Family Law Services
FORESTER FAMILY LAW offers alternative dispute resolution and customized representation for a variety of California divorce and other family law-related matters. Attorney and Certified Arbitrator Neil Forester advises both individuals and divorcing couples, directly or through their attorneys, using different approaches customized for each unique set of circumstances.
Clients regularly engage Neil to provide several different services in the area of family law. See below for more information regarding the services he provides. To learn more, contact Forester Family Law directly to set up a consultation.
To learn more about any of the services that Neil provides through his practice, Forester Family Law, or to contact Neil to schedule a consultation for his services, please send him an email at email@example.com. Neil looks forward to hearing from you and helping you move forward with customized representation or a customized approach to alternative dispute resolution tailored to your needs.
A Truly Personal Touch
“One thing that stands out is that Neil retained a personal knowledge and interest in the case, even years after trial.”
~Client Ned M., Retired Navy Seal
“I had a very difficult divorce. Neil was able to help me resolve many custody and support issues in a collaborative fashion.”
~Client Dr. Steven B.
Forester Family Law Services
Neil Forester, the founder of Forester Family Law, is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, bringing the highest levels of expertise and professionalism to his clients’ cases all over the state of California. He focuses his virtual practice on a variety of different issues frequently arising in the area of family law and remains dedicated to learning about new developments in the law, building upon and strengthening current techniques, and implementing innovative new approaches to the services he provides.
Mediator Neil Forester uses specific and proven techniques and strategies throughout the mediation process in order to help divorcing couples reach mutually satisfactory agreements. Neil chooses which strategies to apply on a case-by-case basis based on his assessment of what will best accomplish the mediation goals set by the parties. He is always ready to develop and make adjustments to these strategies as needed to bring about a successful resolution that is satisfactory for all involved.
Mediation Techniques and Strategies
Reframing is one of the most prominent mediation techniques Neil uses to help both parties find some middle ground. Reframing is simply taking the position and phrasing used by one party and restating it in a more neutral or positive way without changing the meaning. This technique is helpful to steer the conversations back to the main issues without losing focus due to emotions.
Another strategy Neil often uses is called crosstalk. Neil will typically make a statement or respond to one party when using this strategy, but what he is saying will be geared toward the other party or said for their benefit. This technique is often used as a subtle way to redirect the conversation back to the topic at hand without allowing emotional responses to take over and impede the progress being made in that session.
These strategies are effective because they help to keep both parties focused on the facts rather than their emotions. Family law issues and disputes often invoke many strong emotions, but Neil recognizes the importance of helping both parties stay calm and collected so that they can have a productive mediation experience.
Mediation for Complex Divorce Cases
In complex divorce cases involving high-net-worth or intricate financial assets, it is not unusual for the parties to have very different views regarding what division of property and assets would be fair. For cases involving these issues, Neil will typically meet with the parties to discuss whether it would be beneficial to bring in a financial expert. Neil may recommend different types of financial experts, depending on the facts of each case. For example, he may suggest bringing in a certified financial divorce analyst or a forensic accountant.
Another issue that can make divorce cases more complex is when there is a family business involved. In a previous divorce case mediated by Neil, one of the parties entered the marriage with a longstanding family business. The value of the business and how the parties’ share of the value should be distributed between them in their divorce was a major point of contention. Ultimately, despite the complexity of the valuation of the family business and the outside influence of the other family business owners (and with a lot of patience from everyone involved), Neil was able to help the parties reach a successful agreement through mediation.
Neil recognizes the importance of confidentiality and neutrality throughout the mediation process and creates a safe and productive environment for both parties by being fully transparent every step of the way. He knows how important it is for both parties to understand that he is not having secret conversations with one party without the other present, and so he makes every effort to ensure that the entire process is as open and transparent as possible.
When serving as a divorce arbitrator, Neil Forester ensures that the decision-making process is fair and unbiased for both parties involved and takes special care to present his decisions carefully so that the parties understand why the decision was made the way it was. In some situations, divorce arbitration is the recommended approach compared to other alternatives, such as mediation or private judging.
When Is Divorce Arbitration the Best Approach?
Divorce arbitration is a good option for situations involving just one particular issue that cannot be decided between the parties for some reason. Often, court calendars are packed, so divorce arbitration is typically a much more efficient way to resolve a single issue between the parties.
In one divorce case involving a dispute over the separation timeline, Neil successfully used the case management aspect of arbitration as an effective approach to resolve this issue between the parties, eliminating the need for a three- or four-day arbitration hearing. As the arbitrator, he was able to work with the parties and their attorneys to go over potential outcomes of the arbitration hearing and reach an amicable solution without proceeding with the hearing.
Divorce Arbitration with a Power Imbalance Between the Parties
One issue that comes up from time to time in divorces in the state of California is that one party may be more influential or more powerful than the other. In these scenarios, arbitration is useful because the parties are really leaning on the process—which includes customized rules. When his cases involve an imbalance of power, Neil is able to ensure that the arbitration process remains equitable and just.
Before committing to an approach, Neil typically helps his clients work through the different alternative dispute resolution options available to help them decide if private judging is the right approach for their case. Some of the criteria Neil uses to help consider whether private judging is the best method for his clients’ divorce case include whether there is a significant amount of marital property and assets involved, whether one or both of the parties wish to keep the case as confidential as possible (since public courtrooms are, well, public), and whether the parties are seeking to expedite the matter.
Benefits of Hiring a Private Judge
There are many benefits of choosing to hire a private judge rather than moving forward with traditional litigation in a public courtroom. While private judges must still apply the same rules of evidence and civil procedure as other judges in public courtrooms do, this method is still a more efficient and streamlined approach to resolving divorce disputes.
One of the most significant benefits of using a private judge is having control over the timeline, which often moves much faster than it would in a public courtroom. In addition to having control over the timeline, another substantial benefit of hiring a private judge is that the parties get to choose their judge. With traditional litigation, judges are typically randomly assigned to cases; for the most part, parties do not have a say in the judge assigned to their case.
Prioritizing Professionalism and Integrity in His Role as a Private Judge
As a private judge, Neil Forester prioritizes professionalism while ensuring that he continues to uphold the integrity of the judicial process. When presiding over matters as a private judge, Neil draws upon his 18 years of experience litigating in California family courts. His unique skills, experience, and familiarity with the California Family Code, rules of evidence, and civil procedure make him an excellent choice for any party considering him as a private judge for their case.
Consulting and Second Opinions
Attorney Neil Forester also provides his clients with consulting and second opinion services, offering valuable insight on various issues, along with recommendations for improvement. While providing these services, he assesses the strengths and weaknesses of a client’s current legal strategy by first pinpointing exactly where the case is procedurally in order to develop a plan for moving forward. Neil also meets with his client in order to get a feel for who they are as a person, what is important to them, and what their goals are regarding the potential outcomes of their case.
When Neil is providing a second opinion for a client regarding a case, it is also beneficial for him to understand what the client’s current attorney is recommending and the basis for that recommendation. In some cases, Neil might agree with the recommendations of the client’s current attorney; however, there have also been cases in which Neil’s recommendations were substantially different.
Providing Guidance While Respecting the Decisions of His Clients
As an attorney providing consulting and second opinion services, Neil is able to balance his role of providing guidance and expertise while also respecting the decisions and autonomy of his client and their attorney. He understands that different attorneys may have different approaches to resolving legal issues and remains cognizant of that fact throughout his assessment of a client’s case.
In a consulting or a second opinion role, Neil takes care not to disrupt an existing attorney-client relationship whenever possible. His goal is not to take over the case; rather, his services are focused on guidance and providing deeper insight regarding a current case strategy or a recent court order. Ultimately, it is always the client’s decision as to how they would like to proceed with their case.
Up-to-Date Knowledge of California Family Law Trends and Developments
Neil remains up to date with the latest developments and trends in family law by attending continued legal education courses (as required by the state of California), contributing to continued legal education as a writer, and speaking and presenting at some family law-focused courses. Each year, he also attends a seminar focused on recent changes in the law and case law updates, designed to give family law practitioners in the state of California up-to-date information for their chosen area of practice. Neil takes every opportunity to continue his education and learning in the practice area of family law so that he can remain confident that his consulting and second opinion services are well-informed and relevant.
Concierge Services for Litigants
Neil also provides concierge services for litigants, which go beyond traditional legal representation. A concierge service is a bespoke approach to either representation or consultation. Generally, it is a limited-scope representation, often on one issue. For these cases, Neil will file a document with the court specifically stating that his representation of the client is limited in scope to that particular issue.
The Benefits of Personalized Concierge Litigation Services
For individuals with limited financial resources, concierge services can be a unique approach to allow them to acquire legal representation for an important issue while not requiring them to spend beyond their means. It can also be an effective way to save time.
When a client signs up for limited representation for this purpose, Neil will still assess the matter as a whole to look for any significant issues in the background that he believes may be necessary to address. If he believes there are other concerns that should be addressed, he will discuss these issues with his clients and help them choose the best approach for moving forward.
Concierge Services for Litigants—A Personalized Approach
Neil’s personalized approach to litigation concierge services often makes a significant difference in his client’s experience. In a recent case he handled on this basis, the parties were engaged in an ongoing discovery dispute. After meeting with his client, Neil learned that his client was not particularly interested in obtaining the documents in dispute, so Neil suggested a work-around solution that his client could bring up to his lawyer. Ultimately, Neil’s suggestion led to the parties reaching a settlement agreement on all issues shortly afterward.
As part of the concierge services he provides, Neil is open to using innovative and unique resources and tools to streamline the divorce process and enhance client satisfaction. In one recent case, Neil provided real-time consultation services to a client in court with his attorney.
This client sought Neil’s opinion regarding a “meet and confer” conference that was currently taking place between the client’s attorney and the other party’s attorney. Neil was able to successfully provide guidance in real time to his client and help facilitate the resolution of the ultimate issue simply by being available and providing a neutral perspective as a consultant attorney on the case.
As the founder of a virtual law firm, Neil recognizes the importance of implementing innovative and unique resources and tools to help his clients benefit from a streamlined and more efficient process for his concierge services for litigants, as well as for the other services he provides throughout his practice. Enhancing client satisfaction is an important goal for Neil, so he is always looking for new ways to remain innovative and competitive in order to give his clients the best path forward as they go through what is often a challenging time in their lives.
Premarital Legal Counseling
At the beginning of a premarital consultation, Neil typically explains that the purpose of establishing a premarital agreement is to choose your own rules for your relationship rather than allowing everything to be decided by the California legislature. Contrary to popular belief, premarital agreements are often a positive step in a relationship and can actually help a couple enter the marriage feeling as though they are on equal footing.
Important Legal Considerations Addressed Through Premarital Counseling
During each premarital legal counseling session, Neil ensures that the couple understands that this isn’t about divorce or planning for divorce; it is about the fiduciary responsibility that spouses have to each other, and, potentially, to their children. Marriage is the highest relationship of trust and confidence that the state of California will endorse, and it is critical for all parties to understand that going out and earning an income is just as important as the work involved in running a household and raising children.
Another important legal consideration Neil makes sure to address during a premarital legal counseling session is that the couple does not have any obligation to create a premarital agreement. In some cases, just meeting with an attorney and learning about their legal rights pertaining to marriage is helpful enough to a couple, and they do not feel a need to move forward with drafting and signing a premarital agreement.
Premarital Counseling Can Help Identify and Resolve Hidden Issues
While providing premarital counseling services, Neil frequently identifies and resolves legal issues that the couple had not originally considered—which can potentially save them from future disputes or complications. In one recent case, Neil provided premarital counseling for a couple in which one party owned a business going into the marriage. Neil asked the couple if they discussed how they planned to handle determining each spouse’s interest in the business, particularly if it ended up being very lucrative. It turned out that they had not talked about it yet—so Neil was able to help them have a fruitful conversation regarding that issue, which likely helped them avoid a potentially major dispute down the road which could have easily led to a much different kind of conversation.
Neil recognizes the importance of creating a safe and constructive space for couples to discuss sensitive topics and potential areas of conflict throughout his premarital counseling sessions. His primary goal of a successful premarital counseling session is to make sure the parties understand what their responsibilities to each other are, and why—and how they can use that information going forward to have a more productive and healthy relationship with each other throughout their marriage.
Pet Parenting Advice
Pet parenting is an emerging area of law, with new legislation recently introduced in California. Ultimately, a major legal consideration regarding pet custody and care during a divorce is the fact that traditionally, courts have treated pets as property. In other words, pets are often considered items of personal property in the eyes of the law, just like any other marital asset or property item. But in reality, anyone who has or has ever had a pet knows that the value of a pet is much more than that.
California Courts and the Best Interests of the Pet Standard
It is not unusual for a divorcing couple to want to apply standard child custody rules to their pet—after all, to many people, pets are considered members of the family. And although the law does not formally recognize pet custody rules, in California, courts do consider the best interests of the pet when resolving a dispute over ownership.
However, there is no set formula for how a judge is supposed to determine what exactly is in the best interests of the pet. While it may seem to be in the best interests of the pet to share time with each owner 50/50 going forward, this might not be the best outcome for the pet for many different reasons. For example, the pet could be overly anxious and have trouble with the frequent transitions between the homes, or the parties could end up moving far away from each other, making this type of arrangement unrealistic to maintain.
Because pet ownership and custody laws are an emerging area of law in California, Neil makes sure to remain up to date regarding changes and proposed changes impacting these laws. He also regularly consults with experts in animal behavior for his cases that would benefit from this expertise. Neil understands that pet parenting issues and disputes present very real conflicts between divorcing couples, as well as unmarried couples splitting up who share a pet and deserve the same attention and focus as any other issue brought before the court.
California’s laws are currently very favorable to pet owners in general, and the courts in this state are coming around to recognizing just how important pets are. In some divorce cases, the biggest conflict the parties have is over who will retain ownership of their pet going forward. Throughout his time in practice, Neil has successfully guided multiple couples to work out agreements regarding pet ownership in the best interests of the pet, often resulting in major progress in the finalization of their divorce agreement as a whole.
A Unique Approach to Pet Parenting Conflict Resolution
Neil’s understanding of pet psychology is a great asset in helping his clients resolve pet parenting disputes, particularly in mediation sessions. One of the experts Neil brings in to help divorcing or separating couples resolve disputes over pet ownership is an animal behavioralist, who also happens to be a mediator. This type of expert can be extremely useful in a high energy or high conflict type of case because they can provide specific insight regarding the needs of that particular animal. Overall, it is important for the parties to keep in mind that the needs and interests of animals are different from people, so the best interests of animals need to be evaluated on a different scale.
Neil has found that in many of the cases he has handled involving pet parenting, his ability to prioritize and provide advice and assistance to his clients to directly resolve these disputes actually results in a significant impact on the divorce outcome overall. For example, in one case in which Neil provided mediation services, a couple had great difficulty agreeing on a custody arrangement for their two (human) children. Over the course of the virtual mediation session, their dog made a few appearances, leading to Neil asking some questions about their pets and learning that the biggest conflict between the couple was actually about custody of their pets. Once they resolved that issue, everything else fell into place and was resolved shortly thereafter.
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 18+ 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.