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California Family Law for Low-Income Litigants: Child Custody, Visitation and Motions Practice


Speaker(s): Arati Vasan, Brenda Star Adams, Janet L. Frankel, Janice Cho, Trina Chatterjee, Yasmine S. Mehmet
Recorded on: Oct. 31, 2017
PLI Program #: 226767

Arati Vasan has been a Staff Attorney at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO) since 2011. She provides legal representation and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Her work includes representation in divorce, restraining order, child custody, support, property matters and domestic violence based immigration remedies. She has been coordinating the Domestic Violence Family Law Project. Arati works with survivors who are of all ethnicities and who are limited English proficient/monolingual, have immigration complications, disabilities, are low-income, and/or have other barriers to access and remedies.

Arati regularly trains and presents on issues of intimate partner violence, family law, language access, trauma -informed representation and cultural awareness.  She has provided training at public agencies, community based organizations, college and law school classes and at statewide organizations and conferences.  These include the trainings and presentations at the SF District Attorney’s Office, APA Family Support Services, the Legal Aid Association of California, Casa de Esperanza and the Vera Institute. She is a regular trainer and presenter at Asian Women’s Shelter, the SF Police Academy, and the domestic violence law class at UC Berkeley law. She is an advocate for changes in police and court procedures regarding language access and working with survivors of domestic violence. She has been a co-chair of the SF Domestic Violence Consortium and member of the SF Police Department’s Language Access Working Group.

Before joining APILO, Arati had her own family law practice.  She was also a family law pro bono and contract attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland. She received her domestic violence counselor certification through Asian Women's Shelter. Arati volunteered with Narika for many years including teaching classes for their economic empowerment program.  She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Law.  She received her license practice law in California in 2008.


Janice Cho earned her Bachelor's Degree, with honors, from the University of Chicago and her Juris Doctorate degree from Northwestern University School of Law.  After law school, Ms. Cho began her career representing low-income monolingual domestic violence survivors in family law and immigration law matters. She thereafter opened her own private practice continuing to work exclusively in the areas of family law and immigration law.

Ms. Cho has supervised legal clinics, provided technical assistance to pro bono attorneys, and provided trainings on family law and immigration law.  In addition to being an Adjunct Professor at John F. Kennedy School of Law where she taught “Racism and the Law,” she is a member of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Family Law Section and the Contra Costa County Bar Association’s Family Law Section.  She is currently President of Alameda County Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Corporation (VLSC). When not working, Ms. Cho enjoys camping, hiking and biking with her husband and her two daughters.


Trina Chatterjee is a partner at MVTC Family Law. She is a certified family law specialist, certified by the California State Bar Association Board of Legal Specialization. Since 2007, Trina has practiced primarily in family law and appears in court regularly in all Bay Area counties, practicing primarily in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Trina conducted a legal clinic weekly for several years at the Alameda County Family Justice Center where she advised clients on domestic violence and family law issues. She is co-chair of the Alameda County Family Law Association. She presents regularly on family law issues for Practicing Law Institute and provides trainings in family law for local legal associations. She was on the Executive Committee for the Solo and Small Firm section of the California Lawyer’s Association. She is a member of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, Alameda County Family Law Association, the Alameda County Bar Association, Association of Certified Family Law Specialists, and California Lawyer’s Association family law division. She is a past board member of Narika (a domestic violence helpline for South Asian survivors of domestic violence) and South Asian Bar Association of Northern California.

Trina obtained her J.D. from U.C. Hastings College of the Law and her B.A. from San Francisco State University. She lives with her husband and two children in Oakland, California.


Brenda Star Adams has been litigating cases on behalf of low income clients for over ten years. She began her career representing low income tenants in unlawful detainer jury trials with the Eviction Defense Center in Alameda County. After four years, she began representing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in family law and immigration cases with Bay Area Legal Aid. She is currently the Family Law Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Unit in Alameda County where she supervises the direct legal services provided to survivors of domestic violence and coordinates regional advocacy efforts.  The unit's work involves contested custody matters, restraining orders, paternity, legal separation, and dissolution cases, as well as U-Visas and VAWA petitions. Ms. Adams' specializes in complex and lengthy trials and enjoys training other legal professionals on trial practice. Ms. Adams is a native of San Francisco and when she is not working she enjoys hiking, gardening, and spending time with her parents, husband, and daughter.


Yasmine S. Mehmet is a certified family law specialist and has been practicing family law both in Vancouver, Canada and in San Francisco for over 25 years.  Her practice involves a broad range of cases from pro bono matters to complex high asset matters.  She was the prior Legislation Chair of the Family Law Executive Committee of the State Bar of California and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.  She was the Education Chair of the Family Law section of the Bar Association of San Francisco for a dozen years and has been a standing member of the Sargent Shriver grant committee since its inception in 2011.  She has been designated a Super Lawyer each year since 2010 and is the recipient of the 2009 State Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award.  She has also been honored with a number of other local awards, including the 2006 and 2012 James P. Prevolos award and the Bar Association of San Francisco Outstanding Volunteer in Public Service Award for many years.


In 1992, Janet Frankel received her JD from Hastings and opened her private law practice. In 1997 and 1998, Janet received the Wiley W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services from the State Bar Board of Governors. In 2004, Janet became certified as a Family Law Specialist by the CA State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. She mentors attorneys who accept pro bono family law matters through the JDC Program of BASF, and mentors law school students interested in family law. In 2005, Janet co-authored Dissolution Strategies, published by CEB, and she was selected as a Northern California Super Lawyer. Janet is now a co-author of the LexisNexis treatise California Family Law Practice & Procedure and a contributor to the California Family Law News.  

Janet serves as a Judge pro tem in the Unified Family Courts of the San Francisco Superior Court. She was appointed to the State Bar BLS Family Law Advisory Commission in 2006, and served as its Chair in 2009-10. Janet has been an Adjunct Professor at SF Law School (Alliant University) since 2006, teaching Community Property and Mediation. Janet is a past Chair of the BASF Family Law Section. Janet has volunteered as a presenter since 2013 for the Practicing Law Institute's annual training, "CA Family Law Basics: Pro Bono Representation in Low-Income Family Law Cases," and as a panelist for PLI's "Basic Negotiation Skills." Janet also volunteers monthly in KALW’s public service radio program “Your Legal Rights,” where listeners call in to pose their legal questions to certified specialists off the air. 

Janet has volunteered as a School Docent (Museum Guide) at SFMOMA for many years, as well as a sailing instructor at Island Yacht Club's annual Women’s Sailing Seminar, where women teach women how to sail.