Courts Are Not The Place To Be

WESTLAKE, California – Family law attorney Maya Shulman is used to hearing from clients who say they want an “aggressive” lawyer, someone they envision boldly striding into court and convincing a judge to rule in their favor.

Most often, Shulman tells them that’s a bad idea.

Courts are unpredictable and hard to navigate, even with a good lawyer by your side, she says. Divorce and custody proceedings can drag on for months, piling stress on clients and their children, and draining families financially. Even then, there are no guarantees that clients will get what they want in court, Shulman explains. Judges, like all humans, have blind spots, biases, and bad days. Taking a case to court means leaving critical, life-impacting decisions to the whim of a judge, and losing control over the outcome, the attorney says.

“People’s perception of judges comes from television, and that is not real. I tell my clients not to watch any legal shows, because those are based on fantasies,” says Shulman, who has practiced family law in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for more than two decades.

“People expect the judges will be unbiased, well-tempered, knowledgeable, experienced, and wonderful people. That’s not realistic,” she added. “Judges are not your friends, they don’t know you. By insisting on litigation, you allow a complete stranger to dictate your life.”

Going to court almost always adds costs and time to divorces, according to Nolo, a leading publisher of legal information online. In a nationwide survey, the company found that divorce cases settled out of court take an average of 9 months to complete, while cases that go to court last almost 18 months and require thousands more dollars in attorney fees.

Shulman believes strongly that the best way to handle family law matters, whether it’s a custody battle, surrogacy, or entangled divorce, is most often through a mediated settlement. A skilled family lawyer can negotiate a compromise that both parties can live with, reducing unnecessary stress and expense, and allowing clients to quickly move on with their lives, she says.

That tactic is especially pertinent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, it can take upwards of six months to get a hearing in Los Angeles county, Shulman says. Additionally, judges are frequently assigned to family law courts even if they have little experience or interest in the field, she adds. For many judges, family law is a stepping stone to something bigger. It is also not unusual for family law judges to make decisions not supported by actual evidence or the Rules of Court, Shulman noted.

Although some cases do require litigation, such as those involving domestic violence, going to court should be a last resort for most people, Shulman says. Sadly, some people do decide to pursue litigation simply to “get their day in court,” even though it’s not necessary. Others are persuaded to go that route by attorneys driven by personal of financial motivations that don’t reflect the client’s best interests, Shulman says.

“If there is a chance to settle the case, settlement is always more productive,” Shulman says. “You don’t want to litigate every single issue. You need to find a compromise you can live with.”

Maya Shulman is the founder of Shulman Family Law Group, and represents clients in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties dealing with issues of family law, including divorce and custody. She is adept at handling complex matters, including move-away cases, interstate and international family law, surrogacy, adoption and assisted reproduction technologies.

Shulman studied medicine at the Medical Academy in Latvia, earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Brooklyn College in 1995, and her Juris Doctor from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law in 1999. She is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and California, before the Supreme Court of California, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, and the U. S. Supreme Court.

Highly regarded for her legal skills and experience, Shulman has been recognized as a Southern California Super Lawyer every year since 2014, and as a Southern California Rising Star for 2004 through 2014. In addition to English, she speaks Russian, and understands Hebrew and the Slavic languages of Eastern Europe.

Shulman Family Law Group is located at 24025 Park Sorrento, Suite 310 in Calabasas, and at 7 W. Figueroa St., Suite 300, in Santa Barbara. For more information visit or call 818-222-0010 to schedule a consultation.

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