Why choose a Certified Family Law Specialist?

Choosing your lawyer in a divorce case can be one of the most important decisions you ever make. You want someone who is experienced, intelligent, knowledgeable, and well-respected by the bench and bar. You might have noticed that some family lawyers advertise themselves as “Certified Family Law Specialists.” What are Certified Family Law Specialists and why should you consider hiring one?

In California, a Certified Family Law Specialist is a family law attorney who has been certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization as an expert in Family Law. In order to become a Certified Family Law Specialist, an attorney needs to demonstrate the following:

  1. Experience: In order to become a Certified Family Law Specialist, an attorney must demonstrate that for the five years immediately preceding their application, that they have practiced family law for at least 25% of the time in each of those five years. Further, they must show adequate experience in 4 or the five following areas:
    1. Family Law Evidentiary Hearings/Trials that include the live testimony of witnesses (minimum of 5 such hearings/trials, each of at least three hours in length)
    2. Family Law Request For Order/Motion Hearings (minimum of 20)
    3. Family Law Stipulated Temporary Orders (minimum of 30)
    4. Marital Settlement Agreements and/or Family Law Stipulated Judgments (minimum of 30)
    5. Family Law Appellate Practice (Three briefs that led to the issuance of an opinion by the Court of Appeal.)
  1. Education: Each applicant must take, at a minimum, 45 hours of coursework in all areas of family law which include, but are not limited to:
    1. Child custody
    2. Child support
    3. Spousal support
    4. Division of community property/confirmation of separate property
    5. Tax issues incident to dissolution of marriage
    6. Parentage cases
    7. Mediation/Negotiation of family law disputes
    8. Psychological and counseling aspects of divorce
    9. Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
  1. Proficiency: Each applicant must take and pass an examination to be certified. It is a rigorous examination of approximately 8 hours in length. The pass rate is somewhere between 65%-70%. The examination is offered only once every two years. Many attorneys liken this to a second bar exam.
  2. Reputation: Each applicant must provide referrals to fellow attorney and judges in the community that can vouch for the applicant’s legal ability, knowledge, temperament, and ethics.

When you hire a certified family law specialist you can be confident that your attorney has the knowledge, experience, and reputation to provide you with excellent counsel during an otherwise difficult situation.

Our staff has two Certified Family Law Specialists, including Nancy Bickford, and a third attorney that has recently passed the certification exam and is in the middle of the application process. To learn more about the certification process, visit the State Bar’s website.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding hiring a Certified Family Law Specialist. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.


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