Family Law

Parent Q&A

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  • Family Law Attorney Wanted

    (1 reply)

    I'm looking for a family law attorney both for a friend and as someone to whom I can refer clients.

    It's important to me that this person be skilled, knowledgeable, and reasonable in terms of their billing practices. Someone client-centered who values efficient practice vs. dragging things out/creating unnecessary work. We need a Spanish-speaker for my friend, but we're also open to other referrals as we also want someone to whom we can refer clients. Thank you, community!

    We used Kathleen Hunt for our estate planning and she was great--very reasonably priced and came to meet us in our home. I know she does a wide range of family law work, not sure if she speaks Spanish. 

  • Family Lawyer in Contra Costa County

    (4 replies)

    Hi.  I'm a mom to a 2 year old in Contra Costa County.  The child's father and I never married but we have been living together since before the child was born.  The child's father was angry when I got pregnant and has been pretty much absent from the child's life except for occasional play time when he's at home.  If I ever say anything or ask for help, he says I should have thought about that before I decided to have the baby.  I had the baby by myself in the hospital and I've provided all the care since birth.  I have never left the child overnight and the child's father refuses to babysit even though he's sitting at home.  The child's father has a very low paying job and I've been fully financially supporting him, my child, and myself for years.

    I have been doing this because I thought it was in the best interest of my child to have his father in his life.  This man is verbally abusive and a deadbeat and I just can't take it anymore.  I have to get away from him and have some peace for me and my child.  But, I'm afraid.  He is pretty narcissistic and extremely vengeful.  I'm afraid if I even bring up my desire to split he'll make it his life's goal to make sure I'm miserable...even at the expense of our child.  Can anyone recommend a good family law attorney in Contra Costa County?  I need some legal advice and I need to be prepared for the worst if what I think will happen does indeed happen.  My child means more to me than anything in the entire world.  I thought putting the child first and making sure my child had an in-home relationship with Dad while forgetting about my own feelings and needs was the right thing to do.  But, now I'm starting to realize that that just isn't the case.

    Scared in Contra Costa County

    Shannon Wolfrum is a family law attorney I have known in Contra Costa County for years.  She is dedicated and committed to her clients, serves on Boards relating to family law, and she would be my first call.....

    Your story sounds very similar to mine. I wish I could message you, but I definitely understand your desire for anonymity.

    My son's father was/is abusive, narcissistic, angry, vengeful, possibly sociopathic (according to our co-parenting therapist, not me... though I agree). I finally cut it off when our son was almost 1, and filed for child support when our son was not quite 2. Our son is now 6. His father still has visitation even though I had a restraining order against him at one point, even though he threatened to our son that he was going to murder me and our family (no, I'm not joking) two years ago. I have learned some hard lessons and have had many "I wish I knew better/ wish I had done that" moments. Some of what I have to say may sound harsh, so if it comes across that way, please know that I ABSOLUTELY sympathize with what you are going through and I'm trying to say to you things that I wish someone had told me.

    First: As long as there are no custody orders in place yet, you are not restricted from moving. So, GET OUT OF CONTRA COSTA COUNTY. Move. As far away as you can. Do you have family or friends out of state? Even better. I have family in another state who asked me to move in with them when things started to get really bad with my ex, when our son was 1. I didn't do it. I thought the same as you...  I thought I was trying to do the right thing by trying to work things out with my ex. But you are right - it is NOT going to get better, and you should trust your instincts. Lots of research points to the damage a narcissistic parent can do to a child. I spent a long time wishing I had moved when I had the chance. If you have that choice, my advice is to take it.  

    At the very least, just get OUT of Coco County. My case is there. CoCo is a "mandatory" mediation county. That means that if you (or the father) end up filing for custody in that county, you will be FORCED to go to mediation with your ex...  and if he is anything like mine, then I'm guessing you probably already know that he will lie and say whatever he has to in order to "punish" you and get what he wants, i.e., custody and maintaining control over you through your child. Narcissists do not take kindly to being "rejected". I can tell you from experience that the mediators in family court in Martinez, though most I believe are well-meaning, are woefully overworked and understaffed, and some definitely do sloppy reporting that can muddle things badly. I've experienced good and bad, but you have no way of knowing who they are going to pair you with. They are NOT required to look at documentation. Crazy, right? So it doesn't matter if you have been taking care of your son as you say or if you have documentation in the form of text messages/emails/whatever confirming your schedule... if he comes in with the opposite story, they will most likely give 50/50 custody. That is what happened to me at first.

    If you can't move far away, get out and get as far away as you can but don't tell him where you are going. You didn't say the word "abuse." But it comes out loud and clear in your message that you are at least frightened of the possibility. Reach out to domestic violence resources. Don't be afraid of therapy.

    I have more to say but no more space here, so contact me if you want to talk. I wish you luck.

    I just thought about some other important thoughts to mention in a public response, so I wanted to add these to my first reply.

    1: Contact the Bay Area Crisis Nursery. 925-685-8052 . They are a non-profit. They were instrumental in helping me escape from my ex when I finally decided to get away. Remember, even "just" verbal abuse deeply affects you and your child. The crisis nursery can help with a safe place for your child to stay temporarily when you are ready to get away, or even a couple days at a time to give you time to figure out what to do, knowing your child is safe while you seek help. Don't let the father know your child is there, tell him you're going to visit friends/whatever and then do so.

    2: I'm not an attorney, but I worked as a legal assistant in a family law practice for awhile so I have seen the ins and outs of many cases, not just mine. I have a very close friend who is an attorney (not family law or else I'd refer you to her). Obviously I can't give you legal advice. But I can tell you my own experiences and give you personal advice based upon them.

    2: I do think it would be a good idea for you to speak to a couple of attorneys before deciding what to do. Call STAND! Against Violence, Bay Area Legal Aid, and get some referrals and advice from a few attorneys. With that said, even when speaking to attorneys, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Keep in mind that many/most attorneys really, REALLY believe in the system. Many don't understand just how broken Family Court is. They are good people, they are just cogs in the wheel and don't see it. It took me two years to get through to my first attorney, who was otherwise ok, and get him to see that the system is rigged, pay-to-play: Especially in California, where family court serves two masters ("the best interests of the child" and "frequent and continuing contact with both parents..." while they both sound good... can be, and often ARE, mutually exclusive, because unfortunately California has taken the path of deciding that frequent and continuing contact with both parents IS in the best interests of the child, even if there is evidence of abuse). Basically, unless a kid is put in the hospital, they will often award custody or visitation to abusive parents. Family court is years behind the research that shows just how destructive verbal abuse is for children, just how damaging it is for kids to see a parent being abused by the other parent, no matter what kind of abuse you're talking about. They still award visitation and custody to abusers, frequently. It's sad but true. And it's NOT because the judges and attorneys are bad people... it's because they just DON'T get it so they make bad decisions.

    4: Start documenting EVERYTHING. Secretly record interactions with the father (yes, this legal if you are being abused and fearful, but get legal advice to understand why, I can point you in the right direction). Keep ALL records of text messages and emails. 

    5: I still stand behind my advice from my first post: GET OUT, MOVE FAR AWAY, GET HELP. Some might say I'm cynical and will not agree with me. That's ok. But not everyone understands just what it's like to be stuck in a situation with a narcissistic abuser who cares nothing for anyone but himself. I do understand. Be strong, and reach out if you would like to connect.

    As a toiler in the judicial vineyards who has seen too many of these cases, I would second almost everything that Ms.Chicken had to say.  I have no personal knowledge of CoCo County, so I cannot comment on her views of the process there, and moving at this point will not necessarily keep you out of the county's system.  I'll stop there since legal advice is not permitted by this site or by my employer. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Family Law - Parental authority undermined by others

July 2012

I could use a Family Lawyer for advice about my 16 year old son and his (so called) girlfriends Family undermining my lifestyle, beliefs and parental authority for over a year and counting. This other Family is a family of UNSCHOOLERS that pop XANAX, both parents are 20years dry drunks and in AA. They have basically adopted my son as they already have 2 at risk adopted children ( one of them being my son's GF) The conflict between me (single mother) and this other Family has disabled my son to such an extreme point that CPS/SARB/CARC/CHSPE/TRUANCY COURT/SST and a year of therapy at Huckleberry House has done little to help shake this family another words leave me and my son alone. It is very important that my son move on and peruse his own ambitions that appear to be lost due to the addictive qualities/personalities that this other Family extended upon my son. I am in need of free or low cost Legal Advice. Thank you BPN folks, Lisa

I wanted to share a recommendation to the BPN parent who was asking about a Family Law Lawyer. As a single mom dealing with another parent who is undermining my parental authority with our 13 year old daughter, Janice Cho has been thoughtful, warm hearted, a great listener and most importantly a savvy family law attorney who has provided excellent legal support to me during a very difficult time. Janice is accessible, skilled, extremely knowledgeable and quick to respond to all my concerns and questions with kindness, professionalism and sound legal advice. She has made this very challenging time in my life so much more manageable to navigate. I would whole heartedly recommend Janice to you Lisa and to all others who might be looking for an excellent family law lawyer. Due to the sensitive nature of my current on-going situation, I have chosen to not post my name and contact information. I hope things work out well for you Lisa. Best of luck. In Gratitude.

Attorney for Pre-nuptial agreement

May 2010

A relative is looking for reputable bay area attorney to draft a pre-nuptual agreement. Any recommendations? Many thanks.

I usually recommend that couples start with a book called Prenuptial Agreements, from Nolo Press; it also comes with a software program to help the couple draft the initial agreement together based on their discussions. That helps to reduce the cost considerably, since attorneys charge by the hour! My own rate is $175/hour, for instance, and I find that couples who use this book before meeting with me tend to spend only 1-3 hours with me; otherwise, it can be much much more time.

Once the two people have created something that they both like, it's time for each of them to engage an attorney. In California, a prenuptial agreement is not legally valid unless EACH person has an independent attorney review it and sign off.

Finally, let your relative know that it's better to start this process early. The last thing that anyone wants is to be signing the pre-nuptial agreement in the last days before the wedding! Kathleen

You should try Doris Figman in Oakland. She works with a friend of mine. She is pretty reasonable and can be reached at dorisfigman [at] Jon

Family Law Attorney near Walnut Creek

March 2008

Looking for a great recommendation for a Family Law Attorney in the Eastbay. I would prefer the Walnut Creek area, but definitley open to any surrounding areas. Thanks! Susan

I would recommend Larry Rosen. He's a mediator (also an attorney), and helped me through a very tough divorce--so that it wasn't nearly as tough. He's in oakland (other side of the tunnel!) and SF. 415-356-9834. BB

Hi, I'm happy to recommend a friend, Lillian Epstein, who is warm, bright, and empathic, and now in her own family law practice in Berkeley. Lilian Epstein 510-868-3302 lilian[at] Good Luck

East Bay Family Lawyer

Sept 2004

I am looking for an lawyer who specializes in family law, in the East Bay. Mom in need

I know someone who is a psychologist and arbitrator in family law and no doubt knows lawyers in that business. She is a personal friend of mine so I don't feel comfortable putting her contact info on a public forum but if you're interested you can contact me and I'll share her e-mail with you directly. ilona

I would recommend that you speak to Through Understanding (and Larry Rosen). He's a lawyer and mediator. Essentially, he helps couples find a way to divorce in a harmonious way. I saw some really positive posts about him on Berekeley Parent's Network a few months back and then called with a little skepticism. My (soon-to-be-ex) husband and I have now met with him twice and I can't tell you how helpful it's been for us. My husband had an affair a year ago and I though I really don't want much of a relationship at all with him, I don't want to fight either. I mean I want what's best for my kids, which is for us to co-parent and at least respect each other, even if we're apart. Larry has helped us move far away from intense anger. My husband has ''heard'' me for the first time in so many years. And I don't forgive him but I do understand him better now, which is interesting. We've put in place some temporary agreements which we plan to finalize in the months to cmoe, and i just feel better about my life. Larry is pretty talented and generous person. He is a lawyer but not in the traditional sense, i guess. I've actually been really looking foward to posting this note for a long time. Jane ps His web Address is

[editor: additional reviews about Through Understanding

Family Lawyer in Sacramento Area

Jan 2004

This is a bit far afield, but can anyone recommend a good family law attorney in the Sacramento area? anon this time

I can highly recommend a close friend of mine's mother, Camille Hemmer, who has a family law practice in Sacramento. I have not had experience with her professionally, but can extrapolate from my experience with her as a person, that she would be a good choice. Her phone number is 916/920-9504 and address: 797 University Ave. Sacramento, CA 95825.

Try Barbara Bender at Stein & Baydaline. I don't know how much family law she does, but she did our family trusts. She's very straightforward and nothing surprises her - I'd describe her as worldly. If she doesn't do family law, she could at least point you in the right direction for the Sacramento area. Her email address is: bbender [at] Good luck. Sharon

We have used Attorney Hugh Allen who is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is in Rancho Cordova phone 916-852-0222. If you are looking for an attorney to fight for you he is the person to have. We won our case with him which was a real miracle. He is tough but extremely good. I would recommend him very highly. JH

Knowledgable family lawyer who is caring and understanding

Dec 2003

Does anyone have any experiences with David Bunn, who is a family law attorney in Berkeley? I am looking for someone who is obviously knowledgeable, able to negotiate well, yet caring/understanding with his clients. It seems difficult to evaluate good attorneys in this field, and your feedback will be most appreciated. Anon.

Richard Hill, on 5th Street in Berkeley, is the top of the heap when it comes to Trusts and Estates law. He can do the most simplest of trusts to more complicated scenarios of estate protection and division. His pedigree is impeccable, he was the trusts and estates person for Morrison and Forrester (sp?) for many years, he has a lovely personality, and he does not watch the clock, scrupulously. Many attorneys use him, which is really the highest possible endorsement. And,good for you for taking care of business. Richard Hill Fan

I don't know anything about David Bunn. However I used to practice family law and can recommend a good family law attorneys and mediators in the East Bay.
Lawyers: Susan Bender 832-1411 Ann Fallon 925-296-6000 Margaret Gannon 452-1700 Cynthia Podren 849-9008 Dennis Rothhaar 763-5611 Family law Mediators: Eva Herzer 526-5144 Martina Reaves 559-2685 Mediator for intergenerational/cultural family issues: Adele Grunberg 530-9049