The specialization in family law dates back to 1980 when a group of family law attorneys from the San Francisco Bay Area began meeting regularly to discuss issues related to their area of practice. The group developed the concept for a specialization in order to advance the area of family law and create a standard of practice for attorneys in the field. The Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) field became the first legal specialization in California to require an exam. In 1985 the California Supreme Court made CFLS into an official area of specialization.
According to the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists (ACFLS) the purpose of the association is to:
- Monitor legislation related to family law
- Promote ethical practice among family law specialists
- Advance knowledge in the area of family law for practitioners
- Advocate for the advantages of the specialization to the public and the state bar association
Membership in the ACFLS requires only the examination and payment of dues, unlike many specialized associations that require members to be voted in. The ACFLS has found that the public perceives these family law specialists to possess an extremely broad knowledge of family law and the highest ethical and professional standards of practice. The founders of the certification program believed the existence of the specialization certification program would encourage others practicing family law to also pursue the certificate, thereby elevating the overall quality of practice in this highly complex field of law.
The ACFLS website hosts a blog in which current cases are described and discussed. In addition to the website forum, members have access to other experts in the area of law, a way to communicate their area of expertise to the public and a skill set definition that is readily identifiable and marketable.
Having practiced in the field of family law for 35 years, San Diego attorney Steven M. Bishop was recognized as a Certified Family Law Specialist in 2009.