How to Find the Best Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County CAWhen you find yourself needing a divorce, you'll need some guidance. There's a lot of legal issues involved with divorce such as alimony, division of property, child support, child custody, etc. Good divorce attorneys & family law attorneys in Sonoma County can address each of these for you.
The following research by The Prime Buyer's Report identifies the best family law attorneys in Sonoma County and issues related to hiring them.
Updated January 28, 2014
|Jeanne M Browne, Attorney|
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1007 B W College Ave #226
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
State Bar #135896
Areas Served: Sonoma County incl. Santa Rosa CA, Windsor CA, Mark West CA, Sebastopol CA, Rohnert ...
Services: family law attorney, mediation, collaborative law, child representative. divorce or ...
|Gregory S Futch Law Office|
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131-A Stony Circle, Ste 520
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
State Bar #114812
Areas Served: Sonoma County incl. Santa Rosa CA, Agua Caliente, Alexander Valley, Annapolis, Asti, ...
Services: family law attorneys for affordable, high-quality legal counsel to middle-class ...
|Gillmeister & Gorak|
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528 A St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
State Bar #136171
Areas Served: Sonoma County incl. Santa Rosa CA, Windsor CA, Rohnert Park CA, Cotati CA, ...
Services: family law attorneys / divorce attorneys for child custody, visitation rights, ...
Family law attorneys in Sonoma County are required simply as lawyers to be licensed by the State Bar, however that is not a measure of ability specifically in family law, so there is no state standard for competency. Likewise, there is no legal requirement for them to have professional liability insurance to reimburse you for a mistake or negligence, however all family law attorneys bearing The Prime Buyer's Report—TOP 10 symbol do have that liability insurance for your protection, in addition to passing all of the other requirements for Prime Buyer's Report—TOP 10 status such as our research phone calls to their previous clients to verify high satisfaction, sufficient length of time in business, clean complaint record, and more.
Family Law Attorneys and Divorce Lawyers in Sonoma County CA
Whether or not the parties in a marriage have children, a divorce (or 'dissolution of marriage') is handled in a branch of the court system known as family law. Often, lawyers who specialize in helping people through divorce are known as family law attorneys, divorce attorneys, or both.
In the world of family law, there are always at least two parties (occasionally more than that): basically husband and wife. Whereas in other areas of civil law the parties are known as plaintiff and defendant, in family law they are referred to as petitioner and respondent. Any family law or divorce attorneys are qualified to represent either party. In fact, there is little functional difference in the designations of petitioner and respondent. Whichever party makes the first request to the court for a dissolution or separation is the petitioner; he or she "petitions the court" and the other party "responds" to the petition.
If there are children under the age of eighteen involved in your divorce, divorce lawyers or family law attorneys in Sonoma County will also be able to negotiate custody, visitation and support issues as a matter of course. Where divorcing parties are not fiercely divided over these issues, it is usually fine to negotiate an agreement and memorialize it through your respective counsel. If however, custody, visitation or support issues are contested, it may be best to be sure you have divorce lawyers or family law attorneys in Sonoma County that specialize in custody disputes.
It is worth noting that in California, dissolutions of marriage are governed by a few rules that are good to familiarize yourself with before you consult with attorneys. California, and several other states, have "community property" laws which govern the way virtually all the money, property and objects that accumulate during a marriage will be divided in the event of divorce. The community property laws do not affect matters of custody or visitation if your dissolution involves minor children. Community property is a complicated subject, and your attorney will be able to explain how it will apply to your individual case.
California is also known as a "no-fault" divorce state. That means any party can request a divorce and need not state any reason other than the catch-all: irreconcilable differences. Most jurisdictions strongly favor this type of policy for divorcing parties, because it avoids unpleasant accusations which must then be argued and/or proven in front of a tribunal. This means that many allegations which divorcing spouses might find relevant, if not extremely vexing, and which may or may not be true, are irrelevant. Good divorce attorneys in Sonoma County can explain how this will work in your individual case.
Finally, in California, a unique statute (Family Code Section 2033) allows either party in a divorce to retain counsel, irrespective of that party's ability to pay a retainer or fees. If you are demonstrably unable to produce the requisite funds to retain counsel, a family law or divorce attorney may agree to accept a partial interest in your house instead. These agreements are liens against an asset that many divorcing people have, a house, condo or other ownership of land. These liens are called family law attorney's real property liens, or FLARPL. An encumbrance (debt) for this purpose attaches only to the encumbering party's interest in the real property.
Some Family Law Attorneys in Sonoma County Are Much Better than Others
The Prime Buyer's Report lists these divorce lawyers in Sonoma County CA: Gregory S Futch Law Office, Gillmeister & Gorak, Jeanne M Browne, Attorney, Tavis Firm, Andrea Ponticiello Law Office, Family Law Center, Maureen A Faria Law Offices, Carla Boyd-Terre Law Offices, Family Mediation Center, Conner Lawrence Rodney. Other family law attorneys in Sonoma, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Santa Rosa CA who might still be in business include: .
Know What You're Looking For From Divorce Lawyers
Before you can decide if particular Sonoma County divorce lawyers are right for you, it's best to have a clear idea of exactly what you're looking for. In terms of dissolution of marriage actions, is yours a relatively big case? That is: Was your marriage long term? Is either party a high earner? Are there significant assets or very young children? Or was it short term, perhaps no minor children are involved, or the assets are few. Are you looking for a one-on-one relationship with your divorce attorney, or is a large firm team-strategy better for you? Do you want a family law attorney that will be able to take your case to trial, if need arises? Many divorce attorneys specialize in trials. They often take cases from other family law attorneys who do not. Don't be alarmed if your attorney brings in an associate for trial assistance after having handled your case from the beginning. Would you prefer an attorney who specializes in mediation or collaborative law? Every case is unique, but if you have a general idea of what services you're seeking from divorce lawyers, it will make it easier for you to narrow your search.
Much of the information you need is available on the Internet, including definitions of terms, an attorney's record with the Court and Bar Association, and much, much more. See the article "Consumer Resources for Family Law or Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County."
• Use the list of questions below to help narrow your search.
• How long have the divorce attorneys been practicing family law?
• How long have the family lawyers been practicing in their specialty?
• How much are the retainer fee for the divorce law firms?
• What is the hourly rate for the divorce attorneys?
• What are the divorce attorneys' case loads like?
• How many people from the law firms will work on a divorce case like yours (associate attorneys, paralegals, investigators, legal assistants, secretaries, etc)?
• Will the lawyers take a family law attorney's real property lien (FLARPL) in lieu of fees?
(See the article "How to Find the Best Divorce Attorney in Sonoma County" above, for an explanation of FLARPL.)
It's very important that you work with a lawyer that you can trust and who makes you feel comfortable. Consider your first impression, beginning with the first phone call. Did you get a person, or an answering service? Was your initial impression that you were dealing with competent professionals? Did you feel respected and accommodated by the attorneys or law firms? If you were offered a consultation, did you feel at ease with the attorney? Did you feel he or she had confidence in your case? Were you able to speak freely with the divorce lawyer? Probably one or two names will rise to the top of your list after you have considered these things.
First Impression of a Good Divorce Lawyer
Good divorce lawyers will listen carefully to what you're saying and will ask relevant questions. If family law attorneys seem to only want to get you in the door, or tries to make you sign a retainer agreement without hearing something about your case, choose someone else. You are not obligated to hire the first divorce attorney you talk to.
When you've selected what seems to be the most suitable legal representation for you, make sure you understand the terms of your agreement with the law firm. Check for any consumer complaints from the Better Business Bureau, and check to see if there are legitimate complaints lodged with the State and Local chapters of the Bar Association.
Once you have retained your attorney, keep in contact with him or her, but be aware that your case is rarely the only priority in the office. Throughout your case, you will surely have questions for your divorce attorney. Write them down and try to consolidate your questioning. That is, instead of calling every time you have a question for your lawyer, call once a week with all your questions ready. This will also save you money in legal fees.
Dealing with Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Santa Rosa
Have a Plan Before Talking to Divorce Attorneys.
When you find yourself in the market for a divorce lawyer, it's a good idea to know what it is you hope your attorney can do for you. Know what you hope to accomplish, and get comfortable with stating your requests and hopes. Ask yourself if you need a big team of lawyers, with a phalanx of attorneys and support staff, or if you really need a partner to work closely with you and devote a significant portion of his or her time to you and your case alone. Choosing between the big law firm experience and a small law firm or solo practitioner is a major first step. Know the advantages and disadvantages of each and plan accordingly.
Write Down the Facts Before Meeting with Sonoma County Lawyers.
Think through your divorce case. It is important to understand that divorce lawyers are trained to understand legal disputes dispassionately. This does not mean they don't care about you or your case. To the contrary, many lawyers are dedicated to righting wrongs and finding equitable solutions to problems. It does mean, however, that your emotions are secondary to their job. You are hiring a divorce attorney to get results. Help them do their job by providing clear, factual, chronological information.
Remember to communicate your desires clearly. Your goals, dates of marriage and of separation, names and ages of any minor children, basic information about your financial situation and any other documents you think might be relevant to your case are great to bring with you when you are interviewing potential separation or divorce attorneys, and in your first meeting with any lawyers that you retain. Having these pertinent details at the ready from the start can help you and your divorce attorney immeasurably in the first stages of your case.
Get Opinions From Several Law Firms in Sonoma County.
If you can, try to get a few opinions about the viability or possible outcomes of your divorce case. One divorce attorney may feel strongly that a matter is well-settled law, and there is nothing to be done. Do not let this deter you from contacting another, or several other, lawyers to get their opinions. Another family law attorney may feel the law is changing, or that your case fits an exception the other lawyers didn't see or didn't know about.
It's Called "The Practice of Law" for a Reason.
Remember, the law is always changing. There is seldom a single answer to any question or legal dispute, and this inlcudes divorce settlements and child custody cases. Attorneys and counselors at law are working with this ever-changing material, and they are imperfect human beings. This reality means that divorce law is truly practice and not art or mastery.
Choose Experienced Divorce Attorneys.
This may not mean hiring the oldest divorce lawyer you can find. In fact, it may mean hiring that newly minted family attorney, just setting up shop. You might feel that by hiring an old hand you are getting the most experienced and reputable advocate that a retainer affords. But some divorce lawyers may have gotten calcified, stuck in a rut, or be less responsive to your concerns and questions. Due to the ever-changing nature of the law, that bright young divorce lawyer may have the most cutting edge information, may know about the latest trends in a particular area of law. He or she may also have some experience in the newest and best information acquired through an internship during law school. Internships in law school are called clerkships generally, and are a law student's opportunity to practice law with a safety net. Thus, a newly licensed divorce attorney may actually have more experience than you realize.
These generalizations are just that: generalizations. There are exceptions to every rule. Use your judgment, and choose the legal advocate with the experience you need.
Ask the Lawyers Questions About Possible Outcomes.
Knowing what to expect is always the best way to feel comfortable. Be sure to announce what you'd like to see, and be prepared for the range of responses. There is never a guaranteed outcome in a legal dispute: never. In fact, a divorce attorney who promises any particular result is probably acting beyond his or her ethical responsibilities. Ideally, your attorney can describe some possibilities. For instance, if you want to be able to buy out your spouse from an existing mortgage on your house, your attorney ought to be able to tell you if that is a realistic possibility. If you want to have primary custody of your children, your attorney ought to be able to tell you if the court is likely to be sympathetic to your wish. Your attorney can probably explain what, if any, child support or spousal support you may have to pay or are likely to be entitled to.
Know Your Rights When Working With Good Lawyers in Sonoma County.
Although it can be difficult to know whether or not an attorney has acted in bad faith, or committed malpractice, there are resources available if you feel a lawyer has acted unethically. Reference the California State Bar Association Web site to learn more. (See our article, "Key Consumer Resources for Family Law and Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County.")