Valerie Fenchel: Founder & Principal Attorney
Valerie Fenchel is the founder of Fenchel Family Law. Her legal services empower men and women to navigate marriage and divorce toward more vibrant futures. She advises clients, devises strategies, and works with therapists, actuaries, and forensic accountants to settle or litigate cases. As a witness to the damage caused by divorce over the course of her career as a family law attorney and educator, Valerie has gained extensive experience in helping families in crisis.
Valerie is actively involved in the legal community. She is the Lead Attorney of Shalom Bayit’s Pro Bono Legal Panel, Secretary of the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco, and is completing a fellowship on the board of the Jewish Community High School of the Bay.
Valerie previously managed the care and education for children and is passionate about protecting the best interest of children. She excels at crafting parenting plans, negotiating settlements and litigating custody battles on behalf of parents that are able to put their child’s needs first. She has experience helping parents of newborns, toddlers, special needs children, and defiant teenagers. She understands that every child is different, and that each child’s parenting plan and care must be narrowly tailored to meet his/her needs, either by agreement or Court order.
Valerie is an experienced negotiator, and aims to support the goals and values of families and serve the best interests of parents and their children through settlements. She belongs to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, which aims to resolve family problems.
She explains to her clients that once court intervention is sought, a perfect stranger on the bench is permitted to make orders over their intimate personal matters. For this reason, resolving cases through negotiation and cooperative counsel is usually recommended.
Valerie understands that litigation may be a client’s only choice especially when there is an imbalance of power dynamics or the other parent is unwilling to put the children’s best interest first. In these situations, Valerie does not hesitate to escalate the matter to Court, and is at home in the courtroom with her litigation training and aptitude. She honed her litigation skills through honors programs with both the Office of the Attorney General in San Francisco, California, and the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C., and has presented winning oral arguments before California’s First and Sixth Courts of Appeal. She continues to present winning arguments to the Family Courts, which have resulted in her clients being awarded the custodial rights and financial relief that they deserve.
Valerie only accepts clients that are able to treat their partner with respect and protect the best interests of their children. She treats her clients like family and provides the level of attention and care required to assure that they are always informed and empowered throughout the legal process. Valerie advises clients solely based on what she believes is in their best interest, even if that means advising her clients to not file for divorce, or requiring that her clients complete several sessions with a therapist before moving forward with a parenting plan.
Valerie graduated Phi Beta Kappa with High Honors from UC Santa Barbara and earned her J.D. from UC Davis School of Law where she served as President of the Negotiations Team. She previously practiced exclusively family law at premier law firms in the San Francisco Bay area, which focused on the representation of high net worth individuals and families. She lectures college students and addresses professional groups on pertinent family law issues.
Valerie jokes that family law is in her blood. Her mother, and Fenchel Family Law’s Of-Counsel, has a Mediation and Collaborative family law practice in Walnut Creek, and her father is a forensic accountant that has served as expert witness on behalf of family law litigants. When she is not working, you can find Valerie watching Shark Tank, jogging along the Bay, or planning her next beach vacation.
Tessa Weeks: Senior Associate Attorney
Tessa is passionate about assisting her clients in resolving their most important family law challenges. Tessa provides her clients with aggressive advocacy, skilled negotiation, reliability, transparency and creative problem solving.
Having grown up as a middle child with five sisters, Tessa was groomed from the start to work in a field as emotionally demanding and high conflict as family law. Tessa officially began her family law career in New York City in 2009, working at two non-profit agencies that provided representation to victims of domestic violence. Since then, Tessa has represented clients in all aspects of family law, including divorce, property division, custody, child and spousal support, nuptial agreements and domestic violence restraining orders. Tessa has also gained extensive trial experience having represented large companies, municipalities, and individuals at trials throughout the Bay Area.
Tessa is admitted to practice law in California and New York and is an active member of the Contra Costa and San Francisco Bar Associations. Tessa also volunteers her time taking on pro bono family law cases through the Justice & Diversity Center.
Tessa received her Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall School of Law in 2009 and her Bachelor of Arts from Washington University in St. Louis in 2006.
Lisa Lopez-O’Bara: Associate Attorney
Lisa Lopez-O’Bara, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Fenchel Family Law. She has experience working with a range of cases involving: high-asset dissolutions, parentage, interstate custody, international custody disputes, domestic violence, Marvin actions, support, default judgments, and pro-bono representation.
Lisa understands that divorce, child custody, domestic violence and support issues are among the most stressful events a client will experience, and seeks to provide the legal representation that will ease some of the high-stress surrounding these issues. Lisa competently and compassionately advocates for her clients’ best interests through negotiation, out-of-the box approaches to complex issues, and collaboration. Lisa also has experience working with survivors of domestic violence to obtain the restraining orders necessary to begin rebuilding their lives free from abuse.
Lisa is a graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law. As a law student, she was active in the student community as Co-President for Law Students for Reproductive Justice, which sought to educate future-lawyers about the roles they can play in preserving an individual’s right to reproduce when and how they want to. Lisa was also the Event Coordinator for the Public Interest Law Foundation, which raised funds to be able to provide grants to unpaid law-students working for non-profit legal organizations.
Lisa worked as a certified law intern at the East Bay Children’s Law Offices, where she represented foster-youth in Alameda County, and represented their best interest in administrative hearings. Lisa also interned at Justice Now, where she co-authored two articles featuring women in prison and was the lead intern in the “Let Our Family Have a Future Campaign.”
Prior to entering law school, Lisa graduated from San Francisco State University with her B.A. in Political Science.
“Women in the World – Child Brides of Yemen,” 9th Annual SFSU Human Rights Summit: April 25, 2012.
Sharon Walther: Senior Paralegal
Sharon compassionately helps navigate through what is often described by our clients as the worst times of their lives keeps them focused on moving their lives forward with her combination of experience, empathy, and humor.
Sharon’s dedication to her job is like no paralegal we have ever met. When she is not meeting with our clients at our office, she may be found personally assisting our clients at their homes, tracking down an opposing party evading service, or personally assuring third parties, police officers, or expert witnesses are doing what is required to protect our clients’ best interest and help their families.
With Sharon on their side, our clients are always kept informed and updated on the status of their case. She is the attorney’s liaison with the court and continues to keep the court staff on their toes.
She has extensive experience performing family law paralegal work both in private practice and for the county courts, and an in-depth understanding of the processes necessary to move a family law case forward.
Sharon has experience working in all of the Bay Area family law courts, as well as San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. She has developed an extensive list of court resources, contacts, and savvy fixes for the various kinds of emergencies and crises presented by our clients’ family situations.
When she is not working as our magical unicorn, Sharon is enjoying her 4 children and grandson, playing with her dog, Chloe, or planning her next adventure.