Whether you have been here before or are here for the first time, your business and confidence are appreciated. Our law firm is the oldest in Lake County. Past and present lawyers associated with this firm, ranging from elected district attorneys to members of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps to Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys to a former managing partner of one of the largest law firms in California, have brought a rich variety of experience which benefits each client.
Our firm practices law in a wide variety of areas, ranging from family law, probate, trust matters, and estate planning and taxation to real estate law, contracts, and landlord-tenant disputes to administrative hearings and criminal law. The attorneys in our firm not only give advice, but back up that advice by litigating cases in all courts in Lake County and throughout California.
We are the oldest law firm in Lake County because we deliver quality legal services. To us, quality service means a high quality legal product, timely delivered, for a reasonable price.
We want you to feel comfortable and well represented by our law firm, so if you have any questions, please call. Part of our job is to provide you with sufficient information in order for you to make informed decisions.
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E. H. La Velle, III
E. H. La Velle, III grew up in Lake County and graduated from the Middletown Unified High School. After completing college, law school and several tours in the United States Army JAG Corps, Ed returned to his childhood home on Big Canyon Road, near Middletown. Upon his return to Lake County he was asked to join the law firm of Crump, Bruchler and Crump, the very first law firm ever established in Lake County. After only a year Ed became a partner and after only a few more years his hard work and legal talent was rewarded by
being promoted to managing attorney.
After rigorous testing, investigation, demonstration of experience and peer evaluation, in 1994 The California State Bar recognized Ed’s expertise in the area of family law when he was certified as a Family Law Specialist. To this day Ed is the only Family Law Certified Specialist in Lake County,
which is not surprising where approximately less than 1000 attorneys in the entire state have achieved this distinction.
In addition to supervising the activities of the other members of the office, Ed is actively engaged in advising clients and when necessary taking cases to trial in court. In the 22 years that Ed has been practicing law he has helped thousands of clients and participated in hundreds of court proceedings.
The firm’s goal is to deliver quality legal services. Ed has defined “quality legal services” as a high quality legal product, timely delivered, at a reasonable price. All of the firm’s present and future clients benefit from this philosophy.
Professional Licenses and Certifications:
Certified as Family Law Specialist by California
Board of Legal Specialization of the California
Bar of California; September 22, 1994
Licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the State of California and all subordinate courts; February 22, 1983
United States Court of Appeal, Ninth Circuit, 1983
United States District Court, Northern District of California, 1983
United States Tax Court, 1983
California State University, Sacramento, 1977
B.A. Sociology and Speech Communication –
Dual Majors; With Honors
University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 1981
Golden Gate University; University of Virginia; and
William and Mary School of Law; 1987-1988
Many post graduate legal courses
National College of District Attorneys – Career
Prosecutors Course, 1985
U. S. Army Judge Advocate, 1984-1988
Army Prosecutor and Special Assistant
U. S. Attorney, 1984-1986
Army Defense Counsel, 1986-1987
Chief, Military Justice, Training and Doctrine
Command, U. S. Army, 1987-1988
Crump, Bruchler and Crump, Associate Attorney; 1988-1990
Crump, Bruchler and La Velle, Managing Attorney,
1990 to present
Memberships in Professional Organizations:
State Bar of California
Association of Certified Family Law Specialists
Honors and Awards:
Army Commendation Medal – Impact, 1985
Army Commendation Medal – First Oak Leaf Cluster, 1986
Army Commendation Medal – Second Oak Leaf Cluster, 1987
Meritorious Service Medal, 1988
Edward D. Bronson, Jr.
Edward D. Bronson, Jr. was born in Oakland, California on February 8, 1926. After undergraduate studies at the University of Santa Clara in 1949, Mr. Bronson attended Hastings College of Law, where he obtained his LL.B. in 1952. Mr. Bronson was admitted to the California State Bar in 1953. From 1953 through 1960, he was an associate of the prestigious law firm of Bronson, Bronson, & McKinnon in San Francisco, and where he became a general partner in 1961 and remained such through 1991. From 1991 through 1994, Mr. Bronson was Of Counsel to the firm of Bronson, Bronson, & McKinnon. In 1994, after residing in Lake County for approximately 22 years, Mr. Bronson became Of Counsel to the law firm of Crump, Bruchler and La Velle.
Mr. Bronson is a past member of the International Association of Insurance Counsel, the Defense Research Institute Inc., the American Board of Trial Advocates (serving as Diplomate and President of the Northern California Chapter in 1969), Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California (serving as President in 1972), and fellow of American College of Trial Lawyers.
To this day, cases Mr. Bronson has tried are used as examples in law schools all over the United States. Mr. Bronson enjoys an AV Peer Review rating from Martindale Hubbell, which is a reflection that he has reached the height of professional excellence. He has practiced law for 52 years and is recognized as having achieved the highest levels of skill and integrity.
R. Steven Brown
R. Steven Brown, a fourth generation Lake County native, graduated from Kelseyville High in 2002. Steven attended William Penn University on a wrestling scholarship where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in sociology. After graduating from William Penn in 2006, Steven returned to Lake County and began Law School at Empire College School of Law in Santa Rosa. While in attendance at Empire Law School, Steven received several awards including the Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in torts. Steven also served as a supervisor for the Sonoma County Small Claims Advisory Clinic in 2007-08.
Steven graduated cum laude from Empire Law School in 2009 and became a member of the State Bar of California in 2010. Steven was a Bail Agent for Rob Brown Bail Bonds for 9 years and has been a Certified Mediator since 2009.
Since becoming a member of the State Bar, Steven has joined the Crump, Bruchler and La Velle team as an associate attorney. Steven’s practice with Crump, Bruchler and La Velle is divided between civil and criminal law.
Professional Licenses and Certifications:
Certified Mediator; October 16, 2009
Licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the State of California and all subordinate courts; May 18, 2010
Licensed to Practice before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California; June 25, 2010
William Penn University, 2006 B.A. Sociology
Empire School of Law, 2009 Juris Doctorate; With Honors
Jon A. Riesenbeck
Jon A. Riesenbeck grew up in California’s Stanislaus County. He is married and has two young children with a third on the way. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Civilization from the University of California, Los Angeles. While attending UCLA Jon joined the United States Marines Reserves.
Immediately following graduation from law school at University of California at Los Angeles in 2004, Jon’s reserve Marine unit was activated, and Jon meritoriously served our country while stationed in Iraq. Thereafter, upon returning to the states in 2005, Jon was admitted to practice law in California, after which time he relocated his family to Lake County and joined the law firm of Crump, Bruchler and La Velle.
Jon’s legal interest has always been primarily focused on family law. Since he began practice with Crump, Bruchler and La Velle, Jon has assisted many clients. In doing so, Jon has combined his keen attention to detail with both compassion and empathy, all to the benefit of those clients he has served.
Professional Licenses and Certifications:
Licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the State of California and all subordinate courts; December, 2005
University of California, Los Angeles, 2000 B.A. History
University of California, Los Angeles, 2000 B.A. Classical Civilization
University of California, Los Angeles, 2004 Juris Doctorate
Memberships in Professional Organizations:
State Bar of California
Honors and Awards:
“Class Honor Man” of 4th LAAD BN Corporal’s Course 1-05 (2005)
Certificate of Commendation (2005)
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2005)
Honor Graduate Reserve Administration Course 3-03 Personnel Administration School (2003)
Certificate of Achievement/Meritorious Mast (2001)
Trade Secrets of Divorce in California 1
“The Trade Secrets of Divorce in California.”
By E. H. LA VELLE, III
Certified Family Law Specialist
Certified by the State Bar of California
Board of Legal Specialization
I have been practicing family law for more than twenty years. I have been certified by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Certification, as a Family Law Specialist for sixteen years (as of October 2010, of the 227,991 lawyers in California, there were only 1,151 attorneys in California who were certified family law specialists). I have summarized below three cases that I handled that illustrate the types of problems people encounter and how knowing “the tricks of the trade” can make a very significant difference.
The first example is Jane. Jane’s best friend finally convinced her to see an attorney. When Jane came into my office it was obvious that she was very upset. One of the fears that Jane had was that her husband would find out where she was. As Jane became more comfortable, she explained that not only had her husband been abusive to her, but had threatened that, if she tried to do anything about it, he would take her children away. While Jane knew that she could call the police, she had no idea what would happen, and was afraid to risk losing her children. We explained to Jane that there are laws designed to protect her, and that we could apply for a domestic violence restraining order that included an order giving her custody of the children and an order excluding her husband from the family home, without him ever knowing that the application had been made. Obtaining a domestic violence restraining order was the beginning of a new life for Jane and her children.
Another example is John’s case. John had been married for only a few years. When John came to see me he had been divorced for a period of about six months. John explained that during his marriage he had strayed and felt very guilty. As a consequence, he agreed to the entry of a judgment that awarded to his wife all of the property. In addition, John agreed to a Judgment that ordered him to pay spousal support in the amount of $5,000 per month. John explained to me that after six months he didn’t feel nearly so guilty, and that he didn’t even make $5,000 per month. John, of course, wanted to set aside the judgment and renegotiate the terms. Because John’s wife used a paralegal instead of a competent attorney to create the judgment, and because of our knowledge of the law, we were able to set aside a judgment that John had agreed could be entered, and John was able to start over.
A final example is a pair of cases that I took to trial almost simultaneously. In one case, I represented Dad, who had an order for alternating weekend visitation. Mom had moved approximately 40 minutes further away, to take a better job. In that case, I was successful in obtaining a new custody order granting Dad custody and Mom alternating weekend visitation. In the other case, I represented Mom, who had joint physical custody with her ex-husband, who had their child in his care 50 percent of the time. At the beginning of the case, both parents lived in a small town where a great number of their relatives resided. Mom had developed a relationship with a partner who lived on the east coast, and Mom wanted to modify the existing order so that she could take her son with her when she moved to join her partner on the east coast. In that case, I was again successful in achieving my client’s objective, as she was granted custody of her son for most of the year, and was permitted to relocate with him to the east coast.
Divorce often comes at a time when a family is going through crisis –- financial as well as emotional. Sometimes the emotional crisis can further aggravate the financial one by “upping” the expenditure of attorneys’ fees and costs. For example, a vindictive spouse, or one who is just plain upset, can refuse to negotiate in good faith, or act to provoke numerous court appearances or otherwise delay the proceedings. Obviously, such a situation, if it occurs, is beyond your control, and we have to cope the best we can through the mechanisms provided by the court. Frankly, it can be expensive and wearying. However, this process will be made much easier if you select the right attorney.
SELECTION OF THE RIGHT ATTORNEY FOR YOU AND YOUR CASE
– Select an attorney whose practice is focused on the area of law in which you need help. The real estate attorney who did a great job for you may not know anything about family law. Some attorneys handle divorce cases occasionally to “fill in the gaps” and that is probably not the attorney who you want.
– Meet the attorney. If he or she is not someone that you are comfortable with it is probably mutual, and if there is a strained relationship the attorney will not be as effective as he/she could be.
– Inquire how many cases the attorney has tried. An attorney who has not tried any cases, or who does not try cases, is limited in the tools available to him or her, and the other side will know it.
– If told that the attorney has tried many cases, inquire how many were the type of case that you have. Trying personal injury cases or criminal cases is very different than trying divorce cases or custody cases.
– All other things being equal, choose an attorney who regularly practices in the court where your case will be heard. While the laws are the same throughout the state, how a particular judge runs his/her courtroom varies from judge to judge, and knowing how that judge operates can be very important.
– Do not assume, just because an attorney has presented a seminar, has a radio talk show, or advertises on television, that that attorney is the best qualified attorney to represent you. In many instances you only get one chance, so be prepared to take advantage of that chance and get it right the first time, because there may not be a second time.
You are capable of helping to minimize legal expenses by bearing these suggestions in mind:
1. Remember the high cost of telephone calls. Before you phone, gather all your questions and information for one phone call–a longer call will cost less than a number of shorter calls.
2. Remember that an attorney’s services are primarily legal. Certainly, unless your attorney understands the underlying nature of your interaction with your spouse, he/she cannot represent you as well as he/she might otherwise. Also, involvement in a family law matter is one of the greatest stresses in a person’s life, so it is to your legal advantage that you cope with this stress effectively. For example, unless you are thinking clearly, some of your decisions, such as whether you settle the case or not, could ultimately be extremely costly. For these reasons, I will spend some time exploring this interaction especially toward the beginning of the case. From what you tell me, I may be able to point out some of the “games” that are being played and how you can avoid being one of the players. However, at some point my listening to your experiences will fail to generate a return to you commensurate with the added costs that will appear on your monthly statement. Divorce is in part a grieving process, and seeking psychological help may provide further support in making clear decisions and avoiding the games of your ex-partner.
3. Participate as effectively as you can in your own case. Your time is likely to be less expensive to you than ours. Therefore, we will ask that you obtain as much of the information and documents for your case as possible, consistent with its proper and expeditious handling. You can also control costs by making photocopies as soon as possible of all your important financial records, including deeds, titles to your vehicles, insurance policies, tax returns, bank statements, statements reflecting obligations, and other such documents.
4. Organize the papers involved in your case, and ordinarily bring them to all conferences and hearings. This will help to ensure that time is not wasted during meetings.
5. Organize your questions and concerns before you meet with us. Since you are paying by the hour, be prepared for each meeting and stay on the subject, so that your concerns may all be discussed at one time rather than on separate occasions.
6. Think positively toward the settlement of the case. I cannot remember a case where a husband and wife had identical recollections about their acquisition of assets or anything else in question during the divorce proceedings. Legal bills mount up rapidly if the parties argue about minor issues, so pick your battles carefully in an effort to minimize disagreements. Because a judge can often dispose of a case in a way that displeases everyone involved, it is almost always best to settle the case if one can obtain a reasonably fair agreement. Therefore, when we have enough information to analyze the most important issues in your case, I will seek your authority to attempt to negotiate a settlement.
7. Both parties must disclose the identity of all assets and liabilities and all earnings and obligations, as well as all investment opportunities. The California Family Code requires that individuals involved in a dissolution action must disclose the identity of all assets, liabilities, earnings, obligations, and investment opportunities. These disclosures must be made shortly after the service of the petition, and again 45 days before the first trial date set, as well as at any time during the proceedings that additional information about these financial matters becomes known to you. If you are in doubt as to whether something should be disclosed, you should communicate such information to me, and I will advise you as to whether or not the information must be disclosed. To the extent that disclosure is required, I will prepare the documents disclosing such information. The California Family Code essentially requires disclosure of any information which would cause you to pay a dollar more or a dollar less in the division of assets and debts. The consequences of failing to disclose such information are that the judgment may be set aside at some point in the future; the non-disclosing party may be required to pay all of the other party’s fees and expenses incurred in compelling disclosure; the non-disclosing party may be prevented from presenting evidence related to any asset or liability which should have been disclosed; and, pursuant to the California Family Code, the non-disclosing party may forfeit his or her entire interest in the undisclosed asset. Thus, complete and accurate disclosure is essential.
Trade Secrets of Divorce in California 2
The following are general considerations that would be beneficial for you to keep in mind at least until the dissolution proceedings are concluded. Of course, if you have any further questions regarding the information provided below you are encouraged to bring them to my attention:
1. Psychological warfare while the divorce proceedings are pending. Psychological warfare occurs in almost every case, to a greater or lesser degree. These general guidelines may help you resist threats, or the temptation to make decisions based on guilt or on the hope that bending over backward will get him or her back. Any advice your ex-spouse offers you probably won’t be in your interest, and he or she may well use any private information you reveal against you. Meetings with your spouse that turn into opportunities to show who is in control or to get revenge, will be expensive. Using time with the kids as a counter to negotiate for some other advantage is never a good idea.
I have listed below some of the more common scenarios that may play out over the next several months:
A. “I will tell them ‘x’ about you, therefore you will never get the children.”
[‘x’ can be an affair, the fact that you are seeing an analyst, an “addiction” to two or three glasses of wine per day, or some other irrelevant circumstance. Chances are, ‘x’ has little or nothing to do with the best interests of the children and therefore will be disregarded in any planning for the children’s lives.]
B. “Your attorney is a dud, or out to get our money, or why don’t we use one attorney and save money, or your attorney is really partial to me, etc., etc.”
[These are divide and conquer tactics. If there is a way to save attorney fees and costs we are looking for it as well and will be glad to discuss it with you.]
C. “Unless you play this my way you’ll never get a dime.”
[The threatener is accustomed to being in charge of things. That is no longer the case. The property will be divided evenly. Support will be awarded in accordance with legal principles.]
D. “I’ll go to jail before I’ll pay you a dime.”
[So be it. There are various ways to enforce support obligation; ultimately, contempt of court can mean a jail term. However, this is very rarely the case and most of these people end up paying voluntarily.]
E. “I’ll quit my job before I’ll pay you that kind of money.”
[Attempt to get a witness to this kind of a statement. If intent can be proven to avoid support obligations by quitting one’s job, these support obligations would continue at the same level.]
F. “I will consider reconciling with you only if you sign this agreement.”
[If you are going to reconcile, why do you need the agreement? Or why must the agreement be in favor of the party making such a demand? Be extremely suspicious of any such statements. Even if you hope your divorce will end in reconciliation, ask for what is your fair share so if there’s no reconciliation, you can still take care of yourself financially.]
G. “If you don’t see this thing my way, the judge will order that we sell everything.”
[The court will not order the sale of an asset unless there is a good economic reason for it in the best interest of both parties. Instead, the court will generally do all or a combination of the following:
(1) Award individual assets or obligations to one or the other party;
(2) Award an asset to both parties ½ and ½, for example, because the asset cannot easily be valued; or
(3) Provide that one party receive an asset such as a residence conditional on an equalizing payment or note to the other.]
If you find yourself suffering unduly from these kinds of comments and threats, keep a running diary with dates, places, occasions and summaries of conversations occurring. (Do not tape record a conversation without consent; it may be a crime.)
2. Amendment or Creation of Will or Trust. During the marriage you may have created a will or trust. Probably, that will or trust provides that your spouse will receive some or all of your assets. Since you are now involved in a change of marital status, you should consider amending or otherwise modifying your will or trust so that your assets will not pass to your current spouse. If you need a new testamentary instrument or want to revise an old one, we can assist you. However, you should be sure to ask for our assistance, as certain automatic temporary restraining orders may affect the modifications that can be made immediately.
3. Severance of Joint Tenancy Property. The title to property acquired during marriage might be held by you and your spouse in “joint tenancy” form. It is important that you identify whether any of the major marital assets are held in this form because joint tenancy property carries a “right of survivorship” feature. The right of survivorship means that in the event you are the first to die, the property will pass in full (100%) to the surviving joint tenant (your spouse), defeating any rights your heirs might otherwise have in the property (by your will or the laws of intestate succession). Conversely, if your spouse dies first, your right of survivorship will prevail as against the rights of your spouse’s heirs and the property will pass in full (100%) to you. However, California community property law might defeat the joint tenancy right of survivorship feature in the event either you or your spouse dies before your divorce is final:
A. If death occurs after a judgment is entered terminating your marriage but before the court adjudicates a division of your marital property, joint tenancy property held by you and your spouse will be divided 50 50 under California community property law, meaning the surviving spouse will take only a 50% interest and the deceased spouse’s 50% share will pass through his or her estate to the spouse’s heirs.
B. Conversely, if either you or your spouse dies before a judgment is entered terminating your marriage, the joint tenancy right of survivorship feature is preserved; the family court will have no power to apply California community property law to the joint tenancy property and it will pass in full (100%) to the surviving spouse.
Although you may presently be in good health, I urge you to weigh the pros and cons of leaving joint tenancy title intact while awaiting final judgment of dissolution. If you take immediate steps to sever joint tenancy title, you will defeat any risk that your untimely death before divorce is final would give your spouse the right to take the entire interest in the property as against your estate. I also urge you to review your will, and consult with us regarding any appropriate changes in your estate plan in view of these proceedings.
You should be aware that an immediate severance of joint tenancy title could also work to your disadvantage should your spouse die before entry of a judgment terminating your marriage. In that event, your right to take the property in full by right of survivorship will be defeated and you will be limited to a 50% interest in the property.
Of course, the final decision is yours. Should you decide that severance of joint tenancy title is the most prudent course of action, we are available to counsel you on how to proceed. Like a will, joint tenancy title documents are not ones which are prepared in the normal course of the dissolution action, so if you are interested in having them prepared you must bring it to my attention.
Again, you should be sure to ask for our assistance, as certain automatic temporary restraining orders may affect your ability to sever a joint tenancy immediately.
4. Separation of Assets Generally. Review all of your bank and brokerage accounts, powers of attorney, living wills, credit cards and any other property that you have jointly with your ex-spouse. Generally, it is advantageous to take action to disinvolve your spouse. It is often important to apply for new credit cards in your own name, as soon as possible, to establish your own credit, and to have access to money during your divorce. Don’t assume because your name appears on a joint credit account and/or you are the one that writes checks to pay the bills, that you have credit in your own name.
5. Protection from Violence. You should inform me if your marriage involved domestic violence, or if domestic violence occurs while the dissolution action is proceeding so that we can obtain a protective order immediately. A dissolution proceeding is an emotionally charged event. Tensions caused by the dissolution may precipitate further violence, and violence becomes more likely after separation than before, particularly if your spouse has a history of violence.
6. Protection from your Spouse’s Post-Separation Spending Habits. To protect yourself from the spending habits of your spouse it is recommended, if possible, that you take steps immediately to close joint credit card accounts and other joint charge accounts, and to establish your own individual credit.
7. Developing a Reserve of Accessible Cash. You will need access to cash throughout the process of dissolving the marriage. It will be good strategy to open a bank account in your own name, and transfer into the account at least half of the funds in joint accounts. This will ultimately have to be disclosed to your spouse, but in the meantime you will be able to cope financially. If you need to borrow, avoid the high interest rates of credit cards, and apply to your credit union, or consider asking your family for a loan. You are entitled to the same life style you had during marriage, to the extent that it can be afforded, so denying yourself unnecessarily won’t help matters, but neither will over-spending.
8. Maintaining Privacy. As soon as possible, rent a post office box and change your address for the receipt of important documents and personal letters. Confidential information can be sent to you there. It also provides a consistent mailing address when you may be moving from your home. Avoid sharing personal information with or seeking advice from your spouse, because he or she will be protecting their own interests, not yours.
Please do not presume that I have provided the above information in place of representation. My office is always available to answer any questions that you may have. Instead, this letter is provided for your information and to help you minimize your legal costs during very trying times. Furthermore, I have alerted you to examples of some of the tactics which may be employed by the opposing party so that you will not be caught off guard should they occur. Finally, I discussed some issues which may need your further thought or action. Even if not all of the issues discussed in this letter are applicable to your case right now, they may become very important before a judgment is obtained. For this reason, I advise you to keep this letter and review it periodically during the course of the proceedings.
The mission of this firm is to provide quality legal services, timely delivered, at a reasonable price. My staff and I are dedicated to doing our very best to help you accomplish your objectives. We do not promise miracles, but we do promise hard work and a sincere concern for achieving the best possible outcome for you.
Crump, Bruchler and La Velle
1175 NMain St