SONOMA COUNTY FAMILY LAW
FOR OVER 30 YEARS
Our law offices were forged for the purpose of providing strategic legal counsel to the people of California. We don’t believe in doing things like everyone else. We don’t just handle divorce cases, we handle a multitude of cases and represent individuals and families. That is a significant difference in our approach versus that of other firms in this practice area. Our law firm is dedicated to helping families work through issues that they are no longer able to handle on their own.
We bring strategy, expertise, and compassion to all our family law cases. The attorneys at Thomas Wright Law Offices are seasoned legal experts who have made case law and created highly successful and sought-after settlement agreements for our clients. Call us today to see how we can assist you in your family law issue and bring our years of experience and successful representation to bear on your case. We are available to answer any questions you may have in regards to your options or our firm.
OUR PRACTICE AREAS
In our initial family law interview, our office will attempt to answer all of your questions regarding the general process of a divorce and issues related to a divorce. Our staff and attorneys will focus completely on the client. We will discuss the client’s history, their written questions, including their present situation and issues, status quo history with the minor children, and the immediate financial concerns and long term goals. Our experienced attorneys and staff can help the client develop sound methods of achieving success in their case.
It is our objective to listen to the client carefully and to help them sort out their priorities and formulate their realistic goals and objectives. It is our offices’ priority to provide the client with the best options to achieve their goals as expeditiously and inexpensively as possible. It is vital for a person who is commencing a divorce to obtain as much information about the process as is possible. This is true even if the divorce is intended as uncontested. If the client’s matter is uncontested, our office will help the client prepare the court paperwork and guide them through the divorce process to finalize their action at a minimum price. If the client’s matter is contested, our attorneys and staff can help the client set up a realistic plan to finish their case and achieve their goals and objectives. Family law clients should enter the process with knowledge of what they face and the available options they have before them. The should be able to understand a means of achieving their goals. They should be able to feel they can achieve their realistic goals.
Our attorneys and staff can help the clients through an uncontested divorce either as a representative of one client or as a mediator who can help both clients to achieve a positive results. Attorneys cannot represent both parties. However, as a mediator, they wear a hat of a neutral and can facilitate both clients through their questions and the difficult complex process of a divorce, including drafting all the paperwork to achieve a positive result. In a case where our office’s attorneys are mediators, the clients will be advised to have their own attorneys consult with them to answer any specific questions that cannot be answered by the mediator. Our office advises clients who believe their matter is “resolved” to hire counsel to help facilitate the uncontested divorce from its beginning to its end. When we represent a client in an uncontested divorce, we can assure our clients that paperwork will be properly filed and procedure will be followed from the very beginning of the case to its end.
If the family law client’s case is contested, the clients have the choice of hiring an attorney advocate or hiring a mediator who will act as a neutral in their case. Our senior office attorney has the long term training and experience to act as a neutral mediator for both parties. In that situation, the mediator/attorney does not represent either party. The mediator is a facilitator who helps the parties through the process.
If the family law client’s matter is contested and they desire an advocate, then our office can be their representative. A family law attorney cannot wear “two hats.” They are either a mediator or they are a client’s advocate. If our attorneys are advocates, we will advise the clients of the best options for clear, realistic objectives, and sound methods for a positive conclusion of their case. We will discuss alternative dispute resolution issues, including mediation and cooperative divorce, we will discuss the discovery process, and we will set up a loose timeline for moving the client’s case through to its conclusion. Our attorneys and staff have years of experience in representing clients in contested and complex family law matters beginning with the Petition, proceeding through hearings, discovery, and negotiation in mediation or a trial.
Our attorneys can act as neutral facilitators /mediators to parties in a contested divorce. We will not only prepare the paperwork from the Petition to the Judgment in the case, but will help facilitate the clients to achieve a satisfactory conclusion to their contested matter. Mediation, in and of itself, is a method whereby the clients hire a neutral facilitator to help guide them through the process of a family law matter. Again, the mediator is a neutral facilitator and cannot be an advocate. The clear advantage of mediation and other alternative dispute resolution is that the clients maintain complete control over their entire matter from beginning to the end of the process. The other primary advantage of mediation and alternative dispute resolution is clearly the cost factor. No matter how expensive mediation might seem, it is almost always less expensive than protracted litigation.
Our experienced attorneys and staff have long experience and education as neutral facilitators in helping to guide the clients through the maze of family law issues in either a divorce, guardianship, custody, support, or other issues. A mediator is a neutral facilitator who can help the client file everything in their case from the beginning Petition, the Response, the necessary Schedule of Assets and Debts and all disclosures, and can ultimately draft the final Marital Settlement Agreement with the attendant paperwork for the parties. The parties can attend mediation with or without their attorneys present. The clients can elect and are encouraged to consult with their own attorneys after each mediation session. Typically, after each session, the mediator will send the clients letters as to homework and the next step in the mediation process. The clients are never asked to sign any agreements in our office, except for the mediation agreement that retains the mediator. This gives both clients the opportunity to take any proposals made in our office to their respective counsel for consideration without the pressure of either the mediator or the other party.
The parties should recognize that no part of a mediation discussion can be used in any court hearing that occurs thereafter. This is to promote absolute openness between the parties in the process.
Family law clients should recognize that the mediation process in our office has had an extremely high rate of success in reaching agreement. In all aspects of family law matters and the family law clients that ended the mediation process never saw the light of a courthouse.
Committing to Mediation: It is absolutely necessary at the outset of the mediation that the parties commit to the process. It may be difficult to understand how a process that does not allow later presentation of the evidence used in the mediation setting can be successful. However, the openness between the parties and full disclosure and discussion of all issues maximizes the probability of settlement. There are issues that can be discussed in mediation that would never be brought up in court. This helps the parties get through emotional and other issues that may be irrelevant issues in a courtroom.
A private judge can help resolve the matters in an informal process that even though might appear to be more expensive than appearing in court, but it can actually be much less expensive in the final resolution of a client’s matter. Clients and attorneys can choose a knowledgeable family law specialist to give the matter their entire attention to look to the best outcome that is best suited to the facts and law of the matter. A private judge can also help the parties with discovery and can draft all the documents, including the Marital Settlement Agreement and final papers. Our attorney’s experience and education is listed in the “Bio” section of the website.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Thomas D. Wright, attorneys and staff, will explore every possible option with a client of alternative dispute resolution because we understand the best results in a client’s case will occur if the client retains the power to negotiate their own positive result and destiny.
However, if the client’s matter must proceed to court, our senior attorney, Thomas D. Wright, and our experienced staff of attorneys and paralegals have decades of experience in trial preparation, pretrial discovery, and in the ultimate trial process. Our team of attorneys and staff understand that the best opportunity to prevail in court is exhaustive and tireless preparation before the trial ever begins. Our senior attorney, Thomas D. Wright, is a State Bar Board Certified Family Law Specialist of more than 20 years. He is an AV Preeminent® rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell.com. This is their highest rating in both knowledge and ethics. He has also been selected as a Northern California Super Lawyer for nine consecutive years through 2015. (See Super Lawyers.com.)
If a complex family law trial becomes necessary, the family law client can always trust the attorney and staff at our offices to provide the utmost in preparation, experience, and ability throughout the trial process. Out office seeks to provide the family law client with the very best chance of a positive result.
(See About for trial experience)
The current California Code now allows clients to choose priority issues in their case and obtain help from an attorney on these select issues for a limited cost. This alternative may be a practical and less expensive method to resolve a portion of the case and potentially set the rest of the matter on a constructive path to settlement.
Our attorneys and staff can provide the client with the assistance and guidance from their Petition through the negotiation, discovery, and trial in even the most complex family law matters. Our office includes a staff two attorneys, and one paralegal, and an experienced part time paralegal that can be brought in to help with a complex case. Our attorneys and staff can be brought to focus on the most complex family law matters of custody, business, child support and spousal support, property division, and other divorce issues. Even in litigation support, our firm would first promote mediation as a means of resolving the case at an early date. Every case would be reviewed to set realistic goals and objectives for the client and to set sound methods to achieve the best success. This includes a discovery process, information gathering, analysis, research, and maximizes the possibility of resolution in a minimum of sessions. Our office never rules out the possibility the matter may be litigated at some point in time. We prepare the family law case as if there will be a trial in the matter. Our goal in litigation support is to help the client receive the best possible outcome as quickly, as expeditiously, and inexpensively as possible.
(See About for trial experience)
Our experienced attorneys and staff will help the family law client with the initial child custody and visitation motion, any custody mediations, discovery, court hearings, and, if necessary, a custody trial. In custody matters, we start by carefully listening to the client, including the history of the client’s case, the status quo of the child-parent relationship, whether the parties share joint legal and physical custody, the status quo historical timeshare, and other issues around the history of a child to help the client determine goals and objectives to achieve the best interest of the child in a court order.
In any child custody case, it is important for the client/parent to keep a detailed diary or calendar of specific days the child has been with each parent. The client should note in detail which parent is the primary caregiver, who takes the child to play dates, medical appointments, teacher conferences, etc. Your home should be safe and child proof and age appropriate. The client should exercise all court ordered custody, visitation, and timeshare. They should arrive and leave all custody on time. The client should never discuss contested issues with the other parent in the presence of the minor children. The client should never make the child privy to any dispute with the other parent, including, but not limited to, sharing pleadings with the child, talking to the child about child support, talking negatively about the other parent with the child.
The client should get to know the child’s teachers, doctors, coaches, and know everything about the child’s schools, activities and medical care. A client should never say anything negative about the other parent or relatives in front of the child.
If the other parent has raised alcohol issues, drug issues, or violence issues, you need to speak with your attorney about these issues immediately.
Our office’s attorneys and staff can help the client to obtain a change in custody or a move-away of parent and child through a custody evaluation.
In very rare cases where there is ongoing conflict between the parents that cannot be resolved through co-parent counseling or mediation, a custody evaluation may be requested and ordered by the court. This involves a written evaluation by a forensic psychologist that must be completed. A custody evaluation is an involved, expensive process wherein the psychologist will make a recommendation as to what they believe is in the best interest of the child as to a custody order and other issues, including whether or not the child should be allowed to move away if that is requested by a parent.
If your matter is high conflict, you need to speak with a family law attorney immediately. An essential factor in any custody case is the best interest of the children. It is most often true that, in high conflict custody cases, both parents have their own reality as to what is in the best interest of their children. The best way to deal with high conflict in a custody situation is to consult with a family law attorney and attempt to get sound advice on how to assure the best interest of your child.
(See About for trial experience)
Family law clients should recognize that the Legislature of the State of California has deemed child support and payment of child support as being the number one priority of both parents. Child support is set according to statutory guidelines by what is typically known as the DissoMaster software. These guidelines set minimum child support. The software is available online. However, the family law client is well-advised to consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine the proper input for the software for child support to determine the most accurate output as to what the support will likely be for the payor and payee. Factors include all income sources for both parents, the accurate custody timeshare, interest and taxes on real property paid by either party, the filing status of the parties, mandatory retirement, union dues, health insurance premiums, and many other factors. Self-employed family law clients will have to submit profit and loss statements and balance sheets in lieu of pay check stubs. The self-employed client absolutely needs to consult with a family law attorney in order to obtain accurate numbers and input to obtain an accurate child support output number.
Our attorneys and staff can help the client to obtain either temporary or long term spousal support orders that are consistent with statutory and case law, both in the amount of support and the duration of support.
Spousal support is temporary support from the payor who has more after tax income than the payee. Spousal support is a direct product of California community property law, and is said to be one of the most complex family law issues. Temporary spousal support and long term spousal support are statutorily different from each other. The purposes of temporary support and long term support are different. The role of temporary support is to preserve the status quo for the payor and the payee. Temporary spousal support can usually be calculated by looking at an accurate depiction of the last 12 months of the payor and payee’s incomes. It is always best for the family law client to give factual information to the family law specialist so they can accurately provide information regarding temporary spousal support. Like child support, accurate information into the DissoMaster will give more accurate information in its output.
Family Code section 4320 has a number of qualitative factors that may be evaluated to determine a quantitative number of a marital standard of living so that long term spousal support can be set. Typically, long term spousal support is based on the marital standard of living and other factors listed in Family Code section 4320 based on both parties’ income and can include child support (over the last five years).
Since 1991, the goal of long term spousal support has changed in its focus. The Family Code now clearly indicates that most payees, even in long term marriages of 10 years or more, have a duty to make reasonable, good faith efforts to become financially self sufficient. In a short term and long terms marriages, the marital standard of living become irrelevant after a number of years. This is an issue that should be discussed with your family law specialist. In a short term marriage of under ten years, the rule of thumb is that spousal support should be paid for approximately one-half the period of the marriage. The spousal support issue is very complex and is controlled by the law and facts of the case. There are no hard and fast numbers in fixing either temporary or long term spousal support. Even long term spousal support is subject to review as to changing financial situations and certainly subject to review if the income of the payor goes up or down. Spousal support may be “capped” for the payor based on the marital standard of living. Again, long term spousal support is an extremely complicated issue and can be discussed in detail with your family law specialist.
Our attorneys and staff have the experience and expertise to help facilitate the resolution of even the most complex business evaluations that are subject to a divorce proceeding. Our office has helped many people who own businesses, be they S-Corps, C-Corps, Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships, or other businesses to determine the community value of the business (if any) and determine income for purposes of support from that business. We can also help in working with the forensic to help determine a marital standard of living for fixing long term spousal support from the business income.
Our office would immediately seek to have a forensic expert to meet with the family law client to determine first whether or not their business actually has a potential for good will and/or has a business value. In fact, many businesses do not have a business good will value. The family law specialist and the forensic can help the family law client to determine that issue with a reasonable degree of certainty at the outset of the case.
Family law clients should meet with a family law specialist and forensic expert at the outset of their case to discuss the complexity of these issues when there is a either a community property or separate business that is subject to division or analysis.
(See About for trial experience)
Our attorneys and staff can help the family law client obtain emergency orders to protect themselves and their children and loved ones from domestic violence or property destruction or dissipation. California law allows emergency orders be granted by the court to protect individuals or their children from domestic violence. This can include a residence exclusion against the perpetrator of domestic violence. A domestic violence order can change presumptions of custody and can even affect spousal support.
The family law client, when faced with domestic violence, property destruction or dissipation, or the drastic change in the status quo situation, needs to immediately consult an experienced family law specialist regarding these issues.
Our attorneys and staff have the education, expertise, and experience to help grandparents negotiate either grandparent visitation orders and/or potentially guardianship's if the facts warrant them. There are very specific guidelines for grandparent visitation and there are specific requirements for the granting of a guardianship for grandparents in extreme cases.
Our attorneys have many years of experience in working with grandparents in obtaining grandparent visitation and guardianship's.
Grandparents who have had regular and consistent contact with their grandchildren, or have not been able to have visitation with their grandchildren, should consult with an experienced family law specialist.
(See About for trial experience)
AWARDS & RECOGNITION
- Bio, Education, and ExperienceFor the ninth consecutive year (2007 through 2015 inclusive), Tom was selected to as one of Northern California’s Super Lawyers (www.superlawyers.com) in the publications Northern California Super Lawyers and San Francisco Magazine. Northern California Superlawyers lists only the top 5% of practicing Northern California attorneys and is based upon “peer review” and prohibits advertisement or payment…