(415) 357-5050
50 California Street, 34th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94111
OUR SERVICES

Specialists in Complex Family Law Matters

Advice on a full range of family law matters.

Since the firm’s founding in 1997, the attorneys of Sucherman • Insalaco LLP have practiced family law at the highest levels. With more than two decades in practice, Sucherman • Insalaco LLP can provide you with the experience, knowledge, and discretion required to handle your most complex and delicate family law matters.

Services

Our office handles all ranges of divorce and legal separation cases, from litigation to negotiated settlements and default judgments. We handle cases at any and all stages of resolution. We are also work as attorneys of record or consulting counsel. If you would like to learn more about filing for divorce or legal separation, or have an existing case for which you’d like our representation, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, is an alternative means for resolution outside of court. In California family law the primary options for Alternative Dispute Resolution are mediation and negotiated settlement with a settlement master. Our office routinely represents clients, both formally and as consulting counsel, through these processes. We also offer these services directly with partner Lowell H. Sucherman available to act as a settlement master or a private judge, and with partner Janet Simmonds offering mediation services.

In some cases, either because the parents agree or the court orders, the children are represented by independent counsel to speak to their interests independently from the advocacy of either parent. This attorney is referred to as “minor’s counsel.” In our office, partner Michelene Insalaco acts as minor’s counsel on the panel for Contra Costa County, as well as in private matters in all Bay Area counties.

California law has strict requirements for the drafting of premarital and post-marital agreements. Failure to meet these requirements could make your agreement, in part or in whole, void, voidable and/or unenforceable. For this reason, all agreements between you and your spouse (or spouse-to-be) should always be reviewed, if not drafted, by competent counsel. Further, prior to signing any agreement you should understand your rights under the law and what you may be giving up through that agreement

Given the ever-changing world, and the Bay Area’s place in it, there are more and more international aspects to family law matters. Whether it is a jurisdictional issue involving competing courts, a Hague Convention case for the return of children, or review or preparation of an international premarital agreement, these cases are on the rise. Our office regularly works on international matters, including working with co-counsel abroad to ensure the best results for our clients. Of note, Partner Michelene Insalaco is part of the Hague Convention Attorney Network, representing left-behind parents. Both Ms. Insalaco and partner Lowell H. Sucherman are members of the prestigious International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

After a case is resolved in the trial court, if you believe the trial judge committed error, you can consider seeking review with the California Court of Appeal. This typically entails filing a Notice of Appeal, due shortly after entry of the order or judgment at issue. Not all orders are appealable. Some orders may be reviewable by an emergency writ, such as certain custody orders and contempt orders. Our office has extensive experience in the court of appeal, and partner Michelene Insalaco prevailed in 2020 with a Petition for Review filed in the California Supreme Court. Ms. Insalaco’s published appellate cases include:

  • Sabato v. Brooks (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 715 (successfully defended appeal of DVPA restraining order).
  • In re Marriage of Blazer (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 1438 (successfully defended appeal of order reducing spousal support, issues involved business expenses deducted from income for support purposes and double dipping).
  • Ragghanti v. Reyes (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 989 (successfully defended appeal in move-away case).
  • In re Marriage of Edlund & Hales (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 1454 (successfully defended appeal in move-away case).

Our office also provides appellate case assessment, including a full file review and opinion letter for a reasonable flat fee, and appellate representation. We also handle certain appeals on a low-fee or flat fee basis.

Areas of Expertise

Our attorneys have extensive experience in these substantive areas of family law:
Spousal and Child Support

One of the most immediate issues parties face upon separation is how to transition to two households, or more specifically, how to pay the bills. The answer commonly involves spousal and/or child support. In California there are two general types of support, temporary and judgment. The former is paid while the action is pending, the latter after Judgment is entered. Temporary support, both spousal and child support, is generally determined by a formula and called “guideline” support. For judgment support, while most commonly “guideline” applies to child support, with a few notable exceptions, spousal support is based on many different discretionary factors. If you would like to discuss what support may look like in your case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Property characterization, valuation and division including business valuation

California is one of nine community property states in the U.S. Community property is property acquired during marriage through the skills or effort of either spouse. In a dissolution case, the parties or court must determine whether the assets are separate, community, or both. With few exceptions, the Court must divide community property equally, and the Court must award separate property to the owner spouse. Our office has extensive experience in handling complex, high-asset cases including those involving business interests and stock options, RSUs, and other equity-based compensation. In an initial case consultation we can review your assets and give you an initial assessment as to their character and overview how your marital property might be divided in the event of dissolution.

Apportionment of property of a mixed character (Moore-Marsden, etc.)

In a divorce case, the two types of property, or “character” of property, are “separate” or “community,” based on when and how acquired. Resolving property of mixed character, i.e., both separate and community property, can be especially complex. Such property may arise, for example, when the value of a separate asset rises during marriage due to a party’s marital efforts (such as a small business); when stock options have vested partially before marriage and partially during marriage; or when the parties pay the mortgage of a separately-owned home during marriage with community earnings. While there are several formulas for apportionment between the community and separate interests, ultimately the primary focus is on an equitable result. Our office has extensive experience in issues of the characterization and apportionment of mixed property.

Tracing and commingling of income or property

In a divorce case, the burden of proving that property is separate property, in whole or in part, is typically placed upon the spouse claiming the separate interest. That spouse must prove that the property was either acquired before marriage, acquired during marriage by gift or inheritance, or acquired during marriage with separate property funds. Often assets are acquired in part with separate and in part with community funds. These cases present tracing challenges, and often require the assistance of an experienced forensic accountant. Our office frequently handles cases involving tracing work and have a network of excellent forensic accountants to assist with such cases.

Child custody and visitation

One of the most difficult issues in a family law matter is that of custody and visitation. Parental disputes often arise because parents have differing views on parenting, or because of the general animosity that can exist between separating parties. Parenting disputes also may stem from drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, or factors that prevent a party from being a competent parent. Our office handles all types of custody cases, from minor parenting disputes to termination of parental rights. Our office works frequently with mediators, co-parent counselors, and child custody evaluators. Ms. Insalaco is also a member of the Board of Directors of the California Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, a group of attorneys, judges, and mental health professional dedicated to improving the family law system for children and litigants involved in custody disputes. If you have a parenting issue, please contact our office to learn more about your rights and how to protect your children.

Domestic violence including seeking a restraining order, defending against false accusations of abuse, and resolving custody after a finding of abuse by a parent

Domestic violence can involve physical abuse, emotional abuse, and other forms or coercion and control. A finding of DV or issuance of a DVPA restraining order can have significant impact on a party’s rights including with respect to child custody and spousal support. Our office has extensive experience in DV cases, including representing DV survivors and those falsely accused of DV. We also often work in conjunction with criminal counsel on these cases.

Grandparent and other non-parent visitation

While parents have fundamental rights to parent, other individuals may also have claims to visitation and custody. The most common individuals to make such claims are grandparents. However, their rights are limited and only apply in certain circumstances. Please see the linked blog post addressing the legal bases for grandparent visitation rights in California.

UCCJEA custody jurisdiction

One of the most difficult issues in a family law matter is that of custody and visitation. Parental disputes often arise because parents have differing views on parenting, or because of the general animosity that can exist between separating parties. Parenting disputes also may stem from drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, or factors that prevent a party from being a competent parent. Our office handles all types of custody cases, from minor parenting disputes to termination of parental rights. Our office works frequently with mediators, co-parent counselors, and child custody evaluators. Ms. Insalaco is also a member of the Board of Directors of the California Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, a group of attorneys, judges, and mental health professional dedicated to improving the family law system for children and litigants involved in custody disputes. If you have a parenting issue, please contact our office to learn more about your rights and how to protect your children.

Hague Abduction Convention return proceedings

The Hague Abduction Convention is a treaty that many countries, including the U.S, have joined. Its purpose is to protect children who have been abducted or wrongfully withheld outside of their country of habitual residence by providing a legal framework and process for their return. Partner Michelene Insalaco is part of the Hague Convention Attorney Network, and has extensive experience representing parents in Hague return cases throughout Northern California. Both Ms. Insalaco and partner Lowell H. Sucherman are members of the prestigious International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Personal jurisdiction

For a California court to have the ability to issue orders against you it must have personal jurisdiction. If you reside in California, the court will have jurisdiction. However, if do not reside in California, the court still may have jurisdiction based on other factors, including but not limited to whether you were served with the action while in California or have significant connections with California. If you, or the opposing party, resides out-of-state and you question whether the California court can assert personal jurisdiction, please contact our office for a consultation.

Breach of spousal fiduciary duty

In California, spouses are fiduciaries to one another. This means, among other things, they must protect and preserve the assets of the marriage, and not take any unfair advantage of the other spouse. These duties are at the forefront if and when spouses divorce. Failure to comply with these duties could mean that a spouse has breached the spousal fiduciary duty and is subject to sanctions.

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50 California Street, 34th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 357-5050
info@sucherman-insalaco.com

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