What Does it Take to Become a Certified Family Law Specialist?
California is among the limited number of states that offer “specialist” certifications for lawyers in specific areas of practice. One of these “specializations” is the Certified Family Law Specialist.
Attorney Richard M. Renkin, founder of the Law Office of Renkin & Associates, is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He obtained his certification in 2005 – after nearly 20 years of experience practicing law in California. So, what does it take for a California attorney to obtain a specialist certification in family law?
Requirements to Become a Certified Family Law Specialist in California
First, obtaining a family law specialist certification from the California State Bar Association requires significant legal experience. The certification requirements mandate that a lawyer who seeks to become certified must be “substantially involved in the practice of family law, which shall include actual experience in [twelve specific] areas.” These areas include:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Mediation of family law disputes
- Restraining orders and domestic violence
- Spousal support
A lawyer seeking to become a Certified Family Law Specialist in California must also be able to demonstrate that he or she has met at least four of the following five requirements:
- Served as principal counsel in at least 20 contested family law hearings;
- Served as principal counsel in at least five hearings or trials involving witness testimony or satisfied other alternative requirements;
- Served as principal counsel in at least 30 negotiated family law judgments or marital settlement agreements;
- Served as principal counsel in at least 30 stipulated temporary family law orders; and,
- Served as principal counsel and principal author of the briefs in three California family law appeals resulting in the court filing an opinion.
Second, a family law attorney seeking certification must meet certain educational standards established by the California State Bar Association. These include completing a minimum of 45 hours of training specifically focused on family law matters. In addition to the areas listed above, areas in which Certified Family Law Specialists are required to have specific training include:
- Division of community property, confirmation of separate property, or tax issues related to divorce; and,
- The psychological and counseling aspects of divorce.
Other areas in which attorneys may receive training in order to satisfy the educational requirement include: paternity litigation, non-marital family issues, guardianship, and legal separations.
Third, in order to become a Certified Family Law Specialist, an attorney must pass a written examination. The exam lasts six and a half hours, and answering all questions is mandatory.
Fourth, once an attorney satisfies the experience and educational requirements and passes the written examination, then he or she can apply to become a Certified Family Law Specialist. Along with providing proof that these requirements have been satisfied, the attorney must also provide at least three references from judges or other attorneys who are “familiar with the applicant’s proficiency in [family law].”
Finally, once an attorney becomes a Certified Family Law Specialist, then he or she must recertify every five years. Recertification requires:
- Completion of at least 50 of the following (or approved alternatives) during the five years prior to recertification: contested family law trials or hearings; negotiated or mediated family law settlements (including divorce settlements); and/or mediated or arbitrated family law disputes.
- Completion of at least 60 hours of education in the area of family law, with at least 10 hours focused on the psychological and counseling aspects of family law matters.
Attorneys who do not recertify will lose their certification. Facing discipline for ethical violations and other issues can lead to loss of certification as well.
Contact Richard M. Renkin, a Certified Family Law Specialist in San Diego, CA
If you need an attorney for a divorce or other family law matter, why not choose a Certified Family Law Specialist? Attorney Richard M. Renkin has maintained his specialist certification for over a decade, and he has been representing clients in family law matters in the San Diego area since 1991.
To contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates about your divorce or other family law matter, we invite you to call 619-299-7100 or contact us online today.
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