Firm Profile

Firm Profile

O’Brien, Sullivan & Van Ness, LLP devotes 100% of its practice to family law litigation and divorce mediation. The firm was established in Walnut Creek more than 40 years ago. We have the experience and talent to provide the highest quality of legal services in all areas of family law from the simplest uncontested divorce to complex trial litigation. Our focus is always on the best interests of the client.

Family law is divorce and all matters related to divorce including child custody, child support, spousal support, division of assets and debts, restraining orders, etc. We do not practice any other types of law because we concentrate on just this one area of the law in order to provide the most experienced and knowledgeable services for our clients. Our practice is both litigation and mediation.

Although our practice is a business, part of the reason we come to work each day is that the practice of family law affords us an opportunity to truly help people in difficult situations. We find helping people in need to be rewarding. Many of our clients send us letters and cards expressing their appreciation after the conclusion of their divorce.
We are good at what we do. We have tremendous amounts of experience in all aspects of divorce. Our firm is well respected in the local legal community. Don’t hesitate to call other divorce attorneys in Contra Costa County and ask them their opinion of our firm.

We return calls and respond to emails within 24 hours. When we go to court, we are always fully prepared.
We represent residents of Contra Costa County. We do not accept litigation in other counties because, when it comes to the practice of family law, it is critical that the attorney representing a client be familiar with the judge that will hear the case. Judges’ attitudes, philosophies, and courtroom policies vary dramatically. The lawyers in our firm make frequent court appearances in the various family law departments in Martinez and are familiar with all of the local judges on the family law bench.

Our law practice was initially established by Dennis O’Brien in Walnut Creek in 1970. The partnership, O’Brien & Sullivan, was formed in 1983. Dennis O’Brien and Edward Sullivan purchased The Morgan Building in downtown Walnut Creek in 1990 and our offices have been located there ever since. Christina Van Ness joined the firm in 2009.

Although a substantial portion of our cases involve litigation, our philosophy is that it is generally in the best interest of our clients to exercise efforts to resolve matters through negotiation and mediation rather than acrimonious court proceedings. Litigation is expensive. Setting a trial date in Contra Costa County typically takes more than a year. Neither party wins if the couple spends their life savings in drawn-out, emotionally draining court battles. Parties are often linked for the rest of their lives by children. When the divorce is concluded, you want to be able to have a civil relationship with your former spouse, particularly if you have children together. The way your marriage ends will significantly impact the way you approach your future relationships.

We encourage our clients to be reasonable in their settlement proposals. In cases where our firm represents one party, our approach is to attempt to diligently put together the disclosure documents that the law requires and promptly submit a comprehensive settlement proposal to the other party with the goal of reaching a fair settlement in the early stages of the divorce. We cooperate with opposing counsel, without insisting on expensive formal discovery. When experts are needed, such as real estate appraisers, business appraisers or custody evaluators, we try to stipulate with opposing counsel to qualified joint experts and split the cost, rather than invite expensive litigation that is inevitable when both parties retain separate “hired gun” experts to battle at trial.

We keep our fees reasonable. See above tab for specifics. Because we exclusively handle family law cases and have been in business for decades, we are efficient at what we do. We process a high volume of cases and have zero interest in creating conflict for the purpose of escalating fees. We provide our clients with a confidential & informative initial consultation. This consultation gives potential clients an opportunity to have some of their fundamental questions answered regarding the divorce process and allows them to get a sense of who we are and decide if we are the right law firm for them. Many people that meet with us for an initial consultation have not yet made the decision to divorce. They are considering divorce, but need information as to how divorce will affect them before making any final decision.

If our reasonable approach and cooperation is not reciprocated by the opposing party, then we are certainly very capable of aggressive litigation, pushing the matter towards trial, presenting convincing evidence and persuasive arguments to support our client’s position.

If you are seeking legal representation by lawyers that are reasonable, honest, affordable, and very experienced, call us to schedule an initial consultation.

Attorney Profiles

Dennis Obrien

Dennis O’Brien

Founding Partner, Retired

Dennis O’Brien graduated from the University of the Pacific in 1957 and obtained his law degree from Golden Gate Law School in 1965. He began the practice of law in San Francisco, and then moved his practice to Walnut Creek in 1970. He formed the O’Brien & Sullivan partnership in 1983. Mr. O’Brien retired from the practice of law in 2007. However, he still maintains a presence by managing the Morgan Building, where our office is located.

Edward Sullivan

Edward Sullivan

Founding Partner

Edward Sullivan graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1976 and obtained his Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego Law School in 1979. He has been practicing Family Law in Contra Costa since 1979. He formed the partnership, O’Brien & Sullivan, in Walnut Creek in 1983. Mr. Sullivan is a Certified Specialist in Family Law, certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. His Family Law practice has included divorce mediation since 1997. Mr. Sullivan has extensive experience with complex divorce litigation and trials. He has been married for 31 years and has four adult children. He will take the time to listen to you and answer all of your questions.

Christina Van Ness

Christina Van Ness

Partner

Christina graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 2002 and obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2007. She joined O’Brien & Sullivan as an associate in 2010 and became a partner in 2013. Prior to becoming a family law attorney, Christina gained invaluable trial experience as a public defender in Contra Costa, Marin and Solano counties. She is fluent in English and Bulgarian and has conversational knowledge of Russian and French. Christina is passionate about helping people and willing to go the extra mile for her clients.

Support Team

Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan

Kim handles the firm’s major accounting issues and prepares the monthly billing statements. She earned two bachelor degrees, one in Business Administration from California State University, Hayward and the other in French from UC Santa Barbara.She is also a CPA. Kim enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

Kathleen Nero

Kathleen Nero

Kathleen manages all bookkeeping and accounting functions for the firm. She maintains meticulous financial records, has a strong business and accounting background and over 15 years of experience in law firm bookkeeping. Kathleen is originally from the east coast and holds a Bachelor degree in Business from State University of New York at Plattsburgh, NY.