As of this writing, I have been a practicing family lawyer for nearly thirty years, first as an advocate, and now as a private judge. I am a Certified Family Law Specialist in the State of California, and have handled every type of family law case, concentrating on complex family law litigation. I know the courts as well as anyone, and am acutely aware of the ways in which the system daily fails families.
I am divorced myself, and my life partner is also a family lawyer who shares my philosophy.
My divorce was amicable, but no less painful than anyone else’s. When I decided to divorce my husband of 19 years, we both had seen enough of how it can destroy the most well-intentioned of people. We agreed that we would keep our case out of court, and keep control of it ourselves. That meant no litigation, no game playing, and all cards on the table. It was hard, but it paid off. We can now see each other at family functions without pain, and I actually attended my ex-husband’s wedding. We are still in touch and I can talk to his wife with perfect equanimity.
I believe there must be a better way to dissolve marriages than we currently have. Still, I felt an obligation to share what I have learned about managing the current system, even as I lobby for a new one. I consider my books a parting gift. I wouldn’t know as much about what litigation can do to people if I hadn’t been so good at it myself for so many years.
I no longer act as an advocate, limiting my practice to private judging. I spend hundreds of hours every year working toward legal reform, and teaching both litigants and lawyers how to navigate the system in a more humane way. I will no longer leave any parts of my body or anyone else’s on the courtroom floor. For more information on private judging, visit privatefamilylawjudge.com.
In 1996, about the time I published my first book, I discovered “unbundling” or, as it is often now called, limited scope representation, and my life changed forever. Instead of decrying the failings of the legal system I navigated so successfully, I was introduced to a new and innovative way to make it work better for families. Promoting, teaching, and perfecting limited scope representation, both in California and nationally, has been my labor of love ever since.
I continue to write. The second edition of How to Avoid the Divorce from Hell was published in 2006. A Client’s Guide to Limited Legal Services was published in the spring of 1997, and a substantially revised edition was published in 2006 under the name Unbundling Your Divorce: How to Find a Lawyer to Help You Help Yourself. Written in plain English, it explains how people can retain control of their divorce and keep their legal fees low by only using a lawyer in a very limited way, while doing much of the work themselves. It includes questionnaires to help you decide if you are a good candidate for self representation. .
I've just published an e-book on divorce poetry, Divorce Chronicles. It may sound strange that a divorce lawyer and judge would write poetry, but divorce is one of the most emotionally challenging events of anyone’s life, and unaccountably, I couldn’t find a book of poetry about it when I needed one. People need to express their feelings in the process, and if they don’t have the words themselves, someone else should provide them. Since I’ve been writing poetry all my life, I decided to write it myself.
And because I think it is important to pass on our wisdom and experience and train the next generation of lawyers how to do it right, with respect for ourselves, our clients and our profession, I've published an e-book called Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned After Law School.
I continue to write, teach and lobby for legal reform, and donate much of my time to efforts to improve the functioning of the family law system across the country. Anyone wanting more detail on how I feel about the subject should check out my testimony on legal reform.
I live in Danville, California, located in a lovely valley east of San Francisco. My partner, Lee, shares my life, our courtroom, a strong commitment to do whatever we can do leave the legal system better than we found it, and our Westie, Bobby.
I don’t think credentials and degrees are as important as life experience, wisdom and insight, but if you’re interested, here are my credentials.