The attorneys at The Wald Law Group have extensive experience handling family law appeals in our state’s appellate courts.  Our attorneys are prepared to litigate in new and undecided areas of law, and their published opinions have served to clarify and broaden legal boundaries.

Deborah H. Wald has extensive experience with both criminal and family law appeals. Her most recent published opinions include V.S v. M.L. (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 730, and In re D.S. (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 1238, both of which involved parentage disputes.  Other published opinions include S.Y. v. S.B (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 1023, a case seeking to apply the rules for determining “presumed” parentage in a context where the children previously had been adopted by only one parent; and People v. Salazar-Merino (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 590, a case challenging the constitutionality of the criminal provisions of Proposition 187, the initiative passed by the voters in 1994 to prevent undocumented Californians from receiving public benefits or services including health care and education.

Ms. Wald also has served as cooperating counsel to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, working directly on the appeals of In re Nicholas H. (2002) 28 Cal.4th 56; Sharon S. v. Superior Court (2003) 31 Cal.4th 17; K.M. v. E.G. (2005) 37 Cal.4th 130; and Elisa B. v. Superior Court (2005) 37 Cal.4th 108. In addition Ms. Wald has served as lead counsel for Charisma R. since 2006, representing Ms. R. through eight years of proceedings at both the trial and appellate court levels, and leading to two published opinions addressing the standards for determining legal parentage in the context of lesbian partnerships (see Charisma R. v. Kristina S. (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 301, Charisma R. v. Kristina S. (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 361).

Published Appeals:

V.S v. M.L. (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 730

Practice Area: Family

Outcome: Appellate court found a possible biological father has standing to bring an action to establish the existence of the father-child relationship even if the mother’s husband is unquestionable the presumed father.

Description: The biological father tried to establish paternity for purposes of custody and visitation. The trial court dismissed his action for lack of standing, given that the child was born into the mother’s marriage to another man. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that a change to Family Code section 7630 had provided biological fathers with standing even where a child already had a presumed father. Once this inadvertent change was brought to the attention of the family law community, it was corrected through subsequent legislation.

In re D.S. (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 1238

Practice Area: Family/Dependency

Outcome: Appellate court confirmed that when a man is unable to take responsibility for his baby due to his incarceration, he generally will not qualify as a Kelsey S. father.

Description: This was a dependency case in which two men – the biological father and the mother’s boyfriend – each were asserting paternity.  The child had been raised by the mother and her boyfriend, with the biological father largely unavailable due to his drug dependency and repeated incarcerations. After getting out of prison and completing rehab, the biological father asserted he should be granted reunification services as a Kelsey S. father, who had expressed a commitment to his child from birth to the extent he was able. Although the dependency court found the biological father was a Kelsey S. father, the Court of Appeal reversed.

S.Y. v. S.B (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 1023

Practice Area: Family

Outcome: Long term intimate partner of an adoptive mother was a presumed parent, even though she had not participated in the adoptions, based on her longstanding parental commitment to the children.

Description: S.Y. was a high ranking officer in the military reserves, and therefore was unable to be open about her long term, committed same-sex relationship.  During that relationship, her partner adopted two children as a single mother.  Based on evidence that S.Y. had participated in parenting the two children, including sharing financial responsibility for the children and participating in their care and education, the court found that she qualified as a presumed parent.

People v. Salazar-Merino (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 590

Practice Area: Criminal

Outcome: Conviction reversed based on ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

Description: Mr. Salazar-Merino was undocumented, and had obtained a fake green card which he used for identification purposes. During a traffic stop, the officer saw the fake green card and arrested Mr. Salazar-Merino for having a false ID. The court appointed defense attorney admitted that she was unfamiliar with the statute but assumed that Mr. Salazar-Merino must have violated it or he would not have been charged. Reversed for ineffective assistance of counsel, on the grounds that a criminal defendant has a right to have his attorney closely examine the charges and the evidence rather than assuming guilt.