Hon. Patricia Garcia (Ret.)

MEDIATOR | PRIVATE JUDGE (JPT/PCTJ) | ARBITRATOR

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"As I embark on this new chapter at Signature Resolution, I reflect on my journey—a legacy built on dedication to family law, empowerment of individuals, and fostering positive resolutions. My tenure on the bench and in private practice has taught me the profound impact of mediation in transforming lives. I am honored to continue this legacy at Signature Resolution, employing a blend of legal expertise and psychological insight to guide families toward harmony and resolution. Together, we'll navigate complexities with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to empowering each individual's voice.”

Case Administrator

Practice Areas

  • Domestic Violence
  • Family Law
  • International Custody Disputes under The Hague Convention
  • Legal Malpractice

Education

  • J.D., University of San Diego School of Law ​
  • B.A., University of California San Diego ​
  • Teaching Credential, Multiple Subjects – Bilingual; San Diego State University

Biography

With a legal career spanning over three decades, Hon. Patricia Garcia (Ret.) brings a wealth of experience in a wide range of complex family law matters to the panel of neutrals at Signature Resolution.

Born with a deep passion for solving puzzles and for understanding family dynamics triggered by her own parents’ marital discord, Judge Garcia nurtured her curiosity and problem-solving skills by pursuing a psychology degree from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and furthering her education with a year at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.

Upon completing her undergraduate education, Judge Garcia continued to nurture her interests and dedicated four years to understanding child development and teaching, obtaining her teaching credential from San Diego State University.  Her strong sense of empathy and a desire to navigate the complexities of family dynamics then inspired her to pursue a legal career, culminating in her earning a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of San Diego (USD) in 1989.

Judge Garcia began her legal career at Barry & Pike (formerly Mitchell, Keeney, Barry & Pike), quickly establishing herself as a skilled family law associate. Her ascent continued at Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek in 1993, where she led the Family Law Department and expertly handled complex high-stakes divorce cases, prenuptial agreements, and custody and support adjustments, earning the esteemed Martindale-Hubbell AV lawyer rating. Judge Garcia also served as Superior Court Judge pro tem settling family law matters starting in 1997 and as a San Diego County fee arbitrator from 1994 until her selection as a commissioner.

During her time as an attorney, Judge Garcia recognized the importance of empowering her clients with knowledge and support throughout the legal process. She made it a priority to not only advocate for her clients but also to educate them on financial matters and child development, ensuring they had a clear understanding of their marital property, resources, rights and options. Judge Garcia understood the significance of addressing the emotional toll of divorce and grief. She proactively connected her clients with mental health professionals to help them navigate their emotions so they could effectively focus on their cases and be prepared to move on after their divorce. This holistic approach exemplified Judge Garcia’s commitment to providing comprehensive support to her clients during challenging times.

In 2000, Judge Garcia was selected by the San Diego Superior Court as a child support commissioner, a role she held until Governor Gray Davis appointed her in 2003. This appointment marked a significant milestone in her career, driven by her dedication to finding solutions and specializing in family law, Judge Garcia continued to refine her skills, supervising the family divisions in the branch courts until she assumed a criminal assignment in 2010, where she presided over numerous jury trials. In 2021, she returned to a family assignment, where she used her extensive trial experience and family expertise to preside over complex family law trials, settlement conferences and international custody disputes under The Hague Convention, becoming one of the most experienced family law judges on the San Diego Superior Court before retiring from the bench.

Throughout her legal career, Judge Garcia has answered the call to also serve her community beyond the bench, as demonstrated through her active participation in numerous organizations, such as the National Conference for Community and Justice, Lawyers Club of San Diego, San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, Kids’ Turn, and San Diego MANA, to name a few. Her mentorship extends to her role as a UCSD alumna, where she has been recognized with the Alumni Award for Excellence and Distinguished Service, as well as the Hispanic Scholarship Council Award for Alumni Excellence. Notable achievements include co-founding and later serving as co-chair of the UCSD Hispanic Scholarship Council, and being elected to the USD Law Alumni Board. Through these opportunities, her focus has been on mentoring the Latinx community and the next generation of lawyers, encouraging her mentees to “pursue what they love and the rest will follow.”

Judge Garcia served on the Center for Judicial Education and Research’s Family Law Curriculum Committee and has been an influential panelist and speaker on various legal subjects, including complex financial issues, business valuations, income and support, paternity, cross-border jurisdictional issues, civil procedure, domestic violence, attorney’s fees and sanctions, professional conduct and ethics, work-life balance, and career development.

In her role at Signature Resolution, Judge Garcia leverages her extensive knowledge of psychology, family dynamics, and judicial problem-solving, favoring mediation over litigation to promote positive outcomes. Her varied interests and exposure to other cultures, traditions and languages allow her to create a warm and inviting rapport with many people. Her rich career and personal experiences make her a valuable addition to the firm’s panel of neutrals, poised to substantially impact those who mediate with her, and further establish Signature Resolution’s presence in San Diego.

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Experience

  • Judge, California Superior Court (2003-2024)  
  • Commissioner, San Diego County Court (2000-2003)  
  • Of Counsel, Head of the Family Law Department, Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek (1993-2000)  
  • Associate, Barry & Pike (Formerly: Mitchell, Keeney, Barry & Pike) (1989-1993)  

Professional Achievements and Memberships

  • Member, Executive Committee, California Bench-Bar Coalition (2022-2024) 
  • President, Vice-President & Founding Member, San Diego Latino Judges Association (2020-2023) 
  • Member & Secretary/Treasurer, Executive Committee California Judges Association (2019-2022) 
  • Member, Executive Committee, San Diego Superior Court (2019-2022) 
  • Honoree, San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association (2017) 
  • Member, National Association of Women Judges (2014-Present) 
  • Member, Advisory Committee Latinas in the Law (2005-Present)
  • Member, CJER Family Law Curriculum Committee (2005-2008) 
  • President & Vice President, San Diego County Judges Association (2005 – 2007) 
  • Member, Scholarship Committee, La Raza Lawyers Association of San Diego (2005-2007 & 2018-Present)
  • Honoree, Recognition for Outstanding Support of “On My Honor,” Chula Vista Board of Education (2004) ​
  • Honoree, Hispanic Scholarship Council Award for Alumni Excellence, UCSD (2004) ​
  • Honoree, Alumni Award for Excellence, Distinguished Service to UCSD, UCSD (2002) ​
  • Honoree, Innovation Award, Community Connection (2001) ​
  • Honoree, Latino Unity Coalition (2000) ​
  • Member, Law Alumni Board, University of San Diego School of Law (1998-2002) ​
  • Judge Pro Tem, San Diego Superior Court (1997-2000) ​
  • Founding Member & Co-Chair, UCSD Hispanic Scholarship Council (1996- 2002) ​
  • Arbitrator, San Diego County Bar Association (1994-2000) ​
  • Vice President, La Raza Lawyers Association of San Diego (1993-1994) ​
  • Member, La Raza Lawyers Association of San Diego (1989-Present) ​
  • Member, Lawyers Club of San Diego (1989-Present) ​

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGES ​

  • Fluent in Spanish ​