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Firm Overview

Building families through adoption: To provide secure stable homes for children while allowing people to enjoy parenthood.

Beginning in 1979, I practiced law as a solo practitioner, primarily in estate planning, while rearing my own three children. In 1988, after being asked to serve on the Board of Directors of a Crisis Pregnancy Center and seeing that no adoption opportunities existed locally, I completely turned my practice over to the areas of adoption and guardianships and have never looked back.

Example cases

A twenty-four year old woman came in to see me with her husband. She had experienced a complete hysterectomy due to endometriosis. Within three years she and her husband had three little girls through adoption!

A couple came in with the husband in a wheelchair. He was medically considered quadriplegic, though he had some use of his hands. I honestly told them, that it would be difficult to find a mom willing to place with them, but I would see what I could do for them. An older birth mother heard the story of the accident and how he had still gone on to college and graduate school and become an elementary teacher. She decided he had the "right stuff" to be a great parent!

A pregnant woman asked if I could find an "organic, green-focused" family for her baby. She was quite detailed in the type of life she wanted for her child. My first thought was that these are not the kind of questions we ask prospective parents, such as, "Do you recycle?" But I started calling my prospective adoptive parents and asking these details. Then I called other adoption attorneys, agencies, and facilitators and asked about their waiting families. The first two families that sounded good were rejected. Finally, I found a couple who ran a camp, lived on an island and shared her views of diet, nutrition, and mother earth. Bingo!

An elderly man and woman came in with their two gorgeous granddaughters, ages ten and twelve. The ten year old was very bright and talkative, telling me she wanted to be a lawyer. The girls were orphaned and wanted their grandparents to adopt them. The grandma didn't speak English, and the grandfather let the girls do the talking, while he sat back smiling. When the final order of adoption was signed a few months later, the girls hugged me and the judge; the ten year old announced her plan to become an adoption attorney one day!

A drug mom came to me in her eighth month of pregnancy, telling me that she has used multiple illegal drugs, including IV heroin, throughout her pregnancy. She had received no prenatal care. "Would anyone want my baby?" I was able to find a family within a week. The mom assisted this lady through labor and promised to give the baby the best care possible. Miraculously, the boy weighed nine pounds and was perfect with no drugs in his system!

A woman in her sixties told me the story of raising her husband's three young children after his wife died. The husband had recently passed away, and this golden girl had never had any biological children. She wanted to adopt her grown stepchildren, aged forty to forty-four. They were Italians, living in Florence, Italy, but we started the paperwork anyway. They flew out for Christmas, and I was able to get a December 24 court date. The judge we had reviewed the paperwork, questioned the adoptees in Italian, and signed the adoption order. A marvelous Christmas!

In 2009, I was called by social services at noon on New Year's Eve. The mother of a newly delivered baby girl wanted to find an adoptive home. I began making calls, found a family and by 5:30 p.m., we had the paperwork signed and the baby being readied for discharged. The husband pulled me aside and asked if his wife had called me after Thanksgiving. I told him, no and asked why. It seems they had been waiting for three years for a daughter to add to the two sons they had adopted, but had decided to give it up, if they had not adopted by December 31. Here it was, the deadline day, and they were taking home a precious daughter!

Main Office

Main
290 Maple Court
Suite 118
Ventura  CA  93003

Phone
  • (805) 294-2120
Fax
  • (805) 524-7175

Fees

Free Initial Consultation?

Yes, 30 minutes. Birth mother consultations free.

Services Offered For Fixed Fees?

My fees are generally hourly, though some aspects of adoptions are on a flat fee basis.

Beginning the process of seeking a child is a low $2,500 initial fee. (Some agencies and facilitators or LA County attorneys may request $7,500 to $12,000 just to begin with you.)

Hourly Rates

Currently hourly rate as of 2011 is $350 hour.

Office Information

Office Hours

clients seen by appointment

Emergency After Hours

Yes

How did your firm decide on the primary area of practice(s)?

Though I ended up with three children, it took many years, and I learned the heartache of infertility. My husband and I were once in an adoption plan, but the birth mother decided at the last minute to keep her baby, so I know that side of it, too.

What is your firm's point of view regarding clients educating themselves on legal issues?

Good news, bad news. There is an adage among lawyers that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I do my best to explain the legal procedures and process, and educate the client as to their specific case and the legal issues that are present; however it is important to realize that one cannot be on equal footing with an experienced attorney.

Some education allows for better communication, so long as the client maintains an open mind and considers the attorney's advice. Some of the worst messes I have had to deal with were cases begun by self-represented litigants who used incorrect legal terms and boxed themselves in for a battle that would have been unnecessary, had an attorney had the case from the beginning.

Do not be fooled by forms. A form may appear simple and easy, but be a minefield for a non-lawyer. Self-help clinics may provide forms and computer access, but they do not (they cannot) provide legal advice.

Is your firm willing to review documents prepared by clients?

I am willing to do as much or as little as a client desires. I am available from a simple consultation basis, to handling the matter from filing to closing.

Is your firm willing to coach clients who want to represent themselves?

I am happy to do this for you! If you have an area where I truly believe you may need an attorney, I'll tell you what and why, but I know that finances dictate many decisions, so I am there for you on your terms.

M. Michelle Erich

During law school, from 1976 to 1979, I worked as a Senior Account Manager for TRW Credit Data. From 1981 to 1985, I was an instructor of law for court reporters at Pacific Career College.

I have practiced law since 1979 and adoption law since 1988. I bring a wealth of experience to the cases I handle. I am a trained mediator and educator, as well. These skills serve my clients' needs well in avoiding unnecessary litigation and conflict. Adoption is a family matter; diplomacy and good will are vital.

My strong suit seems to be negotiation and settlement. I have a good track record of getting family members to put the welfare of a child first and work together for that goal. When that is not possible, I have developed litigation skills to ensure that on the day of trial, my clients have the best representation possible. Winning sometimes really is everything.

Personal interests:

I ski, hike, bike, and read. I love my horses and dogs and gardening. My three kids are my joy in life. The girls are both married and the son is in graduate school, so no grandkiddies, just granddoggies.

License
  • Bar Number: 90910
    California , 1979
Education
  • Ventura College of Law
    Juris Doctorate , 1979
    Ventura, CA
    Adoption, former President of Women Lawyers of Ventura County, founder of Adoption Unit of Volunteer Lawyers Association to assist families to afford adoption of a relative, member Ventura County Bar Association and The State Bar of California.
  • Henderson State University
    Bachelor of Science in Education , 1974
    Arkadelphia, AR
    Speech, Drama, Communications, Debate

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