Turning Lemons into Lemon-AID

After cancelling her June 10th wedding, CCCBA member Valerie Fenchel did something unusual.  She decided to use the lovely venue (Rubino Estates Winery in Pleasanton), catering, flowers, and musicians for a fundraiser for Bay Area Legal Aid.

Fenchel is a family law attorney who practices in San Francisco. “I believe that the most significant impact you can have on somebody’s life is empowering them to seek a healthy and supportive home environment,” she said in an interview.  “It is what happens at home that I believe has the most impact on whether we truly soar in all other areas of our lives. Family dynamics can be unhealthy and at worst, toxic.  These are dynamics nobody talks about. We keep them close to our vest.  They are embarrassing, uncomfortable, and cause us to feel shame.    I enjoy taking in a client that does not realize how much better his or her life could be, and showing them that it is not just possible, but necessary, and actually using the legal system to get what they are entitled to.”

“While having a mother who practices family law has helped guide me, I believe it is actually the incredible marriage my parents built that inspires me to help others break free from unhealthy marriages.  My parents always modeled for me what a healthy relationship should be, which has been a driving force for my desire to help others seek that.  It’s because my parents modeled such a successful marriage that I made the hard decision recently to end my engagement and call off a planned wedding. It’s a humbling experience but the right decision – and one that helps me understand what my clients are going through,” she said.

“This beautiful wedding that was supposed to happen that was the cause of so much anticipated excitement and joy…for it not to happen…well…obviously there is a reciprocal feeling of great loss and disappointment.  I wanted to fill the void with something good that could truly help others.  I believe that anything painful and hard happens for a reason and anytime I go through something hard, I do all I can to use the pain and sadness for something positive.”

People talk about how “brave” she is, for not going forward with the wedding. “I never felt brave.  I felt lucky,” she said. “I am so lucky to have so much support from my family and friends where I had the ability to do this.  I am so lucky that I had the choice financially to do this.  There are so many people in my shoes that are not so lucky.  Their failure to call off their engagement is not because they lack courage.  It is because they lack the support and financial resources.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I was engaged to a beautiful soul that I continue to respect and admire in every capacity.   We just were not a good fit to be married.”

“The people that are truly brave are the men and women who are stuck in unsafe relationships where they are victim to domestic violence—that continue to persevere against all odds.  The lucky ones have the financial resources to hire a family law firm to seek restraining orders on their behalf so that they may obtain peace in their homes. The unlucky ones cannot afford an attorney and stay stuck.  That is, unless they seek the assistance of a non-profit like Bay Area Legal Aid.”

“I decided to have the venue benefit Bay Area Legal Aid so that my broken engagement could instead help spouses obtain peace in their homes.  I believe this is a net win.  One broken engagement will hopefully lead to multiple spouses set free to have the beautiful life they deserve.”

Fenchel contacted the CCCBA and asked for help publicizing the event, perhaps you saw it in the weekly email to members in May. Fenchel offered a discount to CCCBA members when they use the promo code CCCBA.  For more information on Fenchel Family Law or on the event, please visit http://www.fenchelfamilylaw.com/events/.