Family Law Section

News from the Section

Message from the Editor of the May 2015 eNews

FlexCom has historically kept its members apprised of legislative changes taking place in Sacramento. Whether in social media, through the Family Law News or within the text of the eNews, members should not feel like they have to go too far to gather additional information about statewide bills impacting the practice of family law. Yet, one thing we provide only sporadically is a perspective into the role FlexCom plays in shaping this legislation.  That changes with this issue of the eNews.

David Lederman, FlexCom legislation chair, provides a funny, yet entirely realistic, look at the work being done this year by he and his team. They culled through every piece of legislation introduced in 2015. Yes, all 2346 bills! From this list, they pulled out all the bills relevant to the practice of family law and spearheaded review. With the help of his diligent, hard-working team, David has kept our legislative advocacy on track. And, he even found time to catch a few hours of sleep per night in the process.

Please review the Family Law Section’s Bill Matrix to see which legislation is being tracked. And, as always, I welcome and encourage feedback about the eNews at Thank you and enjoy reading.

-- Andrew Cain

On Sofia Vergara, Nick Loeb, and the Perils of Assisted Reproduction

By Deborah H. Wald *

The airwaves, and my email inbox, have been full recently with news and commentary on the very public battle raging between Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb over two embryos the ex-couple have in frozen storage. These embryos are just two of an estimated 600,000 embryos currently cryopreserved and stored in fertility clinics throughout the United States -- and similar legal issues to those raised by this high profile dispute currently are being argued in courtrooms around the country.

The issues presented by this dispute include:

  • Should our courts treat an embryo as property or as a child? If an embryo is property, then when a couple breaks up or dissolves their marriage it can be assigned to one person or the other in the same manner as artwork or a piano or any other valued item of property. But if it is a child, a completely different set of rules applies.

  • If an embryo is treated as property by the courts, and assigned at separation to one or the other person who participated in creating the embryo, does this have any impact on who the parent(s) will be if that embryo ultimately becomes a child? Should it?

  • If the parties signed agreements about disposition of the embryos before the embryos were created, what role should those agreements have in answering these questions? Are medical consent forms signed in fertility clinics, many of which include directives regarding disposition of the embryos, equivalent to negotiated agreements entered into between the parties with assistance of legal counsel?

  • Can a person who participates in creating an embryo, with the explicit intention of being a parent, later waive his or her parental rights to allow just one of the genetic parents to go forward with gestating the child -- themselves, or with assistance of a surrogate -- and assuming sole parental rights and responsibilities? If so, what are the implications for California’s longstanding public policy against allowing one parent to voluntarily agree to termination of his or her parental rights in favor of the other parent?

These are complex issues, which touch on politics and religion and other strongly held personal beliefs. Sadly, many people participating in assisted reproduction do not take the time to carefully think through and address these issues until it is too late. By the time one gets to where Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb are now, no solution is possible that does not offend the morality of one party or the other.

Assisted reproduction is an area where, truly, prevention is the best cure. Family law attorneys -- and people in complementary professions -- will do well to advise all clients utilizing assisted reproduction to first seek the advice of experienced counsel to assist them in crafting detailed and personalized assisted reproduction agreements, the negotiation of which will unearth fundamental disagreements such as the ones being aired so publically right now, and which will allow the parties either to resolve those disagreements or turn away from the joint venture of assisted reproduction before it is too late.

* In addition to being a member of the Family Law Executive Committee (FLEXCOM), Deborah Wald also is a Fellow in both the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) and the Academy of California Family Formation Lawyers (ACFFL). Her article “The Family Lawyer’s Guide to Assisted Reproduction Law” will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Family Law News. Back

Guardians at the Gate: A Dramatic Intro to FlexCom Legislation

By David M. Lederman, FLEXCOM Legislation Chair

Setting: A virtual medieval fort made of stone (Think Game of Thrones).

“Thum... thum... thum...”

Young Lawyer (YL): Shhhhh. “Do you hear that?”

“THUM... THUM... THUM...”

YL: “It’s getting louder.”

DML: “It will keep getting louder. Look over the ramparts.”

YL: “Holy Cow! There are so many. It looks like thousands of them... What are they? I’m scared!”

DML: “It is legislation season. What you see on the horizon are all of bills produced during a Sacramento Legislation Session. There are thousands of them.”

YL: “Thousands of them? AHHHHHHH! What do I do? What impacts me?”

DML: “Fear not little one. Look closer on the ramparts. Do you see those shadows in the distance? Those shadows are people. They are the Guardians at the Gate. These attorneys, scared by months of warfare are on the lookout for all bills that impact family law. They are spotters: Identifying those bills that fall within our practice area of family law. Once identified, a bill is screened. If it is worthy (i.e. within family law purview), it is assigned to one of the 17 Family Law Executive Committee (FLEXCOM) voting members or 8 advisors to review/ research/ analyze and develop an opinion. Once the member completes his or her analysis, it is posted for the rest of the committee to review. Opinions are sought from our regional and specialty area standing committees and their very valuable input is posted for committee review. Once this Greater Legislation Team has reviewed the member analysis the group will meet to discuss and argue about the bill. After discussion the committee votes to take a position on the bill. Through this process, we support bills that we deem to enhance the practice of family law system and oppose those that do not. “We are the Guardians at the Gate.”

YL: “Who are these Guardians?”

DML: “Look to the far right. See the woman with binoculars?”

YL: “Yes.”

DML: “That is Kendall Evans, AKA Monday. Looking further down the horizon you can see Dorie Rogers. She is known as Midweek or Tuesday and Wednesday.A little further down off in the distance, you can see Fariba Soroosh. She’s known as Thursday. And then there is me. I am Sweep. On our assigned days we review all of the new and amended legislation coming out of Sacramento -- every day of the legislative session. But that’s not all. If you peer a little further you can see Vanessa Kirker-Wright, she’s The Boss. Next to her is Dianne Fetzer. She is The Brain. These experienced grizzled legislation warriors help keep the Legislation Team Core from steering off course. They are The Legislation Advisors. Together all of these individuals, the Legislation Team Core and The Advisors, form the Guardians.”

YL: “That’s awesome. I want to join, but I am a new family law lawyer – not yet so war tested. How can I become a Guardian?”

DML: “YL, I knew there was something I liked about you. It’s easy.  You need to take the first step and get involved. Join a standing committee. Even at your tender years, you too can comment on legislation through your standing committee and start to make your imprint on the practice of family law. Take a look at the back of the Family Law New or check out the California bar association family law website and contact the standing committee chair nearest you.”

Attorney Tip of the Month

At all hearings, trials, mediations, settlement conferences, etc., have a binder of all pleadings and correspondence being used at that hearing with multiple copies of each that can be pulled out and used at any time. A well indexed binder saves time and creates a smoother process.

Know Your Legal Rights – Podcasts Now Available

The Family Law Section is a sponsor of the radio program “Know Your Legal Rights” hosted in the Bay Area by San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Chuck Finney. Mr. Finney welcomes attorneys and other professionals to talk about hot legal topics on a weekly basis. He routinely hosts members of FlexCom and other family law attorneys to educate the public on burgeoning issues important to our practice. FlexCom thanks Mr. Finney for providing our Section with this forum over the years.

If you are interested in listening to prior broadcasts focused on family law issues, the State Bar website now has a list that dates all the way back to when the Section first started sponsoring the program. Visit the Family Law Section page for additional details. For an entire list of podcasts hosted by Mr. Finney, please see HERE.


The Family Law Section Gears Up for the Final Word on Same Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court is poised to issue its opinion on the question of whether the Constitution protects the rights of same sex couples to marry. Regardless of how the decision comes out, the landscape of family law will be forever changed. In anticipation of the opinion, the Family Law Section has put together a webinar to discuss the outcome and what it means for practitioners.

Mary Bonauto, one of the attorneys that argued the case before the United State Supreme Court, and Shannon Minter, who argued California’s cases before our Supreme Court, have graciously agreed to provide their perspectives to all of our Section members. The panel will be moderated by FlexCom member Deborah Wald. The webinar will be broadcast on July 8 at 12 noon. Registration information and additional details will be available soon. You can REGISTER NOW!

The amazing FlexCom education team has put together a dynamic webinar calendar for the remainder of 2015. The team aims for hosting two webinars per month. They usually take place on the first and third Thursday at noon. Thanks to the team’s diligence, all FlexCom slots for webinars from June through December are filled!  Most webinars are populated into the online InReach catalog 3-4 weeks before their air date. Please check the Inreach catalog periodically for updates, as well as to peruse the library of approximately 145 webinars and podcast. The family law page on InReach can be accessed HERE.

A brief summary of some of the upcoming webinars is as follows:

  • June 17, 2015: Cigars and Seafood Don’t Mix -- Allocating Separate and Community Interests in a Business.  Faculty -- Peter M. Walzer, CFLS and Jennie Riemer, Esq. REGISTER ONLINE.
  • July 2, 2015: Domestic Violence Basics: From Incident to Evidence. Faculty -- Steven G. Hittleman, CFLS. REGISTER ONLINE.
  • July 16, 2015: Family Expense Tracing. Faculty -- Steven Wagner, CFLS. SAVE THE DATE.

Webinar: Cigars and Seafood Don't Mix -- Allocating the Separate and Community Interests in Business Interests Using the Van Camp and Pereira line of Cases

Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 12 noon - 1:00 p.m.

This program offers 1 hour participatory MCLE credit and 1 hour legal specialization credit in Family Law. You must register in advance in order to participate.

When a business is acquired prior to marriage, the Pereira and Van Camp line of cases guide provide a model for allocating separate and community property. The panelists will show you how this model can be used to win your case in court.


  • Jennifer Riemer
  • Peter M. Walzer

Webinar: Domestic Violence Basics: From Incident to Evidence

Thursday, July 2, 2015, 12:00 noon - 1:30 p.m.

This program offers 1.5 hours participatory MCLE credit including 1.5 hours legal specialization credit in Family Law. You must register in advance in order to participate.

Category: Family Law Domestic Violence is an area of Family Law that has a number of ramifications for clients.

For the victims of domestic violence their safety, and potentially the safety of the children, is at stake.

For the perpetrators of DV, presumptions against joint custody rights and the impact on child support, as well as issues with spousal support provide potentially unforeseen consequences to the rest of the case.

DV is given statutory priority, so it will be a matter heard first by the court, since the party's (and often a child's) safety is at issue.

This webinar will use the hypothetical, but not uncommon, situation of a reported Domestic Violence incident from the law enforcement involvement through the application for a Temporary Restraining Order to the court hearing for the Protective Order.

Topics covered will include the deciphering of the alphabet soup of DV orders, the identification of forms to use, the issues involved with client management, the interplay of the Evidence Code and Family Code in the presentation of the case, as well as how to navigate the statutory presumptions that may arise in the process.

Speaker: Steven G. Hittelman

Webinar: Debrief on the Supreme Court Marriage Decision

Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m.

This program offers 1 hour participatory MCLE credit including 1 hour legal specialization credit in Family Law. You must register in advance in order to participate.

This webinar will discuss the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and its implications for practicing family law attorneys. The Supreme Court's decision and its impact on the practice of family law will be analyzed.


  • Mary Bonauto is the Civil Rights Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. She argued the Massachusetts case that led that state to become the first state to allow same sex couples to marry in 2004, and she recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of several of the petitioners in the federal marriage cases.
  • Shannon Minter is the Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and he argued In re Marriage Cases and – a year later – Strauss v. Horton in front of the California Supreme Court.
  • Deborah Wald is a member of the State Bar Family Law Executive Committee and is the standing chair of the National Family Law Advisory Council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as a California Family Law Specialist.

Webinar: Community Property Presumptions and Transmutation Agreements

Thursday, July 30, 2015, 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m.

This program offers 1 hour participatory MCLE credit including 1 hour legal specialization credit in Family Law. You must register in advance in order to participate.

Application of various community property presumptions to the characterization and division of property; presentation of the applicable statutes and caselaw in performing an analysis of a valid transmutation agreement, including attacking and defending a transmutation agreement against an undue influence and breach of fiduciary duty claim.

Speaker: Michele B. Brown

Member Benefits

Are you a Section member who wants to be reminded of all the benefits?  Do you have a colleague on the fence about joining the Section?  Being a Family Law Section member offers a number of great benefits. 

  • Receipt of the quarterly Family Law Newsletter with articles by leading attorneys and experts throughout California;
  • Timely and cost effective family law substantive education provided by state-wide experts;
  • Receipt of timely family law notifications through E-Blasts and E-News;
  • Free online downloads that you your ethics, elimination of bias, and substance abuse credits at your convenience;
  • Participation in your local regional standing committee commenting on and developing pending family law legislation;
  • CEB discounts: $95.00 discount on either CEB’s Gold CLE Passport or on any single full priced MCLE ticket, as well as 10% discount on selected printed and online materials;
  • Attorney’s Briefcase® discounts: Week in Brief at no charge, as well as unlimited free access to BriefCase OnCall™, and 20% discount on the initial purchase price of Attorney’s BriefCase® software, regularly $1,200.00; and,
  • The Rutter Group (TRG) and California Family Law Report (CFLR) discounts: $75.00 discounts on all Rutter and CLFR seminars, as well as a 30% discount on all Rutter and CFLR products and publications valid for 30 days after attendance at a TRG/CFLR seminar.

6 Hours of Self-Study CLE in Legal Ethics, Elimination of Bias and Competency Issues -- Complimentary for Members of the Family Law Section!

As a 2015 benefit of Section membership, we are pleased to offer four hours of self-study MCLE credit in the field of Legal Ethics, 1 hour in Elimination of Bias in the Legal Profession, and 1 hour in Competency Issues.

The Section thanks you for your membership!If you were purchasing these courses individually in our Online Catalog, they would cost more than $150 -- so that's your Section membership more than paid for, and then some!

Just watch these programs, and keep a record of having done so in the event you're audited for MCLE compliance.

You can access these programs and the accompanying written materials any time this year in the Members Only Area.

The programs are:

  • Understanding the Role of the Interpreter – One More Way to Eliminate Bias in the Courtroom (Elimination of Bias in the Legal Profession)
  • Staying Healthy and Mentally Competent Throughout a Long Legal Career (Competency Issues)
  • Advertising Your Expertise and Experience: What Can You Do to Build Your Practice While Meeting Your Ethical Obligations? (Legal Ethics)
  • Conflicts of Interest and Disqualification Arising from Prior Client Representation: What are the Rules? (Legal Ethics)
  • Ethics Update 2014: Significant Development in the Law of Lawyering (Legal Ethics)
  • Lawyering on the Outside: Electronic Communications & Social Networking vs. Ethics & Professional Responsibility (Legal Ethics)

Save money with CEB

CEB Discount Program for Section MembersContinuing Education of the Bar, California (CEB) is extending some special discount offers to our section. As a member of the Family Law Section, you're eligible for:

  • 10% off selected CEB print or online books
  • A rebate on your section dues that can be applied to the cost of a CEB Gold CLE Passport or a CLE program ticket

A complete list of the products eligible for a discount is available on a CEB web page accessible through our Members Only Area. Information about the section dues rebate program can be found on the CEB Web site.

Free Access to Attorney's BriefCase OnCall™

As a membership benefit, State Bar Family Law Section members have free access to BriefCase OnCall™, an online updating service from Attorney’s BriefCase® Legal Research Software. OnCall™ provides the following features:

  • Indexed summaries of all cases going back approximately six months relating to California Family Law, Juvenile Law, Evidence and PreTrial Adjudication.
  • Full text of all summarized opinions.
  • Week in Brief: An at-a-glance summary of all new cases by case name and holding in the four practice areas. (Week in Brief is also available by email as described below.)

For the details of the offer, see Attorney's BriefCase in the Family Law Section's Members Only Area.

Other News

Consumer Education PamphletsConsumer Education Pamphlets Available for Purchase

The State Bar of California's "Get the Legal Facts of Life" Pamphlets are available for purchase from the State Bar. These pamphlets are both educational and informative for your clients.

For more information, see Consumer Education Pamphlets or call the Education Pamphlet Hotline: 888-875-LAWS (888-875-5297).

Online and Self-Study CLE from the Family Law Section

Online AudioView Family Law Section programs over the internet for participatory MCLE credit . Choose from hundreds of hours of official State Bar of California MCLE programs. For more information, see streaming audio and video, and select Family Law Be sure to check out CLEtoGo , downloadable podcasts you can listen to on the BART, or on the drive in or from the office.

Making the Connection: The Family Law Section is on Social Media

Who said family law lawyers weren’t social? A reminder, our Family Law Section is on Facebook and Twitter - join us! The Section sees social media as another way to connect our members with information as it develops. Stay in touch with us to learn about the great work being done by Section members across the state. You can Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter at the links below.

Contact Us

Family Law Section
The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639
FAX 415-538-2368