Stephen J. Wagner, Esq., CFLS
I have practiced law since 1975 and have limited my practice to the area of Family Law since approximately 1980. My practice is concentrated on complex family law matters usually involving issues relating to property valuation and division, characterization of property as community or separate property and support. If custody becomes a major issue, I will bring in co-counsel to handle the custody portion of the case while I handle the other portions. My general philosophy of family law litigation is that almost all cases are capable of settlement and should be settled. I am successful in settling cases approximately 95% of the time. However, if a case cannot be settled, then it should be vigorously litigated. I have tried scores of cases lasting from one day to several months. In recent years, most of my trials have lasted a week or more.
I firmly believe there is no substitute for experience and preparation. Thorough preparation, when combined with experience, is normally the key to success. Preparation is a team effort. Team effort requires the active participation of the client, the family law attorney and all necessary experts, whether accounting, valuation or witness preparation specialists. The family law attorney is only as good as his or her weakest link in the team.
In addition to practicing family law on a full-time basis, I enjoy teaching the principles of family law. I taught family law at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law for five years and, since 1980, have taught more than one hundred and fifty classes to family law lawyers, experts or judges. Most of the courses which I present are practical "how to" courses, which strike a balance between legal principles, practical applications of the law and litigation techniques. Most recently I have begun to focus my teaching on family law trial techniques and trial advocacy, doing so on both the state and national levels.