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Attorneys at Burch, Coulston & Shepard, LLP focus on family law cases in Orange County, a specialization that creates an extensive knowledge of California’s divorce and family law, the court system, and opposing counsel. The firm has nine attorneys all exclusively practicing family law. Five are certified by the Board of Legal Specialization as Certified Family Law Specialists. The firm was founded in 2005.

Each attorney and member of the support staff is intensely aware of the enormous impact their work has on the personal and professional lives of the clients they serve.

“Above all else we are compassionate and dedicated. We are a successful law firm because we have been able to combine compassion and dedication with a high level of technical competence,” says Robert Burch, Partner.

Courtney Shepard, Partner, says, “We believe it is important to not only educate our clients about the law, but also the legal process to help reduce their stress brought by the fear of the unknown. The majority of clients are not familiar with the nuances of family law and clients have told us that they appreciated having the process explained to them at the beginning of the case.

“Many people don’t realize that family law encompasses a variety of other disciplines, such as complex business issues, estate and trust issues, real property, immigration and even criminal law. It is not simply dividing a bank account in half or deciding who is awarded the couch. It is more complicated than other fields of law and we enjoy the complexity and variety of legal issues we address on a daily basis. That being said, with our firm the law is very much a ‘people’ business,” Shepard says.

Burch says, “From the beginning we wanted to practice law differently. Other law firms seem focused on prestige and money. We wanted a personable client-focused law firm where we could dedicate ourselves to close relationships with our clients and other lawyers.”

The attorneys of Burch, Coulston & Shepard believe that preparation is the key element to success at the negotiating table or in the courtroom. “We pride ourselves on thorough, diligent and tireless preparation to ensure the best possible outcome for our clients. We dedicate ourselves to our clients by knowing the details of the law and how it applies to our clients’ cases. Our ability to outperform other attorneys stems in part from regularly spending free time studying the law in order to keep a sharp edge on our courtroom skills. Our track record of preparation above and beyond other attorneys has earned us a reputation for professionalism with judicial officers, court staff, and other attorneys,” says Shepard.


The case of a custody battle taken to extremes provides a dramatic illustration of the level of dedication the firm has to its clients. The firm represented a husband, a working father dedicated to his two autistic children. His wife did not believe he should have joint custody of the children. She fought the father legally and requested a child custody evaluation. The court appointed one of the most widely recognized custody evaluators in the county. The evaluator recommended that the wife have sole custody of the children.

The father disagreed and worked with the firm to take the case to trial. At trial, the firm’s attorneys proved that the custody evaluator was wrong and that custody of the children should be awarded to their client, who was better able to provide stability and continuity to the autistic children. The court awarded custody to the client, but the wife appealed the decision. When the appeal was dismissed she abducted the children. The firm worked through the courts and the district attorney’s child abduction unit to find the children. Following the abduction the wife had taken the children out of state and changed their names. They found the children, the mother was arrested and extradited to California where she served jail time for her crimes. The husband regained custody of the children and has been able to improve the children’s autism and mainstream them into public school, where they are living a happy healthy life.

Burch says, “I feel as if our law firm is more committed to our clients than the typical law firm. We really are dedicated to understanding our clients’ goals and working passionately to secure real results. A lot of law firms see their clients as file numbers within the context of billable hour goals. I think we are different. We enjoy developing close relationships with our clients and being invested in their success.”


Burch has practiced exclusively in family law his entire career and has handled all types of family law matters. He has focused his career on representing business owners and handling complex marital estates and has worked on cases involving as much as one hundred fifty million dollars. Some of his clients have received child and spousal support awards as high as $130,000 per month.

His dedication to child custody cases had taken him to litigation in several international custody cases. He was one of the primary attorneys in the highly publicized “Baby Santina” custody case. They were victorious in court against a team of attorneys led by Gloria Allred.

Burch was recognized by OC Metro Magazine in 2011-2016 as one of the top family law attorneys in Orange County. He has also earned the highest rating (10.0) from the lawyer rating agency AVVO in the area of family law. In 2008 Super Lawyers magazine rated him as a rising star in family law. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 he was selected as a Super Lawyer in family law for Southern California.

“I went into family law because it is a field where you can have a dramatic impact on a client’s life. You have the ability to advocate for people when they are going through a difficult time in their lives, often the most challenging and heart-rending time of their lives,” Burch says.


Shepard practices exclusively in the area of family law and has been declared a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. She has successfully litigated cases involving issues of child custody, child support, spousal support, and attorney fees, and recently completed a nationally recognized Trial Advocacy program which focused extensively on the litigation of child custody, support and complex business matters.

She is a member of the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association and the Family Law Section of the Orange County Bar Association.

Shepard graduated from UCLA with a major in political science with a business specialization. She earned her Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from Whittier Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review, a Dean’s List honoree and a fellow in the Center for Children’s Rights where she received a scholarship. She served as on the Whittier Law School Trial Advocacy Honors Board while competing in national competitions. She has prior legal experience as a certified litigation law clerk with the Orange County Office of the District Attorney and was selected as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers from 2013-2017.

The attorneys joke that Burch and Shepard represent “the long and the short of Burch, Coulston & Shepard.” Although Shepard is 4'10" tall she has been described as “a firecracker” and “a Pistol” and “a bulldog” in action. Among the attorneys and staff she is known as “Tiny but Mighty.” Burch is 6'3" tall and is often called “a gentle giant.”


Burch, Shepard and the other members of the team take a three-pronged approach to serving the law, the firm and their clients: work hard, earn and maintain a solid reputation, and truly care about each client.

Burch says, “We work tirelessly at great personal sacrifice to achieve the highest level of technical expertise as we can— constantly. We all spend extra time researching and thinking about the law so that we truly understand how the law works and its practical application.”

The firm prides itself on being honest and straightforward with clients, the courts, and opposing counsel.

A sound reputation is built on an equally sound track record of success. “We care about our reputation. That means we are always honest and straightforward with the court and opposing counsel. We take pride in the work product we submit to the courts and other lawyers. Above all else, we are always very well prepared. We put the time into every case so that we know the law; have the evidence; and can effectively present our arguments,” Shepard says.

All in the firm agree that the most important factor in their ongoing success is the care they take with each client. “We have found that the best way to build a law firm is from referrals from happy clients. Clients are happy when they know that you are dedicated to them and their case and not to yourself,” Burch says.

One could also add “innovate” to that list, as the firm is on the leading edge of many aspects relating to their practice areas.

For example, the firm is currently working several cases applying innovative concepts of fiduciary duty to family law cases where the traditional analysis would not yield satisfactory results. Their attorneys are arguing that the Legislature intended to incorporate and apply certain provisions of the corporation code to marital dissolution cases. They state that the concepts of business partners owing a duty of loyalty to their partners apply equally to spouses in a divorce case such that the spouses are precluded from investing separate property without first offering their spouse the opportunity to invest. Where a spouse during marriage did not offer an investment opportunity to their spouse, the failure to offer that opportunity is a breach of their duty of loyalty and that consequently a constructive trust should be imposed on the property, thereby reclassifying separate property to community property.

Legal innovation, increasing technical knowledge and experience and keeping up with a changing legal environment are all part of the standard work day. But Burch says that the firm’s ‘people business’ approach is their real advantage.

“One of our strengths is that Courtney and I are compassionate, loyal and dedicated people. Our compassion helps us care about the results we achieve for our clients. Our loyalty to our clients persuades us to dedicate long hours, often to the detriment of our personal lives, so that we are more prepared than the other side. Nobody will out work us because we truly care about the results we can achieve for our client,” he says.


Burch, Coulston & Shepard, LLC
26211 SW Birch Street
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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