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Find CA Certified Specialist in Family Law

California Bar Board of Legal Specialization

The search to find a family law attorney in California can be a daunting task. At Lawyer Legion, we make that task easier by recognizing board-certified attorneys (also known as "certified specialist") in our online directory.

We understand the importance of specialty certification programs in family law.  These programs provide a powerful tool when the public begins their search for a divorce, matrimonial or family law attorney in California.

In California, the board certification for family law is awarded by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization ("CBLS"). Only attorneys board certified in family law can advertise or identify themselves as "certified specialists" or "board certified" in California for that field.

A certified family law specialist has experience performing the following types of legal matters:

  • Preparing marital settlement agreements and pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements;
  • Identifying tax issues which may affect the distribution of marital property and the payment of child, spousal or family support;
  • Dealing with complex legal issues involving community property laws;
  • Negotiating or mediating the difficult and emotional issues relating to legal separation dissolution of marriage and child custody;
  • Representing clients who need restraining orders for domestic violence or must defend against such a petition;
  • Handling matters relating to the modification of child custody, spousal support or child support; or
  • Using a collaborative process enabling clients to resolve their issues without court intervention.

The Standards for Certification in Family Law

The Rules Governing the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists govern the program requirements and should be read in conjunction with the standards for certification in Family Law.

Among other requirements, the attorneys must pass the legal specialist examination, demonstrate substantial involvement in family law, and complete continuing education requirements in the specialty area.

Attorneys who are certified in Family Law in California must apply for re-certification every five years after the initial certification date.

Definition of Family Law under California's Board Certification Program

The California Standards for Certification in Family Law defines family law as the practice of law dealing with all aspects of the California Family Code and including, but not limited to, the following:

  • mediation and/or negotiation of family law disputes;
  • family law writ and appellate practice;
  • taxation issues incident to family law practice;
  • psychological and counseling aspects of family law;
  • post-marital agreements;
  • non-marital domestic relationships;
  • contempt;
  • public enforcement of child support;
  • child custody in any forum; and
  • enforcement proceedings.

California's Requirements for Certification in Family Law

The attorney must have five years of experience and demonstrate substantial involvement in the practice of family law. The attorney must also demonstrate actual experience in each of the following areas:

  • Dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or nullity of marriage litigation;
  • Spousal support;
  • Division of community property;
  • Confirmation of separate property;
  • Taxation issues incident to dissolution of marriage;
  • Contempt and/or enforcement proceedings;
  • Modification of support;
  • Restraining orders/domestic violence proceedings;
  • Child support;
  • Custody of children;
  • Psychological and counseling aspects of dissolution of marriage; and
  • Mediation and/or negotiation of family law disputes.

The attorney can often make a prima facie showing of substantial involvement in the area of family law by demonstrating completion of at least four of the following five categories:

  • Principal counsel and principal author of the briefs in three California family law appeals in which an opinion was filed;
  • Principal counsel in a minimum of negotiated family law judgments or negotiated marital settlement agreements;
  • Principal counsel in certain types of contested family law hearings submitted to a court for a decision;
  • Principal counsel in stipulated temporary family law orders; or
  • Principal counsel in five hearings or trials under the California Family Code which are within certain definitions of family law and which are three hours or more in length and involve testimony of witnesses; or other alternative task and experience which the advisory commission deems to substantially comply with the foregoing task and experience requirement, including but not limited to:
    • Successful completion of a recognized trial advocacy program that conforms to guidelines developed by the Family Law Advisory Commission;
    • Sitting as pro tem judge or arbitrator in contested hearings or trials under the California Family Code or within a certain definition of family law; or
    • Evidentiary hearings or trials in other practice areas.

Continuing Educational Requirements for Certification in Family Law

Within certain time limits, the attorney must show that he or she has completed not less than 45 hours of educational activities specifically approved for family law as follows:

  • Not less than nine (9) hours in the areas of dissolution of marriage, contempt and/or enforcement, or mediation and/or negotiation of family law disputes;
  • Not less than six (6) hours in the area of custody of children;
  • Not less than nine (9) hours in the areas of child support, spousal support, or modification of support;
  • Not less than twelve (12) hours in the areas of division of community property, confirmation of separate property, or taxation issues incident to the dissolution of marriage;
  • Not less than six (6) hours in the area of psychological and counseling aspects of dissolution of marriage; and
  • Not more than (3) three hours in the following areas:
    • Writs and appeals from the dissolution of marriage, legal separation or nullity of marriage litigation;
    • Problems of the non-marital family;
    • Adoption litigation;
    • Problems of domestic violence;
    • Paternity litigation;
    • Guardianships of the person or children;
    • Proceedings to free a minor from the custody and control of parent(s); and
    • Law office management of a family law practice.

Contact Information

California Board of Legal Specialization - Family Law
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone 415-538-2120

Additional Resources

Association of Certified Family Law Specialists - The ACFLS is a non-profit organization comprised of more than 550 divorce and family law attorneys in California. The only requirement to become a member of the ACFLS is that the attorney is designated as a certified specialist in Family Law by the CBLS, pays the required dues and submits an application. The ACFLS has 550 plus members with chapters for family law attorneys in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and a provisional chapter in Orange County, California.

Family Law Trial Advocacy - The National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC) was accredited by the California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) to offer certification in certain areas of law including family law trial advocacy. Many attorneys in California are certified as a specialist by both the CBLS for family law and the NBLSC for family law trial advocacy.

This article was last updated on November 22, 2019.