How to Find the Best Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County CA
Dealing with divorce, adoptions, prenuptial agreements, child custody, alimony, and other matters can be emotional and difficult. You shouldn't go it alone. Instead, you'll want a qualified Sonoma County family law attorney or divorce lawyer to help you make the best decisions and get the most favorable outcome for all parties involved.
Family law attorneys in Sonoma County and divorce lawyers in Santa Rosa CA bearing The Prime Buyer's Report Top Ten symbol are those local divorce lawyers and family law firms proven by our independent research to have passed the Top Ten requirements for ability and value. In addition, our staff has called previous clients to verify high satisfaction with them for family law cases in Sonoma County CA, including for division of property, child support, child custody and visitation, alimony, divorce mediation services and more.
Read on for more information about choosing the right divorce attorneys or family law representatives for you in Sonoma County or your area.
Updated April 14, 2020
How to Find the Best Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County CA
The state of California requires divorce and family law attorneys in Sonoma County CA to be licensed by the State Bar simply as practicing lawyers, not in the specialty of divorce and family law specifically and its involvment in divorce, pre-nup agreements, child support, child visitation and child custody issues, alimony and spousal support, division of assets, etc.
So a state bar license is no guarantee that any particular family law attorney or divorce lawyer in Sonoma County CA is experienced in family law or divorce law, is providing real value, or satisfying clients.
This makes it significant that all family law attorneys in Sonoma County CA that bear The Prime Buyer's Report Top Ten symbol have been cleared by our research staff as passing all the requirements for Prime Buyer's Report Top Ten status, such as survey phone calls to previous clients to verify high satisfaction with their divorce attorneys or family law services, good complaint record, verified liability insurance, sufficient length of time in business, best business practices, and more.
Finding the Best 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 (and occasionally more): the spouses. 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 dissolution 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.
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 Santa Rosa CA, Family Law Center Windsor CA, Andrea Ponticiello Law Office Santa Rosa CA, Tavis Firm Santa Rosa CA, Carla Boyd-Terre Law Offices Santa Rosa CA, Maureen A Faria Law Offices Santa Rosa CA, Family Mediation Center Santa Rosa CA, Jeanne M Browne, Attorney Santa Rosa CA, Kornblum, Cochran, Erickson & Harbison LLP Santa Rosa CA.
Other family law attorneys in Santa Rosa CA that might still be in business include: Conner Lawrence Rodney Santa Rosa CA.
How to Find the Best Divorce or Family Law Attorney in Sonoma County
Know What You're Looking For When Hiring Divorce Lawyers in Sonoma County CA
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? The best way to know this is to recognize whether your marriage was long term. Longer marriages tend to be bigger cases.
- Is either party a high earner?
- Are there significant assets or very young children?
- Was the marriage short term, with no minor children are involved, and few shared assets?
- 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 local family law attorney that will be able to take your case to trial if the 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 a local divorce attorney in Sonoma County 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 your divorce lawyers, it will make it easier for you to narrow your search and get the services that are right for you and your family.
Much of the information you need is available on the internet, including definitions of terms, divorce attorneys' records with the Court and Bar Association, and much more. See the article Consumer Resources for Family Law or Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County for more helpful tips.
Questions to Ask Local Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in Sonoma County CA
Use the list of questions below to help narrow your search for the best local family law and divorce law firms in Santa Rosa CA and your area.
- How long have the divorce attorneys been practicing family law in Sonoma County?
- How much are the retainer fees for the local divorce law firms and family law firms?
- What hourly rate do the Sonoma County divorce attorneys and family law lawyers charge?
- What are the divorce attorneys' case loads like? Will you be one of a few clients, or are they juggling a large load of clients?
- How many people from the Sonoma County law firms will work on a divorce case like yours (associate attorneys, paralegals, investigators, legal assistants, secretaries, etc)?
- Who will be the principal on your case? Will that family law attorney be the one you'll be dealing with most often, or will they pass your case off to assistants? If so, are the fees less for dealing with assistants and paralegals, or will you still be paying for the principal lawyer's time?
- Will the divorce 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.)
Divorces can be stressful. For that reason, it's very important that you work with a family law attorney that you can trust and who makes you feel comfortable.
- Consider your first impression, beginning with the first phone call. Did you reach 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 family law attorneys or divorce 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 Sonoma County divorce lawyers you spoke with?
It's likely that one or two names will rise to the top of your list after you have talked with Sonoma County family law and divorce attorneys and considered the above questions.
First Impressions of Good Divorce Lawyers in Sonoma County CA
Good divorce lawyers should listen carefully to what you're saying and ask relevant questions. If the Sonoma County family law attorneys you speak with seem only to want to get you in the door, or try to make you sign a retainer agreement without hearing about your case, choose someone else.
You are not obligated to hire the first local 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 Sonoma County law firm. Check for any consumer complaints with 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 family law attorney, keep in contact with them and return their calls immediately to keep your case moving forward. However, remember that your case is rarely the only priority in the office. Throughout your case, you will have questions for your divorce attorney. Write them down and try to consolidate your questioning. Instead of calling every time you have a question for your lawyer, call once a week with all of your questions. This will also save you money in legal fees.
Dealing with Divorce Attorneys in Santa Rosa
Have a Plan Before Talking to Local Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County CA
If you need a divorce lawyer in Sonoma County or your area, start by thinking about what it is you want your attorney to do for you. Know what you hope to accomplish, and write down your requests and expectations. Think about whether you need a big team of lawyers or if you want a single divorce attorney to work closely with you and devote their time to you and your case.
Write Down the Facts Before Meeting with Sonoma County Divorce Lawyers
Think through your divorce case. It may help to write down the specifics, including why you want a divorce and reasons for the dissolution of your marriage. If you have assets or children, think about what you see as a fair outcome for splitting the household. While you may not get those exact outcomes, it can be helpful in discussing with your divorce lawyer what you expect or could be happy with.
Remember to communicate 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.
Choose Experienced Family Lawyers and Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County
While the practice of law is a practice, you still owe it to yourself to find an experienced attorney or lawyer that can best represent your position in your divorce or family law case. This might not mean hiring the divorce lawyer that's been in business the longest, but instead finding a local family law attorney who can demonstrate a strong track record of success in family law cases for many clients. In particular, look for Sonoma County legal experts that have experience dealing with cases similar to yours.
Ask the Divorce Lawyers About Possible Outcomes
Knowing what to expect is always the best way to feel comfortable, and that's true when hiring Sonoma County divorce attorneys or family law lawyers. Be sure to explain what you'd like to see, and be prepared for the range of responses.
There is never a guaranteed outcome in a legal dispute. In fact, any divorce attorney who promises a particular result is probably acting beyond their ethical responsibilities. Ideally, your attorney can describe some possibilities. For instance, if you want to be able to buy out the existing mortgage on your home, your attorney ought to be able to tell you whether 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 wishes.
Your attorney can also probably explain what, if any, child support or spousal support you may have to pay or are likely to be entitled to based on your unique position.
Resources About Family Lawyers or Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County CA
Regulatory Bodies & Trade Associations Related to Divorce Lawyers in Sonoma County CA
BBB Better Business Bureau www.bbb.com
The State bar of California www.calbar.ca.gov
Collaborative Practice California www.cpcal.orgACFTL American College of Family Trial Lawyers www.acftl.com
AFCC Association of Family and Conciliation Courts www.afccnet.org
AAML American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers www.aaml.org
ISFL International Society of Family Law www.isflhome.org
FLA Family Law Association www.familylawassociation.org
NAFLA National Academy of Family Law Attorneys www.nafla.net
NLA National Lawyers Association www.nla.org
NLG National Lawyers Guild www.nlg.org
Media Related to Divorce Lawyers in Sonoma County CA
Attorney At Law Magazine www.attorneyatlawmagazine.com
ABA Journal - The Lawyer's Magazine www.abajournal.com
Family Lawyer Magazine www.familylawyermagazine.com
The Prime Buyer's Report provides information for the Top Ten Divorce Lawyers and Family Law Attorneys in Sonoma County CA within the following zip codes:
95403, 95421, 94953, 95407, 95439, 95408, 95476, 95492, 95452, 94923, 95431, 94999, 95472, 95406, 94972, 95409, 94922, 95433, 94954, 95450, 95402, 95480, 95448, 95487, 94952, 95430, 94951, 95436, 95471, 95405, 95446, 95497, 95425, 94927, 95465, 94931, 94975, 95404, 95444, 95486, 95412, 95419, 95462, 94928, 94955, 95401, 95442, 95473, 95441 and 95416
The Prime Buyer's Report provides information for the Top Ten Family Lawyers and Divorce Attorneys in Sonoma County CA within the following cities:
Agua Caliente, Alexander Valley, Annapolis, Asti, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Cazadero, Cloverdale, Cotati, Fallon, Forestville, Fort Ross, Freestone, Fulton, Geyserville, Glen Ellen, Graton, Guerneville, Guernewood, Healdsburg, Jenner, Kenwood, Lakeville, Larkfield, Monte Rio, Occidental, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Roseland, Russian River, Russian River Mdws, Salmon Creek, Santa Rosa, Schellville, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Stewarts Point Rancheria, The Geysers, Valley Ford, Windsor, Boyes Hot Springs, Camp Meeker, Duncans Mills, El Verano, Eldridge, Fetters Hot Springs, Rio Nido, Sheridan, The Sea Ranch, Villa Grande, Vineburg, Lytton, Mark West, Temelec and Two Rock