The Many Misconceptions of Family Law

The Many Misconceptions of Family Law




People are often unaware to how complex family law can be in California.

“My concern is that people may not be properly represented, because lawyers think ‘family law is simple’ but it is not, particularly for us specialists. We know the minefields and where the conflicts will be, and we come up with creative solutions that will work and be sustainable, if and when we do go to court”, speaks specialist Stephen Ruben.

Stephen speaks more on common misconceptions people have about family law.


Touching on your 30 years’ experience; how have you seen family law change and how has it changed for the better?

Family law has changed a lot over the past ten years, because almost 70% of people in California are now self-represented. So, the cases that we are engaged in tend to be much more complex and do require the skills and expertise of a specialist.


What would you say is quite a complex family law case? What has been your most complex case to date?

The cases become very complex when there are agreements or marriages between states. For example, clients that now reside in California but have a prenuptial agreement signed in another state, can present certain complexities in their case. It is a question of which law will apply: will it be the law of the state in which the parties executed the agreement, and where the agreement says, or will California override certain provisions related to the prenuptial as it could cause violation of public policy.


Do you think any changes need to be made in regard to non-marital partnerships and what are common issues do you see arise in this area?

Some states have very limited support provisions, but some are revisiting that issue. For example, in the state of Illinois where I previously practiced as a public prosecutor, there was a very limited period of time in which spouse support was awarded. However, Illinois reversed its decision a couple of years ago and recognised that long term support is a very important aspect, particularly if there is a huge disparity of wage and earnings. I do think that long term support is really an important aspect of divorce, because it equalises the playing field and puts both parties in a balanced economic status, but it also gives a chance for the receiving spouse to have an opportunity to go back into the workplace, to pursue their career, in order to be self-supporting, which is a law I think all states should address.


Do you think there are any complexities in family law which you are hoping to address in the future?

Yes – I am an expert in The Hague convention, which deals with abducted children which are brought into the US – either through kidnapping or wrongful detention-, and I have just recently concluded a very successful case where my client’s child was returned back to Denmark. I am hoping to address more cases like this as they are highly rewarding; the reunification of a child back to his or her parent is gratifying, as wrongful abduction is a high level of child abuse.


As a featured radio guest on “Your Legal Rights” in San Francisco, can you share with us some common ‘rights’ that your clients often are unaware about in family law?

I think some clients are glued to the notion that gender has an impact on custody and that they are entitled to 50%. California was the first state in the nation to adopt a neutral assessment where sex and gender does not matter. Instead, it is based on who is the active parent, the one providing the child with daily supervision control, taking the child to piano rehearsals and doctor appointments; some parents are not as active as they work more hours, yet they have this notion that this will give them the entitlement to joint custody, which is not true. We have a non-sexual discrimination statute which has a provision stating that both parents are entitled to frequent and continuous contact, but that does not mean ‘equal’. This is one of the areas we must careful explain to clients; the comprehensive custody plan takes into account everybody’s work schedule and who is providing the day to day care.


Stephen B. Ruben

Certified Specialist, Family Law

Ruben Law Firm

625 Market Street, Penthouse

San Francisco, CA 94105

  1. 415.399.6830


Stephen B. Ruben is the Managing Director of The Ruben Law Firm, P.C. He provides family law representation, mediation, and private judging in San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin Counties. Steve’s practice is devoted to complex family law litigation including high net worth divorce cases, financial issues, spousal and child support, high conflict custody disputes, and dissolution, including non-marital and domestic partnerships, adoptions, child abandonment and paternity and will and trust administration.

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