Melinda Johnson

Hon. Melinda A. Johnson (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator, Referee/Special Master, Judge Pro Tem

Case Manager
Matthew Van Der Velde
T: 213-253-9701
F: 213-620-0100
555 West 5th St., 32nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90013


Judge Johnson has tried and settled complex family law cases for 18 years while serving on bench of the Superior Court. Since joining JAMS, she has successfully mediated the kind of intractable issues that dominate in family law.

  • Presided over the Family Law calendar on three separate rotations, managing OSCs, MSCs, trials, and ex partes. These assignments included District Attorney child support calendars.
  • Taught an intensive family law class at the Continuing Judicial Studies Program for several years, chairing the team. Topics included all aspects of family law, from property division to child custody and business evaluation.
  • Taught several years at the Family Law Institute. Classes covered topics such as spousal support, psychological evaluations in child custody disputes, and overviews for newly appointed judges.
  • Taught Family Law at the annual New Judges’ College at Berkeley.
  • Taught Trial Practice Skills for California Family Law Reports, chaired by Stephen Adams.
  • Was a charter member of the Family Law Advisory Committee to the Judicial Council.
  • Served on the Senate Task Force on the Family Law Court.
  • Currently co-teaching CFLR’s basic family law class with Mr. Adams and providing dissomaster training for judicial officers.

Representative Matters

Business Valuation/Property Division

  • Property division issues in which the husband had owned several pieces of real estate before marriage and changed title to a joint ownership with wife at various times, some before and some after the enactment of Civil Code 4800.1 and 4800.2. Determined percentage ownership and reimbursement claims.
  • Property division matter in which both husband and wife had separately owned real property at the date of marriage, and the community made contributions to the upkeep and mortgage on all parcels. Additionally, some of the properties had been re-financed during the marriage relying on community income. Some properties had been transmuted into joint tenancy for the purpose of obtaining re-financing.
  • Business evaluation issues in which husband owned a large retail business before and during the marriage. Analyzed community interest from both the Moore-Marsden approach and the “reasonable return on community efforts” approach.
  • Business evaluation in which husband owned an auto dealership, which had been separate property, that was transferred to a third party for business reasons and transferred back to husband during the course of the marriage. Characterized distributions of income from the business post-separation. Analyzed income available for support from the dealership. Analyzed numerous assets owned by the business but used by the family, such as autos, planes, etc.
  • Business valuation in which the business was husband’s law practice.
  • Property valuation in which husband owned more than twenty pieces of real property before marriage. There had been a pre-nuptial agreement and two post-nuptial agreements, all of which were ignored by the parties. Wife alleged thousands of hours of “sweat equity” in the property, whose income was their sole source of support.
  • Division of property in which the primary asset was future lottery proceeds.
  • Business valuation in which the business was a medical practice. Husband had made investments in his home country in Africa, which resulted in total losses. Wife alleged she had not been consulted and should bear no part of the loss.
  • Property division in which wife alleged substantial accounts were gifts to the minor children to be used for education and husband alleged they were community property. Wife alleged mismanagement of those assets by husband, and an accounting had to be analyzed. Wife also alleged husband, a previously high-earning engineer, was deliberately under employed.
  • Property division in which husband alleged wife used some community and some separate property funds to purchase real estate held in her sole name.
  • Property division involving the valuation of a medical practice. Wife also alleged serious personal injuries inflicted by husband for which she sought compensation. Husband alleged substantial debt incurred by wife without his knowledge during the marriage for which he felt no responsibility.
  • Support and valuation case in which husband owned minority shares in a family business, which also employed him. Wife alleged both value and income were manipulated by the family while the dissolution was pending.
  • Support and business valuation matter in which the parties owned two businesses, which husband had run since separation. Wife alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars annual cash available for support. Husband alleged the businesses operated at a loss.
  • Property division and support case in which much of the money available for support and division was proceeds from litigation. Husband claimed it was all his separate property and wife claimed a large community interest. Reimbursement issues based on whether “community” or “separate” funds had made post-separation payments.

Child and Spousal Support

  • Child support case in which “child” was a disabled adult who had had a lucrative career before his mental illness prevented him from working at his chosen profession or with other people in any capacity.
  • Child support arrearage issue, some of which was reimbursement for public benefits paid and some of which were delinquent payments due directly to wife. Analysis of 10 years of interest and penalties due.
  • Spousal support matter in which husband’s income came from enhanced retirement benefits and several entrepreneurial ventures. Also involved allegations of substantial separate property money from husband being used to improve community real estate. Also involved valuation of a business funded with some community assets and some community borrowing. Business had substantial potential but was not profitable at the time of the dissolution.
  • Child and spousal support matter in which payor’s income was all from self-employment and was widely fluctuating from month to month.
  • Child support matter in which the only significant earner was father’s new wife. Case also involved determining an appropriate imputed income to mother and father.

Child Custody

  • Child custody cases in which the presumed father was not the biological father.
  • Child custody case in which three psychologists had done evaluations with greatly diverging opinions of the parents and children.
  • Child litigation matter in which the stepparent was seeking primary custody.
  • Child custody matter in which the mother suffered from multiple personality syndrome.
  • Custody issues between same-sex parents, one of whom was the biological parent.
  • Custody matters in which primary custodial parent wished to move from the longtime family home area. Property issues involved jewelry of substantial value, which husband alleged was bought for investment and wife alleged were gifts. Support also required analysis of military benefits.
  • UCCJA and UCCJEA matters from at least 20 different states and foreign countries such as France, Belgium, Columbia, Mexico.

Other Family Law Issues

  • Interpretation of a marital settlement agreement, partially executed after which the parties remained married and living together. Upon ultimate separation, wife alleged her inherited property had been placed in joint tenancy only because husband had intimidated her. Both parties had extensive Watts and Epstein claims.
  • Interpretation of a pre-nuptial agreement. Husband owned several pieces of real property, some in partnership with third parties. The pre-nuptial gave wife an interest in the income in some of those properties, which were later sold or exchanged. No accounting had ever been done.
Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS. 

  • Judge of the Year Award, Ventura County Trial Lawyers, 1990
  • Public Safety Award, Knights of Columbus, 1988
  • Salute to Women Award, Ventura County Commission for Women, 1987
  • Member, Executive Committee of the Judicial Council, 1996-2000
  • Member, Executive Committee of the Coordinated Municipal and Superior Courts, 1995
  • Chairman, Court Consolidation Committee, 1993
  • Frequently requested speaker before a wide variety of organizations including judicial and bar association conferences
  • "Sixth-Sense Negotiator," ADR Profile, Daily Journal, March 18, 2011
  • Judge, Ventura Superior Court, December 1982-2002; (Presiding Judge, 1994-1995; Assistant Presiding Judge, 1992-1993)
  • Justice, District Court of Appeal (on assignment), March-April 1985
  • Judge, Ventura Municipal Court, February-December, 1982
  • Sole private practitioner, (emphasis in personal injury, wrongful death, domestic, probate proceedings), 1977-February 1982
  • Instructor in criminal law and evidence and juvenile law and procedure at Ventura Community College and the Ventura County Police and Sheriff's Academy, 1976-1979
  • Deputy District Attorney, Ventura County, 1972-1976
  • J.D., Order of the Coif, University of Southern California Law Center, 1972
  • University of California Hastings College of the Law
  • A.B., Stanford University, 1969

Counsel Comments

    • “She is very knowledgeable – not only what the law is, but the realities of these cases, how emotional they can be. She really has the ability to keep people calm.” 
    • “Unique from anyone else [in mediation], in that she is highly perceptive to emotion.” 
    • “She is creative. She looks for non-typical solutions when facing an impasse.”



Practice Areas

Available nationwide


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