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Hon. Vanessa A. Zecher

Hon. Vanessa A. Zecher (Ret.)

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Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Family Law
Business Commercial
Real Property
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Hon. Vanessa A. Zecher (Ret.) has over 20 years of experience, both as an attorney and as a judge, overseeing the litigation of hundreds of family law cases. As a Santa Clara County Family Court judge, Judge Zecher managed myriad family law cases, including high-asset property characterization and division, financial support and child custody. She has conducted countless judicially supervised settlement conferences, where she assisted families in resolving their disputes to let them move forward without the financial and emotional burdens of the court process. Judge Zecher strongly supports the ADR process and providing the judicial guidance and direction necessary to allow a family to take charge of its own resolution.

Judge Zecher brought her civil background to criminal court to assist in complex discovery (including e-discovery) and calendar management. She presided over multiple jury trials, including two capital cases. She used her settlement skills in resolving complex criminal cases before trial to the satisfaction of both parties. She served as the supervising judge of the criminal division for two years, where she placed a high value on efficient use of court resources and ensuring that the time of the attorneys, litigants and jurors was respected.

As a lawyer, Judge Zecher tried cases in federal and state courts and served as a court-appointed civil arbitrator and early neutral evaluator in general civil matters. She established her own family law firm and served as minor’s counsel. In addition, she served as a discovery referee and private attorney mediator in family law matters. Prior to becoming a judge, she was recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Santa Clara County Family Court.

Judge Zecher uses technology, including fully virtual and hybrid proceedings, to promote efficiency and to save time and money for the litigants. She led the court’s efforts to conduct search warrant reviews and pretrial release and bail-setting reviews electronically. She is deeply committed to the litigants and attorneys so they are heard and that matters are decided in a timely manner. 

Representative Matters as a Family Court Judge

Business Characterization, Division, Valuation Trials

  • Five-day trial to determine characterization of a partnership interest in a business acquired prior to marriage where an IPO occurred during the marriage, including testimony from compensation and forensic accountant experts (high-asset case)
  • Four-week trial to determine character of multiple businesses started during marriage with alleged separate property funds, including forensic accounting testimony (high-asset case)
  • Multiple-day trial regarding valuation of a gas station, including testimony from gas station appraisers and forensic accountant
  • Multiple-day trial regarding claim of breach of fiduciary duty relating to the sale of a portion of the community interest in a business entity to third party

Premarital Agreements

  • Multiple trials regarding the validity of premarital agreements, including issues related to set-aside of the premarital agreement because of duress and unconscionability, interpretation of premarital agreement and enforcement of premarital agreement
  • Multiple-day trial regarding enforcement of premarital agreement and set-aside of real property deeds

Property Division/Date of Separation/Attorney Fees and Costs

  • Conducted trials or settled issues related to the valuation and characterization of real property, set-aside of real property deeds, Moore/Marsden calculations, business valuations and 2640 claims with respect to purchase and improvement of real property
  • Conducted trials or settled issues related to the characterization and division of RSUs, stock grants, employment benefits, business interests, partnership interests, separate property tracing issues, division of debt and breach of fiduciary duty claims
  • Multiple-day trial regarding the valuation of a family residence with complex valuation issues related to improvements done to the property without permits
  • Trial regarding 17-year difference in each party’s alleged date of separation (affirmed on appeal)
  • Multiple-day trial regarding characterization and division of estate, 2640 claims related to purchase and improvement of multiple real properties, tracing issues, transmutation issues related to signing of trust documents and interpretation of trust documents, Watts/Epstein and fair rental value claims, division of brokerage and bank accounts, valuation of vehicles, and permanent spousal support, including earning capacity issues and adult child support
  • Decided and/or resolved multiple attorneys’ fees disputes, including 2030, 2031 and 6344 attorneys’ fees requests


  • Presided over and/or settled many temporary child and spousal support issues, including stream of income available for support; Ostler/Smith calculations; earning capacity issues, including vocational assessments; imputation of income; and reasonable rate of return issues, as well as permanent spousal support determinations, including analysis of 4320 factors

Custody and Visitation

  • Conducted trials and/ or hearings and/or resolved legal and physical custody designations, relocation requests, timeshare, education decisions, resist/refuse dynamics, extreme parental conflict, parent medical and mental health, minor child medical and mental health challenges and substance abuse challenges
  • Multiple-day trial regarding minor’s counsel request for an international change in custody from one parent to the other
  • Multiple trials regarding request to relocate with minor child to another country or another state
  • Multiple-day trial with refuse/resist allegations, including testimony from forensic psychologists with expertise in child custody and refuse/resist dynamics.
  • Multiple-day trial involving a relocation request and refuse/resist dynamics involving separation of siblings

Domestic Violence

  • Heard and decided all issues related to allegations of domestic violence, cross-allegations of domestic violence, determination of primary aggressor, 3044 presumption and rebuttal issues
  • Multiple-day domestic violence trial involving allegations of murder for hire
  • Multiple-day domestic violence trial involving allegations of coercive control with no allegations of physical violence

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Memberships and Affiliations

  • California Judges Association
    • Elections Committee, 2016–2024
    • Ethics Committee, 2017–2024
      • Vice Chair, 2021–2022
      • Chair, 2022–2023
    • Judicial Fairness Coalition, 2017–2024

Selected Presentations and Teaching

  • Faculty, California Judicial Education and Research (CJER) Family Law Institute, 2024
    • Complex Real Property Issues
    • Ethical Issues in Settlement of Custody Matters
  • Planning Workgroup and Faculty, Supervising Judge Institute, 2023–2024
  • Faculty, CJER Primary Assignment Orientation (Family Law), 2022, 2023, 2024
    • Permanent Spousal Support
    • Attorney Fees and Costs
    • Requests for Orders
    • Statement of Decision
  • Panelist, International Custody, The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, Hague Convention, 2023
  • The Skill of Ethical Lawyering, Santa Clara University School of Law, 2021
  • Member, Judicial Council Family Law Curriculum Committee, 2021–2024
  • Member, Judicial Council Criminal Law Curriculum Committee, 2021–2023
  • Teacher, Temporary Judge Bench Conduct and Demeanor, 2015–2024

Background and Education

  • Judge, Santa Clara County Superior Court, 2011–2024
    • All-Purpose Judge, Family Law Division, 2021–2024
    • Supervising Judge, Criminal Division and Felony Trials, 2018–2020
    • Assistant Supervising Judge, Criminal Division, 2017
  • Owner and Founder, Law Offices of Vanessa A. Zecher, 1994–2010
  • Partner, Ravel & Zecher, 1991–1994
  • Deputy County Counsel, Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office, 1987–1991
  • J.D., Santa Clara University, 1987
  • B.A., Santa Clara University, 1984


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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