California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS)
A Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) or California Family Law Specialist can be a divorce attorney or child custody lawyer Certified by the California State Bar as a legal specialist in the field of family law. A Certified Family Law Specialist will have demonstrated a commitment to the highest standards of legal competence in their field. Certified Family Law Specialists often have access to a large network of experienced family lawyers and publications and continuing education programs in the field of family law, which can enhance the attorney’s skills and knowledge in the area of divorce, child custody, support and other family law issues.
California Family Law Specialist, Family Law Attorney
What are the Standards to be a California Certified Family Law Specialist or California Family Law Specialist Attorney?
An attorney does not have to become a "certified family law specialist" in order to practice family law. Obtaining certification as a certified specialist is optional. In other words, attorneys have the right to practice in any particular field of law of their choosing whether they obtain certification as a certified specialist or not.
One of the reasons a family law attorney obtains a certification to be a Certified Famliy Law Specialist or California Family Law Specialist through the California State Bar is to inform the public that he/she has demonstrated proficiency and a certain level of competence in the field of family law. This allows the attorney to hold themselves out as a "certified family law specialist" -- thereby distinguishing him/her from other general attorney practitioners.
According to the California State Bar, Family Law is defined as the practice of law dealing with all aspects of the California Family Code and including, but not limited to, the following: taxation issues incident to family law practice; contempt; enforcement proceedings; mediation and/or negoti-ation of family law disputes; psychological and counseling aspects of family law; family law writ and appellate practice; postmarital agreements; nonmarital domestic relationships; child custody in any forum; and public enforcement of child support.
In order for an attorney to be eligible for certification as a family law specialist in the field of family law, he/she must have been practicing family law a minimum of 25% of the time he/she has spent in occupational endeavors during the last 5 years. The attorney applicant must also be an active member of the State Bar of California. Family law specialists must recertify every 5 years by continuing to meet certain task and education requirements as well as experience requirements. However, the attorney applicant is generally not required to retake the exam. To become a Certified Family Law Specialist or California Family Law Specialist in the state of California there are certain task requirements an attorney applicant must fulfill as described below.
Certified Family Law Specialist: Task Requirement to be a California Family Law Specialist, Family Law Attorney
An attorney applying for certification to become a Certified Family Law Specialist or California Family Law Specialist must demonstrate that within the five years immediately preceding submission of the written application, he/she has been substantially involved in the practice of family law -- which shall include actual experience in each of the following areas:
An attorney applying for certification to become a Certified Family Law Specialist or California Family Law Specialist must make a showing of substantial involvement in the area of family law by completing at least four of the following five categories:
- Restraining orders/domestic violence pro-ceedings
- Dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or nullity of marriage litigation
- Custody of children
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Modification of support
- Division of community property
- Confirmation of separate property
- Taxation issues incident to dissolution of marriage
- Contempt and/or enforcement proceedings
- Mediation and/or negotiation of family law disputes and
- Psychological and counseling
*Principal counsel is the attorney who spends a majority of the time on a case in the activities of preparation, review, filing and representing a client at an interview or hearing. There can be only one principal counsel per case.
- Principal counsel in 20 contested family law hearings involving one or more issues set forth in section 2.1, submitted to a court for a decision;
- Principal counsel in five hearings or trials under the California Family Code which are within the definition of family law in section 1.0 of these standards, and which are three hours or more in length and involve testimony of witnesses; or other alternative task and experience which the advisory commission deems to substantially comply with the foregoing task and experience requirement, including but not limited to:
- Evidentiary hearings or trials in other practice areas;
- Sitting as pro tem judge or arbitrator in contested hearings or trials under the California Family Code or within the definition of family law in section 1.0 of these standards;
- Successful completion of a recog-nized trial advocacy program that conforms to guidelines developed by the Family
Principal counsel in a minimum of 30 negotiated family law judgments or negoti-ated marital settlement agreements;
- Principal counsel in 30 stipulated temporary family law orders; or
- Principal counsel and principal author of the briefs in three California family law appeals in which an opinion was filed.
Certified Family Law Specialist: Educational Requirement to be a California Family Law Specialist, Family Law Attorney
An attorney or lawyer applying for certification to be a Certified Family Law Specialist or California Family Law Specialist must show that, within the three years immediately preceding the application for certification, he/she has completed not less than 45 hours of educational activities specifically approved for family law as follows:
Visit the State Bar of California website for the most current and complete Standards for Certification and Recertification in Family Law.
- Not less than nine hours in the areas of dissolution of marriage, contempt and/or enforcement, or mediation and/or negotiation of family law disputes;
- Not less than six hours in the area of custody of children;
- Not less than nine hours in the areas of child support, spousal support, or modification of support;
- Not less than 12 hours in the areas of division of community property, confirmation of separate
property, or taxation issues incident to dissolution of marriage;
- Not less than six hours in the area of psychological and counseling aspects of dissolution of marriage; and
- Not more than three hours in the following areas:
- Paternity litigation;
- Adoption litigation;
- Problems of the nonmarital family;
- Writs and appeals from dissolution of marriage, legal separation or nullity of marriage litigation;
- Proceedings to free a minor from the custody and control of parent(s);
- Problems of domestic violence;
- Guardianships of the person or children; and
- Law office management of a family law practice.
The Standards must be read in conjunction with the Rules Governing the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists which govern the Program requirements.
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