By Marlena Chavira-Medford
Divorce is never easy, and when there are valuable assets at stake, it can also be especially complicated. Such cases call for an attorney who has family law expertise, as well as business savvy. Finding an attorney who can wear both hats equally well can be a tall order — but Carmel Valley resident Nancy Bickford fits the bill. In fact, she has the distinction of being the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in separation and divorce, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who also is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), putting her in a class all her own.
Before practicing law, Bickford earned her MBA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and was certified as a CPA. Working at Arthur Andersen & Co. in San Francisco, she honed her skills in auditing several types of businesses and financial institutions. From there, she worked as a controller for a privately run firm operating hotels and real estate investments.
Because Bickford has an MBA, CPA and CFLS on her resume, some of her clients have dubbed her a “triple-threat.” Her unique experience has armed her with the know-how to deal with business matters that often come into play during divorce negotiations, such as asset characterization, the division of stock options and restricted stock grants, and separate property reimbursements.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of these issues in the real world, so I know what questions to ask. I look deeper into financial statements and figure out what’s really driving that bottom line,” she said. “And should we need to bring in someone with specialized knowledge, like a forensic accountant, I can speak the same language. That allows us to work seamlessly to analyze financial matters, and tailor them to a client’s specific needs.”
But it’s not just Bickford’s experience and ability that distinguish her from the pack. Having been through a divorce herself, she knows firsthand what the process can be like.
“I’ve been there, I know how it feels,” she said.
It was soon after her own divorce that Bickford decided to go back to law school, while she was a single mother to three children.
“I remember when I was in law school my kids would leave me little notes of encouragement saying ‘You can do it Mom,’” she recalls of her son and two daughters, who are all Torrey Pines High School graduates. “I didn’t just go back to law school. Our whole family went back to law school. It was a difficult and scary time. I had to jump not knowing if I was going to land on both feet.”
But land she did, graduating from California Western School of Law, where she was recognized for outstanding achievement in community property, taxation and civil procedure — and she was given the West Publishing Award in recognition of her overall outstanding scholastic accomplishment.
Bickford said she has chosen to specialize in divorce because it affords her the chance to pursue her passion for the law while also utilizing her financial and business background.
“Divorce can be a rocky time, and I know that. I feel this is a way for me to use the experience, skills and knowledge I have to help people going through that rocky time. I believe my clients are in charge, they are the captains of their own ships. My job is to help navigate my clients and their children to a safe harbor.”
Bickford’s law offices are located at 12671 High Bluff Drive, suite 35. For more information, please call 858-793-8884 or visit