representing the husband/father) and competent. Any thoughts, suggestions or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

I'm sorry to hear of your predicament. Please understand that a divorce attorney -- at 350/400 an hour -- should not be the person you turn to for emotional support or advice about the emotional aspects of your situation. You are much better off consulting a therapist or psychologist to deal with your feelings.

If you feel conflicted about whether to get a divorce, a lawyer is not the person to talk to. It is probably unwise to proceed with the divorce while you are feeling overwhelmed. If your spouse is amenable to counseling or to a period of separation to allow you some space to think about what you want, you may all be better off. been there

I would recommend that you give Larry Rosen a call. He's a mediator and attorney who has gotten a lot of positive reviews here on BPN. I found him myself through this board. He just seems to understand what makes people fight and what helps them resolve their differences. 415-356-9834. H

Divorce lawyer for young German wife

April 2011

Any recs for a divorce attorney right here (Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, or Albany)? I have young clients, early 20's, who have been married under two years, no kids; the wife is from Germany (fluent in English) and doesn't have her green card yet. The husband has almost no money, they bought a house a few months ago and own it 80/20 (wife owns majority). It's possible that mediation would suffice (though they'll need help with filing and the paperwork), but that's not for sure - the husband doesn't have a lot of clarity. Who/what would you recommend?

I recommend speaking with Debra R. Schoenberg at (415) 834- 1120. She was on the top 50 Super Lawyers in this practice area last year. Very truly yours, KLN

They should call Eva Herzer. She speaks German and understands international relationships. But more to the point, she is fair, compassionate, understanding, and truly skilled as a mediator. She helped my ex (also from Europe) and I negotiate a very contentious separation, and helped both of us reach an agreement at a time when being in the same room with each other was like being in a pressure cooker. I recommend her highly. been there, done that

Divorce lawyer in the South Bay

April 2011

Unfortunately, I have a good friend who is going through a divorce and since this is such a great resource, I wanted to see if anyone has recommendations for a good divorce lawyer in the South Bay. Thanks! Trying to Help

Try Kiana Moradi with Moradi Saslaw LLP. Kiana has offices in the South Bay and San Francisco. I used to work with her and she is a great family law attorney (divorces, etc.). Very good at what she does. Link: krista

Divorce attorney w/exp with immigration

Feb 2011

I have a dear friend who is seperated from her husband (who is British) and they are ready to start divorce proceedings. She is not from the bay area and needs recommendations for a local attorney who has experience dealing with the added challenge of going through this process with a legal immigrant. She needs someone strong, since he is combative and started hiding money before they seperated. Thank you for any recommendations- it could get ugly so she needs someone quick. anon

I would like to reccommend Stephen Murphy of Murphy, Vu, Thongsamoth & Chatterjee. His office is in downtown Oakland and his number is 5108935200. Stephen is a great attorney with lot of experience representing immigrant women. You should speak to him. Sutapa

I have to say Mary C Rupp is an amazing lawyer. She truly gives you her undivided attention, picks up her calls and devotes 100% of herself to your case. She just won me a move away order and full custody of my child. I called many lawyers before I hired Mary Rupp and all of them did not seem right. I had a really good feeling with her. Shes honest, by the book and tells you how it is whether you like it or not. She keeps you updated at all times. If you hire her PLEASE listen to her advice, she is never wrong, shes been doing this for a long time. Her rates are reasonable given that family law issues are lengthy. My case took 5 months. Shes the best representation in the East Bay in my opinion. I dont know if she deals with immigration but she certainly deals with DIVORCE and ALL FAMILY issues. I have written up this review at yelp as well because I believe in her and she can surely help. Micaela

2009 - 2010 Recommendations

Need a divorce lawyer for potential custody battle

Nov 2010

I'm looking for an inexpensive divorce lawyer in San Francisco, who is able to take on a potential custody battle, as well as capable of dealing with some complicated financial issues (great deal of debt created in both partners' names by one partner due to drug use, selling house and dealing with splitting equity given debt...). I am currently a stay-at-home mom, so money is extremely tight. I also need to understand if divorce is truly the best/only option. Thanks. sf mom

Joel Tranter is in Berkeley, not S.F., but right by Berkeley BART, if that makes a difference. A very good guy with a sense of humor and a lot of knowledge. g.

Looking for Family Law Specialist

Oct 2010

I am looking for a Divorce Attorney (perferrably one in a Law Firm) who specializes in Family Law. One who has many years experience, has connections with experts (forensic accountants, counselors, and mediators), good standing with Contra Costa courts, and who continues their education in their practice. M. C.

I am very happy with Deborah Dubroff. Reenie

Hello M.C. I can highly recommend Chris Sawyer of Sawyer Mediation. He has his own firm but comes from a larger Family Law firm background. He has litigation experience, which he can draw on whenever mediation is not an option. He's been practicing in the Bay Area for many years, but you'll have to ask him about his Contra Costa-specific experience. You can reach him at chris [at] or (415) 420-9590. Best, Kimberley

Contentious divorce! Need best family law attorney

April 2010

I am going through the divorce from hell, involving extensive custody issues and property issues. I can afford the going rate of $300 an hr. Domociled in Contra Costa County. I want an excellent strategist; someone that can move a divorce forward when the other side is uncooperative, unresponsive, unintelligent, foscused only on causing the most trouble for me (mother) and the boys (10&7). I need competent, efficient help to navigate the insanity of the family law courts. And, I need help now. Already spent $300K on attorneys fees in just over a year and no progress. Even forced to pay $57K of husband's fees and he is trying to bankrupt me to force me to sell my home that he is living in even though this is the kids' beloved and only home and I owe him nothing at this point financially!!!! Please give me your wisdom and recommendations for attorneys that can actually help me survive this horrible mess. Dying to get my life back

Call Deborah Dubroff. She's smart, no-nonsense, and cares about relationships and kids. Here's her phone number: (510) 763-5611 Here's her website: Here are yelp reviews: dubroff-oakland Good luck. jill

At that billing rate, for the experience and quality of care you describe, you are best off with an associate attorney for an experienced family law practitioner. Anyone with 25 years or more bills at $500/hour, and likely does not do that much litigation anymore (like Steven Greenfield). An experienced associate can do 95% of the work at a billing rate of $250-$300 an hour, but has the extensive experience of firm partners to consult with. Good luck. Anne

Wow, doesn't sound like current situaton is in the best interest of ANYONE (you, your ex, or your children.) It's time to try a more collaborative approach, maybe using a counselor or other third party to help identify the issues that are important to you and your husband and to see where both of you can give and take. There will have to be some give and take -- you haven't gotten anywhere and have already burned through months of billable hours.

I am not divorcing, but am involved in a difficult Domestic Violence Restraining Order process with my ex, who sabotages everything I do. He did not hit me, but he emotionally and economically abuses me and has repeatedly declared, once in front of our child, that he will ''destroy'' me. My attorney has successfully fought this highly manipulative man, and girlfriends have told me that wish they'd of known about him when they were in custody/divorce battles. He has extensive experience in Alameda County and is a noted expert in family law. Google him. His office is in Downtown Oakland, and he's worth every penny. His name is Jed Somit, 510/839-3215. Anon

You should call Debra Schoenberg in San Francisco. She has years of family law experience and is a tough litigator. She has a great staff of attorneys who help in her large cases. She got amazing results for me after my former attorney did nothing month after month! Check out her website at very satisified former client

One word: MEDIATION. I'm sure you've heard the expression, pouring gasoline on flames? Well, it seems like you've already done that twice over. Why not try the settlement route? Nothing good ever comes out of fighting your ex in court. We went to Erica Becks: Her phone number is 510-394-1964.

Feb 2010

Re: Lawyer to draw up prenuptial agreement
I know a wonderful divorce attorney.His name is Dominic Porrino. His # is 925-385-0259. He is based in Lafayette. Debbie

Sharp divorce lawyer in Oakland

Nov 2009

Looking for a good sharp divorce lawyer in Oakland area. thank you! anon

I highly recommend Joel H. Tranter in Berkeley. He can be contacted at 510.292.0907 or [at] Current Client

Family Law Attorney to advise about husband's affair

Oct 2009

I'm in search of a good family law attorney who can help me know my options. My husband is having an affair which he refuses to end until it does naturally. We have a 1yr old son. We are now living separately, which has helped, but feel I need some legal advice if this continues. I'd prefer this attorney to be in Oakland, Berkeley or downtown financial district in SF (I work downtown). Thanks! Recent Single Mama

Hi Single Mama, I totally feel you. My cousin was going through something like that. Her lawyer's name is Billie Jean Lee in San Francisco: 415-864-4640. This is the website: My cousin was happy with how the case went and even happier that it didn't cost her an arm and a leg! Stay strong, mama! Melanie

Strong divorce attorney for complicated divorce

Sept 2009

Hello ! I need a referral for a really really strong divorce attorney for complicated family matter.Preferably female lawyer. Thank you very much.

I don't have a recommendation on the ''strong lawyer'' front, but I just wanted to put in a word: female lawyers are not necessarily friendlier or more helpful to women. My ex-husband engaged an attorney who, if he was representing her remarks accurately to me, made rather misogynist comments to him during our divorce process and of course was completely supportive of his side. Just a caveat. happily divorced

I share office space with a divorce/child custody attorney, Mary C. Rupp and I would highly recommend her. She is located in downtown Oakland at 1814 Franklin Street, Ste 502. Her telephone number is (510) 452-4092.

Mary has an equal mix of women and men clients. From what I've seen, she zealously represents her clients whether they are women or men. She is experienced in all aspects of family law.

Not only do Mary's clients recommend her to others with family law issues, but she has also received several referrals from the opposing party in her cases who referred her to their own friends with divorce/custody issues as they thought their exes faired better than them because of Mary's work.

She is honest, straightforward and will counsel spouses to act honestly with one another. She wins by working hard.

Mary has extensive trial experience and has recently won several trials with many complex issues. spedlawyer

Attorney for hostile abusive and scheming husband

May 2009

Anyone got any experiences regarding a lawyer in Oakland called Margaret Gannon? She's been recommended to me as a great divorce attorney. Especially, would you recommend her as an attorney for a case with a hostile abusive and scheming husband? A year ago I wanted mediation; now I need a strong lawyer in court. At least I think so... Is there anyone else you would recommend? Thanks in advance

I used Margaret Gannon for my divorce 11 years ago. I found her to be tough, knowledgeable, courteous and fair. It was great to have her in my corner. Been there

I don't know about Margaret Gannon, but I wouldn't give up on mediation so fast. My ex-wife and i had a very rough (verbal abuse both ways) relationship and a tougher breakup. On the brink of hiring a bull-dog attorney, she read a post last year on peaceful divorces and then spoke to me about it. We decided to go the route of mediation. It hasn't been easy but our relationship has at least gotten somewhat better, rather than worse. The big winner is our child, who would have been the one to lose if we had gone through any form of litigation. I think just about anyone can do without attorneys going to war (if both people are committed). Don't give up on peace. We didn't. S

2007 - 2008 Recommendations

Need advice about financial implications of divorce

Nov 2008

Hi-- Unfortunately, it seems as if my marriage is at an impasse. My husband and I are both very unhappy, but he refuses to go to counseling. I do not want to spend the rest of my life being unhappy. However I do not know where to begin. We have one child. Unfortunately, we can't sell our house right now because with things being the way they are with the market, we actually owe more on it than it is worth. So I don't know how we would handle our separation financially. I need someone who can offer compassionate advice for my situation. I don't want to ''screw'' my husband but I will definitely need financial help to support our child, etc. I don't know where to start. starting over?

I'd like to recommend Sharon Braz at Blum, Braz and Gibbs ( She is in Oakland, near Lake Merritt. I found her extremely helpful and efficient when dealing with my now ex-husband as we recently had to renegotiate child support. She mediated between us and things got sorted out without any unnecessary delay. She had come highly recommended by my original divorce attorney, Cindy Frazier-Hillsborough, who had helped me back in 1998 (she now only covers Contra Costa and no longer Alameda County). Good luck to you! rosie

I am sorry to hear you are struggling in your marriage. Divorce is a major life transition and it is important to learn as much as possible about your options. You might try to get general information about the divorce process- they have state specific information.

Divorce attorney experienced with verbal abuse

Oct 2008

I am in Berkeley, but can travel to the city or anywhere in the bay area. I'm hoping to find someone very experienced and familiar with verbal abuse. I wonder if anyone know the work of Hannah Sims or Lillian Epstein. This is all new to me and there is so much at stake (kids, house). Thanks for any recommendations. anon

I cannot say enough good things about: Carol Amyx 1919 Addison St. Berkeley Ca. 94704 510-644-3360 She is logical, totally fair (to everyone), tough as armor when she has to be,honest and reasonably priced. Please, at least go over and talk to her. John

I had a great divorce attorney that did the job with very reasonable rates, compared to my first attorney who did nothing and charged me for sending me the bill saying he had done nothing. Glen Sugiyama is on Green Street in San Francisco. I called him several years after he handled my case and he remembered me. Good luck! happily single

I used Hannah Sims for my divorce. She is a very smart woman. She is hip and cool and funny and very sympathetic. However, she was horrible about returning my phone calls even when the matter was urgent. Once in court, though, she was smart and effective and with it. If you are ok with a looser style she will be fine for you. Anon

Sept 2008

RE: Divorce lawyers covered by ARAG
I highly recommend Mark Wurtzel as a level headed attorney. I don't know what the ARAG coverage at UC is ... but Mark is a great family law attorney that lays out the facts, understands the facts, tries to help everyone understand the state guidelines of all the pertinent aspects for your divorce ... AND gives a damn about his clients and their families. He gets the divorce done so you can get to the next stage in life. Divorce is hard (and expensive for some), a good, level headed divorce attorney is a good person to know when you need their expertise. He can be reached at: (415) 291-9800. His office is in San Francisco but represented me in Alameda County. O in Berkeley

Grep, understanding divorce attorney needed

May 2008

This posting is for my sister. She needs a great understanding DIVORCE Attorney. My sister relied on her husband of over 15yrs to handle all the finances, they agreed she would work part-time and raise their 3 daughters now (13, 11, 9)will to make a long story short he truned out to be very controlling, manipulative and a habitual liar. He knew these last 2 years they were losing their home acted like everything was alright lived beyond their means ran up the credit told her they had money in the bank took trips and now the walls are crashing down on him. He committed fraud, house went into foreclosure, creditors now calling bank closed account, just found out he had opened up another bank account only in his name and the lies just keep coming. I'm doing what I can to help my sister out but now at a point where she is going to need an attorney. It's a very bad situation all around - only 6 weeks left of school but doesn't know if she can stay with him it's a rental leased for one year. . she's going to take the girls and will have to live w/our mom, but in the meantime she's stuck. . Any advise???? Thanks Anon

After 10 years with some very dishonest divorce attorneys, I finally found a competent and honest one Jan Vandusen 510-689-6541 j.vandusen [at] vicky

I recommend Larry Rosen (Through Understanding) . I used him to help me resolve some custody and money issues with a very difficult ex-spouse. He usually mediates but sometimes does this thing he calls ''peaceful advocacy'' where he represents an individual. He knows the law very well but I think what's different about his is that unlike most attorneys he helps bridge the gap. He helped me find a little peace with my ex which is something i couldn't do through 12 years of marriage and 2 other divorce attorneys. He might only be doing mediation these days but it's worth a call. 415-356-9834

I also hear that Andrea Eichorn is good (a friend used her). (510) 652-0220. Good luck. anon

Need a really, really good divorce lawyer

Oct 2007

After checking the archives, I still need advice for a really, really good divorce lawyer. I have a complicated situation: married 15 years; two children aged 7 and under, one of whom is mentally ill, violent and has many ''special-needs''; I gave up a lucrative professional career to stay at home due to very difficult family circumstances and am now entirely financially dependent on my husband. However, I've finally come to the conclusion that my marriage is unviable, and my husband is abusive and controlling.

My husband is sure to be very nasty in a divorce -- he told me once it would be ''war'' if I ever tried to divorce him. E.g., he will not leave the family home and told me to seek a court order if I want to get him out. I would leave, but don't know if I would be compromising future custody rights vis-a-vis the children.

My husband is a lawyer, will lie when convenient, and will stop at nothing -- including alleging substance abuse and neglect. We have already had the police called to our home for domestic disturbances.

I need a seasoned, extremely competent lawyer who can handle highly charged situations, which mine is sure to be. I need some pre-separation planning advice, as well as someone to guide me step-by-step through what is sure to be a hellacious experience. Thanks for any referrals. Had it

Hi there! I'm very sorry to hear about your difficulites. I'm sure your doing the right thing by getting out of an abusive relationship for you and your children. I would love to recommend a great divorce attorney her name is Lily Halem her email address is Lilian[at] and her office number is (510)868-3302 Give her a call I'm sure she can help you. I wish you and your children the best of luck and hope everything works out! gm

difficult situation? i'll say. my heart goes out to you and i wish you all the best of luck. laura basaloco-lapo was referred to me by the dentist i found here (on bpn) and she helped me and i like her a lot. her phone numbers are: 415:392-2018 and 415:433-6727 (direct). her email is lapo2000[at] doug

Need a lawyer for appealing a divorce decision

Oct 2007

We just got news of our long standing divorce case being decided against our favor. The judge strongly recommends appealing since she was not able to do anything but feels the contract is so unfair. Need an aggressive, smart, charitable family lawyer who works appeals. We live in Oakland. Want the BEST!!!! anon

I'm an appellate lawyer, but don't do family law. The best appellate lawyers who do family law are Dick Sherman and Vicki DeGoff, a husband and wife team who live/work in Berkeley. Steve

I just took a family law seminar from Garrett Dailey who is a local family law attorney and legal scholar. He has won cases at the California Supreme Court level and is likely the most skilled and brilliant family law attorney around, and he is a nice guy to boot! I do not know his private practice contact info, but you can look him up on the State Bar website or call 510-836-2743. Ariel

Lawyer familiar with emotional and verbal abuse

July 2007

After many years of unhappiness, I'm waking up to the fact that my husband is emotionally and verbally abusive. I'm considering divorce and am looking for a lawyer who is familiar with these kinds of issues and dynamics and how they play into divorce and custody. It's a perilous road so I really want someone who knows what I'm dealing with. Prefer East Bay. Thank you. anon

laura basaloco-lapo, 415:433-6727, was highly recommended to me for exactly what you describe by the dentist i found here on bpn; dr. sonia garden told me laura had performed admirably for her sister who was in the same (very bad) situation as you. i myself have had limited experience with laura (about an hour's free consultation via phone and a couple more in an interview in her office, for which i paid her) and i like her a lot and probably need to hire her for more advice. please feel free to use my name as having recommended her. good luck. doug

Gary Silber (925-937-1100) is a very experienced divorce attorney (30+ years, as well as several years on the bench). He's helped many people through extremely difficult cases like yours. I hope that life gets better for you very soon. anon

Hello! Here is a referral for a divorce attorney that is terrific. Her name is Anrea Eichorn, J.D. 652-0220. Her e-mail is AME[at]MEDIATIONOFFICES.NET Healing and peace to you! Karen

Start by having a consultation with either Cynthia Podren or Hannah Sims, both in East Bay--sorry, I don't have their numbers handy. They are both very good and if they can't take your case, they will know someone else who is qualified. I think it's very important for you to work with someone who has experience with abuse cases, because engaging in divorce and custody issues with an abuser adds some very specific elements to the case that most attorneys aren't qualified to handle. Also, you can expect the mediators, evaluators and jugdes to be woefully ignorant on how spousal abuse puts children at risk in custody disputes.

There is an organization in Southern California called New Horizons (or something of that nature) that has published an excellent guide to the California family courts for survivors of domestic abuse. If you can't find their information, please ask the moderator to provide you with my email address, and I will find their contact information (or copy the guide for you if you prefer). It's a wonderful and very informative publication, and I consider it essential for anyone in your situation. Good luck. Been there too

Assertive Oakland divorce attorney

May 2007

I need an assertive divorce attorney who practices primarily in Oakland and is well respected by the Oakland judges. The archives on recommended divorce attorneys don't specify whether they practice in Oakland. I don't have major child custody issues; main issues will be his attempt to get a share of my pension, and division of assets. Because of his attitude, mediation won't work for us. M

Our family lawyer is both well known and respected in the Oakland courthouse. She has been available to us for ex-parte motions and seemingly endless court dates. She is detailed, assertive ( would not let the judge NOT hear her) and a mother herself. She has helped my husband navigate the (often) gender imbalanced California court system to retain full custody of his two young kids and keep their limited visits with their (very unstable, abusive and neglectful)mother safe. She has a small office in Oakland with an attentive assistant, knows her stuff and has guided us through some difficult decisions. On top of all that, we have a blast every time we have to go see her. I highly recommend Tracey Kaufmann. cris

Attorney for Divorce/Child Custody case

May 2007

I'm looking for an attorney who can handle a Divorce/Child Custody case. Any personal recommendations? In need of help

I can highly recommend Sylvia Keita, in Oakland. Sylvia is very smart. Although she is mild-mannered and kind, she is totally capable of going head to head against tough opponents. lynn

2005 - 2006 Recommendations

Re: Marriage not working, therapy not working - attorney? (Dec 2006)

Andrea Eichorn is a wonderful, sharp attorney based in Piedmont/Oakland. Her number is (510) 652-0220. She does not do litigation but does mediation and collaborative divorce. And she can advise you even if she doesn't end up representing you. Good luck. It's a tough situation. Susan

Best divorce lawyer I know of is Bradford Baugh in Mountain View, California. There are other good lawyers in the archives. Get yourself a really really good lawyer and lock down everything that you can before you announce that you're getting a divorce. Good luck to you! ...

Current divorce attorney reviews?

Aug 2006

I have found that I may require the services of a divorce attorney. The posts that I have checked are several years old and I would like to receive some recent referrals. Thanks, Denise

I personally know that Ai Mori is an excellent family law attorney because I practiced family law with her, at the firm of Minami, Lew & Tamaki. She is smart in an accessible way, not an ivory tower ''I'm better than you'' kind of way. She's also a kind and compassionate human being, and respected by her peers. One of the things that makes MLT's family law group exceptional is that they work to SETTLE your case in an efficient, timely manner. Unfortunately, in the course of my practice, I did run into a few family law attorneys who do not aim to settle the case. These bad apples just let things drag along, they don't take the time to review the case and propose a global settlement, and/or they'll encourage conflict between their client and the other side. These approaches cost you, the client, more money. I hope you call Ai Mori for a consultation at 415.788.9000 and go to the website to read about Ai Mori and the history of MLT. (The founders of MLT founded the Asian Law Caucus.) SN

Good family law attorney to review my divorce papers

Nov 2005

I am looking for a good family law attorney. I need someone to review my divorce papers and let me know what my rights are when it comes to my Golden Retriever, Jake. I appreciate any recommendations. Erin

Divorce is pretty messy. When I started grad school in the engineering department my spouse became, shall we say, unsupportive. We decided to part ways since I wanted to get a PhD, and she wanted me to work for real money. Sigh... But I did manage to find a good divorce attorney. I called a good deal of the San Francisco family law attorneys, and didn't really click with anyone. When I finally got to the 'Law Offices of Jessica Watson' I had a noticeably different experience. She answered my questions rather than waiting for her turn to speak. She told me upfront what her rates were, which I couldn't get from others. She gave me references to look up and made me feel that I would be part of the process. I'm a control freak, so I really appreciated her catering to my special needs. I didn't feel like Ms. Watson was going to stamp a number on my case and put in a boilerplate performance. Felt very my case, my life, was important. I appreciated that.

So, a high recommendation to the Law Office of Jessica Watson. The webpage is here: her website says they specialize in divorce, adoption, and dependency. -Pascal

Need an attorney I can consult with for mediated divorce

Sept 2005

I have checked the archives for recommendations regarding divorce/family law attorneys, but my particular question didn't arise. That is, I do not want to retain legal counsel for divorce -- I would prefer to do mediation. But many (including my therapist) have recommended that I consult a lawyer about my rights and responsibilities before entering into mediation. Cost is an issue for me, and I would prefer to have just one consultation to get an idea of the big picture before broaching the issue of mediation (we are currently in couples therapy with a therapist who will do mediation if we request it). I have looked through the Nolo ''do-it-yourself'' book but still feel the need to ask some pointed questions pertaining to our particular situation. Is it true, as the Nolo book argues, that family lawyers will resist doing a single consultation and insist on being retained? Does anyone know of any lawyer who would consult with me as I prefer? Or am I being unrealistic? We have been married for nearly fifteen years and have a minor child. Thanks for any advice stressed and in need of info

Hi, When I needed a consultation, I called Linda Cox-Cooper. I told her up front I wasn't ready to retain anyone, and that was fine with her. She spent time with me and really listened. She didn't pressure me at all to retain her at that time, and a month later I followed up with her and retained her when it was clear my custody situation was about to escalate. She has been really great. She's located in Oakland, very close to the Downtown 12th St. Bart station. She represents moms and dads in divorce and custody cases but she also represents a lot of children in the family court system and she really, really cares about the effect of the parents' legal decisions on the well-being of the children. I feel I can trust her advice to be legally sound and profoundly ethical. She will not let you lose sight of what your children need while you're going through your divorce and custody.

By the way, all cases that go through the family court system are referred for mandatory family court services mediation. Some of the mediators are good, some are awful. All are really busy. I don't know if this applies to your case or not, but mediation is terrible for anyone who has been a victim of any form of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, because the abusive partner usually comes out stronger and more reasonable, while the abused partner comes out looking weak and irrational, regardless of intellectual strength and abilities. I would not recommend any form of mediation as a substitute for legal counsel, especially in cases where any abuse is involved.

I don't know if she's taking clients at this time, but you might want to give her a call. Best wishes. anon

I contacted the Contra Costa Bar Association (also one in Alameda?)For $30 they will set you up with a lawyer for a 30 min consult. Have your questions prepared. Maybe you can request David Welty (office in downtown Oakland). I think he might also do mediation. Less pricy at $150/hr. anon

Divorce with least amount of expenses?

May 2005

Hello, I am seeking recent recommendations for divorce attorneys. I am separated from my husband of 7 years. We have one child together (he is 2.5 yrs). I have already met with an attorney and did not feel that we were a good fit, she was pretty expensive ($300/hour) and she only suggested that we go to a mediator and a child custody mediator (who each charge $375/hour in 10 hour blocks). WOW. Once we have met with them and have come up with some terms then we both have to go back to our respective attorneys and review the documents. Sounds to me like this process is going to be VERY EXPENSIVE and require a lot of meetings. Is this how to get a divorce???? I am very overwhelmed and confused. Thus far my ''spouse'' and I are relatively agreeable and communicating. He moved out and is still paying for household expenses. He refuses to go to counseling and says we are simply not compatible, therefore this is the only option, divorce. We need someone to draft up the child custody and divorce paperwork properly. We have some assets, but nothing all that complicated, house, two cars and a few stock accounts. I would love to hear some recommendations for attorneys or mediators/attorneys who will prepare and process necessary paperwork. My spouse thinks that we can do this online. I disagree. I prefer speaking with someone in person and getting all the facts straight. I would like work with an attorney to advise me (and possibly both of us or my spouse can hire his own if necessary). I want the best legal advice/representation for the price. Any current suggestions? What is the best way to get through this process with the least amount of expenses? Divorce 2005

Give Amalia Hartwell a call (she used to sit on my Board of Directors) 415-771-0136. Also in San Francisco at the Superior Court you can make an appointment with a ''Legal Counselor'' who can help you to fill out all the ''right'' paperwork. You might try this if you are looking for an inexpensive route. Juliette

Attorney Margaret Gannon

Jan 2005

I have been married twenty years and will be getting divorce. I have looked at the website and made several calls. I am thinking of employing Margaret Gannon. Can anyone please give me some feedback if you have employed her or heard of her? She currently charge $300 per hour which is pricey. anon

I used Margaret Gannon for my divorce 6 years ago. I found her great to work with. She thoroughly laid out options and strategies and was sensitive to finances. She's a real bulldog in court and seems well known and well regarded there. I received a very fair child support reward - though not perfect. I can certainly recommend her.

That does seem pricey. I have used the services of Algera Tucker and have found her extremely helpful during a particularly difficult divorce process. Her rates are going up from $225.00 to $250.00 in February. I would highly recommend her. Her office number is (510) 985-1900. Tora

2004 & Earlier

Nov 2004

I have read the listings on the UC Berkeley website several times, but want to know if there are any OTHER recommendations for good divorce attorneys in the East Bay. My husband and I have been together for 12 years, have a young daughter, and love each other very much, but we need to divorce. I'm looking for somebody VERY good at this type of thing, but also compassionate. This is extraordinarily painful. I'm not out to 'get him.' I just want to land on my feet if possible. He makes a lot more money than I do, and he's leaving me for somebody else. Any recommendations or advice is appreciated. Needing help

There were lots of requests for lawyer referrals, so I'll give a few for each category (I'm a lapsed lawyer and keep in touch, to some extent, with the fields requested)
Divorce (also look for recommendations under family law or custody): Margaret Gannon - Oakland - 452-1700 Susan Bender - Oakland - 832-1411 Cynthia Podren - Berkeley - 527-5901 Miriam Steinbock - Oakland - 763-5611 Dennis Rothhaar - Oakland - 763-5611 If you need names in SF, email me and I'll give you some. Family law Mediators: Eva Herzer - Kensington - 526-5144 Martina Reeves - Berkeley - 559-2685
I can't vouch for results, of course, but the recommendations are of people/firms I know. Amy O.

I can recommend David Bunn as a divorce attorney. He is has a certification in Family Law, is compassionate and smart. His office is in Berkeley, phone number 528-0700. He is not an ''out-to-get'' lawyer, but will inform you of your rights and negotiate for you. I hope your partner will also find a cooperative lawyer so you can work things out without going to court. Another option might be using a mediator, such as Eva Herzer. She is a lawyer, and mediator, who could also inform you of your rights (as well as your partner's) and help you come to an agreement, if you are able to work together on this. I know this is a very very difficult time in your life, and my heart goes out to you. in the same boat

I would like to recommend my friend Rosanne Calbo-Jackson. She is very knowledgable, compassionate and patient. She works out of her home in Oakland. Good Luck! Linda

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

Using a mediator vs. using an attorney

Sept. 2003

I recently asked my husband to move out. He had been taking money from our accounts to go drinking and buying lap dances at strip joints and lying about how he was at work those nights. All of this while I was pregnant with our third child. It went on for a year then I caught him and he promised to stop and get counseling and marriage therapy ... He stopped his individual counseling after three sessions. Told our marriage counselor he was only interested in a marriage of convenience for the kids sake. I also caught him again taking money out last week. I dont want a long drawn out ugly divorce case but I also want to protect myself. THere is a house and some stocks and IRAs and three kids involved. Which way should I go? Any pros or cons? I am not in a mental place to do this on my own with a Nolo book. I know there are archives and recommendations for lawyers and mediators but how do you decide which type to go with? thanks much. dazed and confused

As a mediator and formerly practicing attorney, (neither in family law), my preference in general is for mediation. It can offer the parties more: options for resolution (at least in other areas of law; ownership of decisions made; opportunity to figure out what they really want or need and to work toward that; and more of a chance to deal with emotions on all sides. I would think that in the family arena in particular, under the right circumstances it could leave everyone impacted -- particularly the children -- more whole to go forward with healthy relationships with each of the parents.

My concern, however, would be that in my experience mediation only works where both parties agree that there is a problem, that each in good faith wants to work it out and that both are willing stand behind any agreements reached. Facts you have mentioned -- lying, not following through with commitments, doing things behind your back -- make me wonder if litigation would be a better choice in your situation. It provides finality and clarity where the parties are incapable of coming to their own resolutions.

I'd suggest that you speak with a couple of litagators and a couple of mediators in family law to see what they think would be the best approach to your situation and why. There are even some litigator/mediators who offer both. Their input could give you a better basis on which to make your decision. anon

Get an attorney -- NOW! Don't let him get his hands on the money

You didn't really ask this question, but I'll give the advice anyway: Get all the money in your name ASAP. You can't take the risk that he'll abscond with more while the separation/divorce legalaties are in progress. Of course, there will ultimately be a division of assets, and you may have to return some to him, and you may have to make payments to him for his immediate needs, but better to do that than to find that there are ''no'' assets to divide and no support for you and the kids. Also, he does not sound like the kind of trustworthy, honest person with whom I'd want to engage in mediation -- so see a lawyer. I know this isn't the place for recommendations, but if you want some names, email me. I have some connections in the East Bay legal community. susan

April 2003

I'd appreciate any recommendations about a good divorce attorney who can advise me about my rights in a potentially complex situation (all of the property is in my name, but we live in California, I earn more than my husband by a long shot, and we have a recently adopted infant). I'm not sure what I want to do yet, but his prior divorce was very acrimonious and he has advised me that he has already checked into his rights. It could be grandstanding, but I think I need to be sure that I and my son are taken care of.

I highly recommend Katie Fox at Fox and Bank in Walnut Creek. She is incredibly smart, honest and fair, and compassionately and efficiently helped me negotiate a complicated legal separation involving a cross-country custody dispute. I was in INCREDIBLY capable hands. Her partner, Melissa Bank, is apparently also terrific -- both are very successful, talented women who managed to negotiate THEIR OWN divorces involving young children with a minimum of acrimony and that , as well as protecting their clients' interests, is their goal. The fact that they've both been through divorces involving young children was enormously comforting to me -- and I found Katie thoughtful and empathetic. Best of luck, and feel free to contact me with any other questions. katie

Re a good divorce attorney, I used to do high-end intense family law. Recommendations depend on what county you live in, because it's important that you get a good lawyer who also practices a lot in that county, that knows the ins and outs of that county's way of doing things, and that the judge knows and respects. Family law is a small world. For each county, there are around 5 heavy hitting lawyers that frequently get recommended for mixed cases involving both property and custody. Some great lawyers only do property and support issues, and won't do custody. Others only do mediation, others are known for being aggressive and experienced in court.

Feel free to e-mail me with more info, if you're in San Francisco, Alameda or Marin Counties I could give you numbers and names of people to see. Consultations with lawyers sometimes are free or cost at most one-two hours of time. See more than one lawyer before you decide; they'll also give you practical and legal advice in that first meeting that should help give you a more knowledgeable (and less intimidated) perspective on things. Good Luck. RW

I can recommend Karen Heller Berdy at 925/937-0440. She specializes in mediation, but also has an active practice in contested divorce proceedings. She's smart and well educated (lawyer and MBA), tough, and has the personality and capability to handle complicated matters. She went through her own difficult divorce years ago (which led her to switch practices from corporate to divorce law), so can emotionally relate as well. Lori

The most amazing divorce attorney I've ever witnessed in action is Sarah Leverett (sad to say I spent 10-plus years in and out of family court and have seen the gamet when it comes to lawyers). She is very pricey, but if your divorce is going to be acrimonous and you'll be spending time in court, she is well worth the money. She gets a lot of respect from the judges! Unfortunately I wasn't able to use her because she only took clients who had not had a previous attorney (I think she didn't want to clean up after another attorney's mess).

Another suggestion at the other end of the spectrum is to use a mediator. Eva Herzer in Kensington (526-5144) is wonderful ... (click here to see review) Good luck! anonymous

It sounds like you need someone who is strong! I recommend Frank Presto (925-846-4006), who did a fabulous job helping my husband in his divorce. Frank grew up in North Beach in San Francisco in a strong Italian family and really knows his business. Tell him Bob and Ilene sent you! Ilene

I am in a similar situation: complex assets with a young child, I make more $$ (at least on the books). Although I chose another lawyer, Robert Kligman in SF is supposed to be the best. If for some reason he cannot help you, he can probably recommend another attorney who could.

August 2003

I am in urgent need of finding a new family law attorney. I have read all the recommendations on this site and have even seen one of those attorneys, whom I found extremely abrasive and condescending. The next one charged me exoribant fees that have amounted to 10,000 for doing awfully little. My husband and I are divorcing and he is seeking to gain custody of our kids. My husband's attorney is very agressive. I thought I could divorce amicably and fairly. However this is anything but that, and I stand to lose a lot if I don't get excellent representation. So if you have a recommendation, I would love to hear from you, but keep in mind, that with the mess I have on my hands, I now need the very best representation available. Preferably someone who has many years in the field, has a stellar reputation, and is possibly also a family law specialist. Thank you. stalwarth but folding

I can highly recommend Nancy Parent (phone 925-439-0444). She has 25+ years experience in family law, and is a no-nonsense negotiator. Lisa

I recommend Margaret Gannon in Oakland. She was a real champion for me. I didn't get everything I wanted but she was very diligent and patient and drove my husband crazy. She also most generously allowed me to pay her over time with little or no interest. been there

Try the firm Preville * Frey. They are located in Alameda. Both partners are women. I interveiwed with them once for an attorney position. They seem very professional and tough. Good Luck Nicole

Try Joanne Schulman. Her number is 415-863-5300, ext. 12. I have been going through a miserable divorce for some time, and she has been wonderful. She works very hard for me, is very experienced and honorable, and very tenacious, while being kind and supportive to me - all very necessary qualities in my case. I believe she will be on vacation most of August, as I think most attorneys are. I wish you the very best in your difficult situation.

The more you are organized with what your divorce atty has done, and what you want them to do, the more money you will save. You can also do your own research at the Boalt law library which is open to the public. The Lexis academic database will give you cases by key words, like spousal support, or custody. The cases you get will be either unpublished (and can't be cited, but are very informative), or published and thus precedent. There's a lot you can understand yourself. You can email the cases to yourself or print for 10 cents a page. You definitely want a family law specialist, someone who does divorce day in and day out. If your husband has an attorney who wants to litigate, it's best that you get someone of the same kind. Ask them how often they are in court. Many attorneys can't stomach this approach and do mediation only. My ex was a withhold everything, threaten constantly type person so I had to have a litigator. His attorney is very inexperienced and that has been a problem. If first session is free, great, but I would budget 3 or 4 visits at $150-240 each and do a thorough interview, including asking them what their strategy would be. You should know the law says 50% to everyone (property, children, assets) unless there are exceptional circumstances (that's where the research comes in) or private agreements. Good luck. PS Your atty should be able to comment on the judges too anon

Seeking notably aggressive attorney

December 2002

I have reviewed the digest for divorce attorneys, but there doesn't seem to be anyone who is notably agressive. My husband has become completely irrational and terrorizing and I no longer have it in me to stand up for myself. If anyone has any experience with an honest attorney who will fight like a bull dog to help me keep my baby I would be quite grateful. Thank you

Carol Amyx is an intelligent, detail minded and agressive attorney. Her phone # is (510) 644-3360. I am in the midst of an acrimonious divorce after almost 15 years of marriage. My children's father moved out in March after being depressed for years. He had threatened to move out for months and at the last minute told me I should. I refused to do so. He is already living with another woman and did not support me in any way. Actually, he pushed to sell the house I live in and the children grew up in and was extremely cruel and blaming in every way. He is savvy and always handled our accounts. I was feeling like I had no power and very ''beaten up'' in my situation. Carol and my wonderful therapist helped me get grounded, educated and confident.We now have a court order for family support and it looks like I will stay in my house, thanks to Carol. However, I am working 2 1/2 jobs...

Also, I recommend Kids'Turn. It's a 6-week program for divorced, divorcing and separated families of all kinds. I found it extremely helpful for me and my children.

The person who wants a b**-busting lawyer should calm down and first of all post her own e-mail address so that replies can be made privately. Because for one thing, the law discourages what she's asking for. In the highly emotional area of family law especially, the law wants mediation, not confrontation. Though someone comes to mind, I will not label a lawyer publicly as confrontational.

That said, how do you find a good lawyer? The Bar Association's advice is largely useless. Its own list consists of lawyers who don't get enough business on their own. Your acquaintances (''word of mouth'') have highly subjective opinions based on whether they ''won'' or ''lost''.Start with the Yellow Pages' list of attorneys who are ''certified'' in family law. By telephone, ask 5 or 6 lawyers to recommend 3 or 4 others. And yes, you can ask for a b**-buster. See which names keep popping up. Narrow it down to 3 or 4. Talk to them. Then go down to the clerk's office in the County Courthouse and use the computer case files to see which ones have been sued by former clients. I am not an attorney. Mark

I recommend H Nelson Meeks. He can be reached at 415-989-9915. But remember that these things take time which can get costly. Good Luck, deborah

My partner went through a very nasty divorce due to his ex wife and her VERY aggressive and good attorney, Bill Whiting. He was very powerful and fought hard for everything. He practices in Contra Costa County. I highly recommend interviewing him if the jurisdiction works out (I have seen a few of the court tapes and he was quite hard). I also recommend that you keep as much visitation time with your baby if that is in question, because my partner was not able to (for a myriad of reasons at the hands of his ex - false accusations, etc) and she was able to arrange a cross-country move BEFORE custody was decided on, and forced the custody evaluator to give her full custody simply based on the fact that their daughter had spent more time with her, even though it was found that there was no foundation for the accusations. They now live on the East Coast and he can only see her for limited amounts of time. Try your best to think ahead of your ex and anticipate the worst. anon

I highly recommend Joanne Schulman. I have been going through a divorce for nearly two years from an abuser. She is very tough (she describes herself as a terrier who doesn't let go)on him, and at the same time very supportive, personally involved, and kind to me. My ex has tried all sorts of things (hiding finances, lying, starvation tactics, you name it), and she has been great through it all. She has been practicing for over 25 years, and knows about these guys. We are finally nearing the end of a very long haul, and it has been worth it. I plan to stay in touch with her as a friend after this mess is all over. Her office is in San Francisco, but it is an easy BART ride (Civic Center stop). Her number is 415-863-5300, ext. 12. Give her a call! Anonymous

Nov 2002

I am in the process of divorce and have narrowed my selection of attorney down to two. If anyone has knowledge of or experience with these either of these two lawyers, please respond: Michael Bailey (Alameda) and Tracy Kaufmann (Oakland). I've seen the recommendations for others on this site, but for one reason or another they won't work for me. Thanks!

I am a family law attorney and know both counsel. I have had cases against Michael Bailey and he is perhaps the nicest lawyer I have ever had to deal with. Absolutely compassionate, focused on solutions and steers clear of ramping a case up for fees or self promotion. I do not know how he does in an ultra-litigious situation, but he was a really responsive and kind person to have on the other side of a difficult case. I would imagine that he is very caring with his clients. I do not get the sense that he is terribly aggressive, but I think that is actually a good thing in the eyes of the judiciary.

Tracy I know from out and about. She is funny and very invested in what she does. She can become very involved in a case - and very passionate if it is something she believes in. I do not know the outcome of her cases but she is an intelligent woman and seems to enjoy what she does. She is also a mother of two so she can relate.

June 2002

I may be looking for a new family law attorney, as I am not sure that the one I am currently working with is strong enough of a negotiator. My husband has hired a very aggressive attorney. We have worked out part of our agreement through Eva Herzer, who is a mediator and very good, but we are getting bogged down and I want to finalize this emotional mess in as business-like a manner as possible. I looked on the web-site, but am interested in other recommendations. mom-of-2 small ones

A friend of mine used Marian Steinbock (not sure of spelling) in Oakland for her divorce proceedings a couple of years ago. She said that she really new her stuff, was businesslike, and strong. She knew what my friend's rights were and made sure my friend made informed decisions. Good luck and hope that you get a fair decision! Also, I hope that this isn't insensitive, I know someone who needs a very aggressive attorney. Would you mind posting the name of your husband's lawyer? Anonymous

I highly recommend Dennis Rothhaar,who is representing me in my divorce. He is warm, intelligent, experienced, knowledgable, and aggressive when he needs to be. He has given me a sense of what to expect throughout this process and has definitely negotiated well on my behalf. His office is in Oakland and he can be reached at 510.763.5611. Good luck. In the same boat.

Mediator or attorney for mutually acceptable divorce

May 2002

I need a mediator and/or an attorney to help create a mutually acceptable legal separation document and then file for divorce. Can anyone recommend a mediator/attorney who practices family law and is family friendly and not trying to stir up things for his hourly billings benefit? This would be your basic non contested divorce but there are tricky financial and custody issues that we need helpwith from a third party skilled in Calif. law. Thanks very much! georg

Recommendations received:

Eva Herzer (3)

Other recommendations: Try Rachel Ginsburg. Her law office is in downtown Oakland, tel 835-5568. I believe she has a lot of experience in family law. Rebecca

I recommend Sherman, Williams & Lober. My husband and I, like you, wanted an attorney just to make sure both of our interests were equally represented, yet we didn't want the expense and defensive posturing that a 2 attorney divorce would bring into our lives. Sherman, Williams & Lober will give you forms to fill out and if there is a disagreement between your and your spouses divorce goals, they will mediate. My husband and I had some sticky issues: child custody, child support, etc. and they were very helpful and extremely knowlegable. Congratulations to you for not buying into the negativity of typical divorces with two opposing attorneys! NoLo Press recommended this firm (Check out their site: The are in Soquel (near Santa Cruz) but they don't need to see you face to face. They do phone call consults, if necessary. Anonymous

I would highly recommend Karen Heller Berdy, who practices in Walnut Creek. Karen is very smart (JD and MBA, which helps immensely in the myriad of financial issues you will face), straightforward, efficient and is extremely adept at assisting spouses in reaching mutually agreeable arrangements regarding child sharing. I have recommended her to several couples and everyone (both husbands and wives) has been extremely happy with her services. Lori
(April 2003: updated phone number for Karen Heller Berdy: 925/937-0440)

November 2001

Has anyone had any experience, one way or the other, with any of the following family law attorneys? I am looking for someone to handle a divorce where there are custody issues involving young children. Jane Kaplan Marjorie Kaplan Hannah Sims Thanks!

I'd like to recommend Donna L. Smith, an attorney in Albany. A parent herself, she's a tenacious, effective advocate, as well as a gentle soul, compassionate and easy to talk to
Donna L. Smith, Attorney at Law, 1604 Solano Ave., Berkeley 94707; 510/526-6050.
Donna is highly intelligent, experienced, sensitive, and easy to talk to. She handles all family law matters, including prenuptials, litigation, mediation, divorce, and custody, and is more than ever committed to a collaborative, nonadversarial approach to divorce and child custody. Melanie [updated Oct 2004]

I highly recommend Hannah Sims for a family law attorney. She is extremely knowledgeable, respects your feelings, and best of all, does what is in the best interest of the children. I can't say enough great things about her -- she got our family through a very ugly time Carol Note from Myriam: Hannah Sims 2831 Telegraph, 628-0250

For a family law lawyer, try Julie Tracy in SF or Laurie Bonnai, also in SF. Good luck! -- GB (4/99)

Jan 2000

Does anyone have a good recommendation for a divorce attorney who won't cost a fortune? I've checked the Parents Web Site, but didn't see too many recent recommendations. I have the UCB Signature Legal Care insurance, if there are any names from there someone could recommend. Also, does anyone have any experience using mediation or other alternative services for preparing papers and drawing up arrangements for an uncontested divorce? As this is a very painful, but not ugly or angry, divorce, I'm wondering if it might be cheaper and quicker to bypass attorneys altogether. Any recommendations or advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.


  • Eva Herzer

    Other recommendations: My one and strongest piece of advice is to be sure to make it absolutely clear what your needs and wants are, no matter how long it takes. If you are NOT a good advocate for yourself (and I was not), make sure you make that clear to your mediator so that she/he will give you time to gather your forces. Since this process is between you and your husband (or wife), you have to be your own lawyer, pleading your own case. If you cannot make a case as strongly as your husband (or wife), you will find yourself stuck with a legal document you aren't happy with. The one thing to remember is that if you have children, NO settlement is EVER permanent. You have the opportunity and the RESPONSIBILITY to change it to reflect changes. Amy

    Brigeda Bank, a partner in the family law firm of Fox & Bank (Walnut Creek, 925-933-9000), is excellent. I don't know if her fees will fit your needs, but she's really great. Kate
    June 1999

    It was years and years ago but I used Sandra Elstead Wagner at Hardin Cook Loper etc. in Oakland and I thought very highly of her. Phone 444-3131. -- Peggy

    I recommend Jane Kaplan for a family law attorney. Although I am divorcing via another attorney/mediator (had started with her before moving to Berkeley), Jane has reviewed my settlement agreement and brainstormed potential solutions--some things I had never considered. She charges $170/ hr. Good luck and hang in there.
    I have an excellent family lawyer to recommend to the person seeking a divorce counselor: Paul Lewis, Lafayette, 284-7885. He is sensitive, compassionate and, most importantly, non-adversarial, which I found to be critical in a situation as stressful as a divorce. You may say I recommended him.
    I'm going through a divorce now and my attorney, Carol Amyx, 1919 Addison Street, Berkeley, couldn't be better. She requires a $3,000 retainer, but it looks like I might even get a little money back when all papers are filed. In any case, the peace of mind I feel with her is well worth the money. 644-3360


    I met recently with Margaret Hill on College Avenue who was recommended earlier in the Digest. I was extremeley impressed and can be very, very particular about such things. Very quick, low key, easy to talk with and very efficient. She is also in Prudential which makes her services doubly attractive.


    A VERY good family lawyer with a sliding scale - Margaret Hill on College Ave in Berkeley - 549-1800


    2 divorce lawyers I would recommend: Sylvia St. A Keita, 1736 Franklin Street, 10th Floor, Oakland CA 94612 Tel. 510 444 6222, Fax 510 444 1704 Margaret Hill, 2832 College Ave, Berkeley, tel 510 549 1800
    From: anonymous (6/98)

    Request for info.: to those who recommended attorney Margaret Hill: I'm in a difficult place with the father of my child. I wonder if you would mind writing to me privately (giving your address to Ginger) so I could ask some specific questions about your experience w/ Margaret Hill. Based on the recommendations from the UCB parents list, I want to consult w/ her, but have had trouble reaching her by phone (she hasn't returned my calls). I have a few questions about that, and a couple of other things. Thanks so much!!

    From: anonymous (6/98)

    I also had a hard time getting a response from Margaret initially. She works very independently...a few people share the same office and perhaps one clerical person (not really sure how it works, but that's what it looks like). She takes all her messages, as far as I can tell, on her answering machine. She types things into her computer as you sit in her office.

    She's sensible and easy to talk to. She represented me in Contra Costa County court about 3 weeks ago. It was a hearing on child support adjustment (initiated by my ex-husband). I felt she handled it very well and was right on top of all the appropriate angles.

    I've worked with her just a short time, and plan to use her to get my daughter's last name changed, too. On the whole, I'm quite impressed.

    From: anonymous (6/98)

    To the person asking about Margaret Hill. I actually was one of those who recommended her (based upon our 1-time experience with her). However, a friend of mine has subsequently seen her for a child support issue, and she also had a great deal of trouble getting Hill to return her phone calls. I would procede with caution at this point, and I might not recommend her again.

    From: anonymous (7/98)

    I am going through a divorce and have seen Margaret Hill twice, today being the second time. I got her name through UCB parents and would like to say thank you for the recommendation as she has been wonderful.

    From: anonymous (7/98)

    I'm currently using Margaret Hill as the attorney in my divorce. Yes, she does take a long time to return calls and is slow on processing papers, etc. It is a little frustrating. On the other hand, she is very sensible as someone said and knows her stuff. She was also one of the top three lawyers recommended to me by a good friend who is also a family/divorce lawyer.

    What seemed to get things moving for me was that after calling several times hoping for a phone conversation, I suggested I come in to meet with her. She called back and left a message as to when she was available and I went in the next day. In an hour we completed the marital settlement agreement and other paperwork to be sent to my husband. But he still hasn't received it. So I'll put in a few more phone calls.

    Since I opted to use the Prudential Legal Care offered through the University, I found the lawyers available limited. A few I called either no longer took the insurance or wouldn't take my case if I couldn't guarantee that it would be straight forward (i.e. no argument from the other side.) Hill was recommended and accepted the insurance.

    Re: Prudential attorney

    As mentioned in several other E-mails, I cannot recommend Margaret Hill highly enough. She is a member of Prudential; very efficient . . . a take care of business, type but with a very warm down to earth, non-intimidating style. She listens to her clients, takes their lead, clarifies as needed and integrates her technical expertise in resolving issues in moving forward. Not only is she superb, but the several other individuals in her network that she has referred me to have been of her same calibre. Her number is: 549-1800 and is on College next to Papyrus.