Family Law Services
FORESTER FAMILY LAW offers alternative dispute resolution and customized representation for California divorce and related family law matters. Attorney and Certified Arbitrator NEIL FORESTER advises individuals and divorcing couples directly or through their attorneys. Clients engage him to provide:
Mediation is an out-of-court process that focuses on handling family matters head-on without the need for invasive and time-consuming interactions with the courthouse. In the most effective mediations, the parties can work together – if not collaboratively, at least cooperatively – to address their issues with the neutral mediator whose job is to facilitate the conversation and provide whatever guidance the parties may want or need to get the problems resolved. Mediation can be done with both parties represented by counsel, or the parties can represent themselves. In either case, the goal is the same – resolution of the issues without the need for expensive and often unproductive litigation. Mediation is confidential, which means that nothing said about the positions the parties take in the mediation can ever be used in court (if court ever becomes necessary). Mediation is far less expensive than traditional court litigation, and the power remains in the hands of the parties rather than in the hands of the stranger in the black robe who generally knows little or nothing about the parties or their dynamics.
Arbitration is an underutilized option for clients who want a private and efficient resolution to their divorce and parenting disputes. As a Certified Arbitrator, NEIL helps parties collaborate toward a faster finish without using the court system or filing a lawsuit in most cases. With guidance, parties settle their issues and receive an Arbitration Award. Certain matters and situations are not suitable for arbitration, and will be recommended for a different approach. The Award is sent to the court for confirmation and enforcement as needed. Arbitration can be as stripped down or as complex as the participants desire. Unlike traditional litigation that may last months to years in court, arbitration yields a quicker, more amicable result. And unlike a Private Judge, the Arbitrator may use “game rules” set by the parties, outside the Family Code confines, if so desired. NEIL has arbitrated dozens of divorces since the pandemic began, side-stepping the courtroom backlog and system delays.
With judicial approval, couples can opt out of public family court by agreeing to the use of a Private Judge. Cases can proceed like regular trials with evidence and witnesses, testimony, and cross-examination. The lawyers (or the parties if neither is represented) predetermine a mutual set of rules and procedures, maintaining rights to appeal as needed. Disputants benefit from expedited resolution and a Judge who knows California’s Family Code inside and out. When the financial stakes are high, the Private Judging route can bring more certainty to an otherwise unpredictable courtroom environment. As an AAML Fellow and Certified Family Law Specialist, NEIL brings the highest levels of professionalism and legal acumen to his role as a Private Judge in California.
Consulting & Second Opinions
As your Consulting Attorney, NEIL surveys the legal landscape of a family law problem and provides strategic guidance. Even if you do not end up needing to hire a lawyer, a legal “reality check” can decrease stress and empower your early engagement in the process. And a second opinion on advice or guidance you’ve received will add clarity and reason for individuals and their lawyers. NEIL’s style of non-linear thinking on high-conflict or complex property cases can be illuminating for entrenched litigants. Whether you’re in mediation, preparing for trial, or representing yourself in a messy divorce filing, an outsider’s perspective brings peace of mind.
Concierge Services for Litigants
Litigation can be deeply unpleasant — for the client, for the judge and for the attorneys, too. But sometimes it’s the only option. As a litigation concierge, NEIL takes on special cases that demand a cool-headed, highly-skilled technician and sophisticated litigation approach on a single issue or limited set of concerns. NEIL can formulate and execute on a targeted strategy to handle thorny issues as expeditiously as possible. And potentially assist in moving the entire case closer (sometimes much closer) to resolution as a result.
Premarital Legal Counseling
Understanding what it means for you and your partner to say those magic words in front of family and friends is of critical importance. And not just the parts about your interpersonal relationships and communication — but also about the financial and legal consequences of marriage. The California Family Code is the only real “prenuptial agreement” most marrying couples get, and that’s only because the rules it contains are the default rules when couples don’t agree to a different approach. Knowing what different approaches are available before tying the knot can be a valuable gift to each other. Where a couple does decide that the default rules are just not for them, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can encourage open and candid conversations about the legal contracts, financial obligations, parenting commitments, and lifestyle choices we make in marriage, remarriage and blended family events. NEIL counsels couples about the realities and ramifications of California’s default prenup — the one written by (mostly white/male) legislators. Why accept someone else’s rules for life partnership when you can co-create a better plan B in the event of divorce or separation.
Pet Parenting Advice
As president and pro bono counsel for a dog rescue nonprofit, NEIL has seen his share of pet-related family disputes. Dog adoption contracts at NorCal Boxer Rescue now include a clause designating the pup as “community property” between spouses or registered domestic partners. A petnup can be a helpful tool in the event of divorce. It outlines pet ownership rights and responsibilities, among other financial and care-related agreements. For cohabitating and unmarried parties, a similar contract can minimize tensions absent an easy well-defined legal process for dividing assets. Our legal system has become increasingly pet-friendly in family law matters. In California, newer legislation mandates a “best interests of the pet” standard to guide the judge in property division conflicts. And certain pets receive special protection afforded by domestic violence restraining orders. When pet custody and visitation issues become emotional sticking points in a divorce, arbitration and private judging solutions can help to keep costs controlled in situations that might otherwise explode in a courtroom setting.
Areas of Expertise
As a California Certified Family Law Specialist and Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, NEIL brings the highest levels of professionalism and expertise to a spectrum of family law issues, including:
- Characterization and valuation of property
- Allocation of debt and assets
- Child and spousal support calculation and modification
- Breach of fiduciary duty claims
- Valuation and disposition of family-owned businesses
- Marriage and domestic partner dissolution
- Relocation and move-away cases
- Child custody and parenting coordination
- Pet parenting plans
- International child custody disputes and Hague Convention
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
- Utilization of forensic accounting and other related financial experts
- Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and DVTROs
- Prenups, post marital, and cohabitation agreement
Clients trust lawyers to solve their problems, not over-litigate their issues. It’s my job to help families focus on a life of tomorrow, not a fight of yesterday.
Experience & Insight
Over 16+ years of court appearances, settlement conferences, and private negotiations, NEIL has seen all types of family law cases, from simple and straightforward to complex and contentious. The following list of real-world experience highlights his streetwise and skill in the field. NEIL is available to consult on trial strategy and provide partial representation for litigants. In nearly all situations, he promotes settlement and non-adversarial solutions over contested divorce.
Represented owner of separate property business involving the sale of company shares with complex tracing issues and intricate analysis of the Pereira/Van Camp factors in determining the lack of a community property interest in the proceeds from the sale.
Represented one of four siblings who own a large national business in litigation involving characterization of premarital stocks in the company, tracing of funds from periodic distributions from the separate property business, and analysis of Pereira/Van Camp in determining separate property character of the underlying stock shares.
Represented partner in a law firm involving valuation of his practice, determination of the Marital Standard of Living in order to protect increased earnings post separation from spouse’s demand for increased spousal support, and analysis of retroactive in-kind payments to spouse’s separate obligations to create reimbursement claim for overpayment of support.
Represented law firm partner at Southern California Labor & Employment firm with significant business valuation and goodwill issues, resulting in full settlement through negotiation.
Represented retired business owner in a long term marriage involving highly complex separate property tracing issues, resulting in confirmation to the client of substantial commingled assets as separate property.
Represented single mother in a high-conflict custody dispute with an absentee father seeking shared physical custody, resulting in the client receiving sole legal custody and visitation to father only upon the client’s agreement.
Consulted with a client working with the opposing party (an attorney) through mediation to ensure the client understood the legal ramifications of the mediated issues, resulting in a successful resolution of the matter through mediation and avoiding the need to litigate the case.
Represented a high-profile public figure in a post-judgment spousal support modification case involving the interpretation and application of complex support modification and termination rules.
Represented two separate high-profile musicians in marital dissolution cases involving multi-million dollar intellectual property rights and property division issues.
Represented partner of Real Estate law firm in a marital dissolution case involving complex business valuation of law practice, domestic violence issues, and breach of fiduciary duty issues, resulting in highly favorable judgment after trial.
Represented law firm partner with a tax litigation practice in marital dissolution case involving significant separate property reimbursement issues, spousal support, and allocation of separate property debt issues.
Represented Peruvian father in child abduction matter under the Hague Convention resulting in the return of the child to the father after a single contested hearing.
Represented former member of the armed services in marital dissolution case involving contested child custody disputes, domestic violence, and support issues, resulting in an extremely favorable judgment for the client after contested trial.
Represented cardiologist in marital dissolution matter involving issues related to imputing income to underemployed spouse, valuation of a medical practice, and separate property reimbursement issues.
Represented commercial real property business owner in a marital dissolution case after 30 years of marriage, with issues involving three decades of tracing commingled separate property inheritance funds and property valuation, resulting in a favorable settlement for the client.
Represented mother of two children against Turkish father who illegally fled with the children out of the country and hid the children from her, resulting in the return of the children to her and virtual termination of father’s visitation rights.
Pro bono representation of woman seeking domestic violence restraining order against same sex cohabitant, resulting in full settlement of case.
Pro bono representation of abused Hmong woman seeking domestic violence restraining orders against violent husband who was seeking to have her deported, resulting in successful resolution of all issues.
Has successfully argued cases and motions before the Superior Courts of Sacramento, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Napa, Placer, Yolo, San Francisco, Marin, Tehama, Siskiyou, Solano, Stanislaus, Lassen, Lake, Yuba, and Nevada Counties.