Once A Client, Now An Advocate.   

"You don't need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding."
-Guy Finley

Welcome to Signified Law, serving clients in Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Alameda Counties (and a few services throughout California)! We offer virtual services in family law matters such as divorce, child custody, adoption, and guardianship of the person and also name changesattorney-assisted mediation, legal writing & research, and professional consultations. We pride ourselves on treating your situation as if it was our own. We are available by email, phone, and online video conferencing through Zoom or Google Meet. We may extend services to house calls, in-person meetings at our office or another location if necessary.

To learn more about Signified Law, please use the site navigation menu above. 


Melanie Tardell

Attorney & Counselor At Law/Founder Of Signified Law

Melanie was on a different life and career path when fate stepped in and the legal profession found her. After she overcame challenges of divorce and child custody, largely due to an attorney's advocacy, Melanie felt called to become an attorney herself. Her experience as a client gives her an insightful perspective on what clients face while her education provides an understanding of the legal attributes of each case. Having genuine empathy, a knack for research and writing, and a tenacious spirit, Melanie aims to advocate for and empower each client by helping them navigate their case and move beyond adversity.

Over the years, Melanie grew disheartened as she observed others' disappointment in their legal matters. Between wanting to offer people an improved legal experience and knowing that Big Law was not her path, Melanie was motivated to open a client-friendly law practice built on integrity, compassion, and accessibility. As a result, Signified Law was born.

Melanie operates with a level-headed, balanced approach on delicate issues as she recognizes it doesn’t benefit a client to inflame an already adversarial situation. As the emotional and financial cost to the client tends to be greater the longer a case drags out in court, Melanie offers alternative solutions such as mediation and/or negotiation with the goal of settling matters more favorably and expeditiously out of court. Regardless of the strategy, her sole purpose is to lighten the client's load and protect their interests. 


While obtaining her Juris Doctorate degree, Melanie became a certified mediator and subsequently co-created a divorce mediation program at the Mandel Gisnet Center for Conflict Management in Monterey County. As a mediator, Melanie found it rewarding facilitating others as they created their own fair solutions. She also interned for a child advocacy law firm, attending family court where she worked alongside judges, social workers, addiction counselors, and child advocacy attorneys in the pursuit of reunifying separated families. 

While in her final year of law school, Melanie was honored to be chosen as a moot court finalist. In front of a large audience at the California State University of Monterey Bay’s World Theater, she successfully argued a controversial Second Amendment issue before a panel of state appellate and local judges.

Before relocating from the Central Coast to the East Bay, Melanie interned for and was mentored by the highly respected Heidi Simonson, Esq. of Santa Cruz County. Under Ms. Simonson’s guidance, Melanie began practicing family law, working on divorce, child custody, guardianships, and adoption cases. 

Melanie is a member of the California Lawyers Association and its Family Law Section. Her past memberships include Santa Cruz County Bar Association, Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz, and Young Lawyers of Santa Cruz.

When Melanie isn't working, she spends quality time with her family and close friends. She loves laughing almost as much as she enjoys making others laugh. Melanie's pastimes include writing, singing, songwriting, reading, researching, watching films, travel, amateur photography, cooking, deep conversation, kayaking, being in nature, and taking long walks. She is especially fascinated in learning about the powerful mind-body connection and is grateful on a daily basis for having a faith that grounds her.


Legal Research and Writing

Legal Writing & Research

Writing Services: Demand Letters, Response Letters, Legal Document Prep, Personal Contracts, Etc.

Research Services: Researching Current Applicable Law & Advising Client Accordingly, Review & Interpretation Of Legal Documents, Etc.


Family Law 

Divorce/Family Services: Separation, Divorce, Child Custody, Spousal Support, Child Support, Custody/Support Modifications, Parentage


Adoption Services


Name Change Services

Guardianship Services


Mediation Services: Divorce, Family Disputes, Community (neighbor disputes, landlord/tenant disputes).

Signified Law is a solo law practice in California's East Bay, offering both limited scope services and full service representation, depending on the client’s goals and budget. Limited scope services are when an attorney helps a client with portions of their case or provides occasional, one-off services for a specific purpose. Full service representation means an attorney will work on every facet of your case from beginning to end. Each type of offering is valuable for different reasons. Full service and limited scope representation is offered to those residing in Contra Costa, San Joaquin, or Alameda Counties, however limited scope services for research, writing, or mediation may be offered to anyone residing in California.



What many legal professionals won’t tell you is that sometimes the easiest, swiftest, and most affordable way to resolve a legal dispute is to avoid court. Once a case ends up in court, the client has a lot less control of the outcome. Signified Law offers 2 solutions that may save energy, time, and money:

  • Legal Writing Services (see below for further details)

  • Mediation Services (see below for further details)




Signified Law offers:

  • Research Services: If you find yourself in a situation that may have a legal component to it but are unsure what the relevant law is or what your legal rights or obligations are, our attorney can research the law for you and explain it in layman's terms! Additionally, as legal documents can often be perplexing, we can review and interpret contracts, titles, court forms and various types of documents to ensure you have a clear understanding of their contents.

  • Writing Services

    • Letters: Maybe you received a legal document/letter and are unsure how to respond or proceed. Perhaps there is an issue you tried to resolve with a person or business but they won't respond or take you seriously. Sometimes it takes a legal advocate to motivate the other party to move towards resolution. We find demand letters to be powerful as a first line of defense that often opens negotiations or initiates an agreement, eliminating the need for a complicated and costly court battle. Additionally, in some cases, courts will require an individual to attempt to work out their issue with another party before bringing it to court. In that case, the letters we write satisfy that requirement. 

    • Document Preparation: Court forms can be confusing and creating legal documents can be tedious and difficult to attempt. As we are fluent in “legalese,” we can prepare your court forms for you or create legal documents, depending on your needs.



Divorce can be tricky to navigate on your own. Decisions made during this time can have a lasting impact on your life. Unless you and your spouse are on the same page about everything (date of separation, assets, debts, parenting, child custody schedule, child/spousal support, etc.), there is much to consider. 


Signified Law offers services for:

  • Divorce Mediation: Mediation works best for couples who wish to work together but have one or more issues they can’t seem to agree on. Not only does the attorney help guide the conversation to reach equitable solutions but we can also prepare and file the necessary paperwork to record your agreements and finalize your divorce. Couples willing to go this route can save significant amounts of time and money while also preserving their relationship for any future interactions.

  • Traditional Divorce: Our divorce services work best when you cannot agree with your spouse on how best to handle your divorce and/or the whole process feels intimidating. The attorney will learn what your objectives are, give you honest feedback, and be your step-by-step guide through the divorce process to help you from feeling overwhelmed. You can worry about your well-being while we worry about document preparation, court filings, deadlines, communicating with the opposing party/counsel, and your case strategy. If there is a more complex issue regarding your assets, we will collaborate with financial professionals who specialize in valuation and division. We won’t make promises we can’t keep, predict outcomes, fail to keep you informed, or make decisions without your input! Most importantly, we will remain in routine communication with you about your case. 

  • Post-Divorce: If you have a change of circumstances after divorce, you might need an attorney to help you modify child/spousal support orders, child custody orders, or even parts of a marital settlement agreement.




Signified Law offers services for:

  • Legal Name Changes: If you need to legally change your name for any reason (marriage, divorce, change of circumstance, etc.), we can help. A more common issue recently is if you are applying for a DMV issued Real ID but have a name discrepancy on any of your legal forms of ID. In this case, a legal name change may be required. 

  • Adoptions: If you are a hopeful parent that wants to adopt a minor or an adult but don’t know the legal requirements or steps to make it happen, we can help. If we can assist you in welcoming a new family member, it’s a privilege we find great joy in!

  • Guardianship (of the person): If a parent or caregiver is unable to properly care for a child or incapacitated adult for whatever reason, the courts grant guardianship rights and responsibilities to an appropriate/capable party. The court oversees the guardianship until the parent or original caregiver can resume their duties. We can help you apply for guardianship of the person and walk you through the process.



It’s not often that two parties who go to court to “duke it out” with each other wind up pleased with the outcome. Mediation is one of the most powerful and effective ways to resolve a dispute and subsequently build a foundation of mutual respect going forward, all while saving money. When two people cannot agree, it is typically because they are not truly hearing one another. The attorney is skilled in facilitating an environment where each party is heard, understood, and validated. That is the foundation by which livable compromises lead to agreements. In addition to helping you reach resolution, we can record your agreements in writing when appropriate.

Signified Law offers Mediation for situations such as:

  • Family Disputes

  • Neighbor Disputes

  • Landlord/Tenant Disputes

  • Co-worker Disputes


NEXT STEPS: No matter the service you require, please contact us to inquire about scheduling an online video consultation with the attorney to determine whether Signified Law would be the best fit for your needs! After contacting our office, please be prepared to fill out a short intake that will help us determine if you'd benefit from a consult. During a consultation, the attorney will give you the opportunity to share facts, issues, and concerns about your situation. The attorney will discuss the merits of your case and the options you may have to proceed. If, after the consultation, you would like to work with the attorney and she is willing to take your case, you can mutually agree to it. The attorney will then provide a contract that outlines the scope of the work and the rate and payment schedule. You and the attorney would sign the contract if you agree to the terms. 




Travis B.

Melanie was an incredible help to me during an extremely difficult time for me and my family. Melanie gave me sound legal counsel and encouraged me to take the steps I needed to protect myself and my children. She responded in a timely manner and always showed the respect and restraint needed during this family ordeal. I would encourage anyone to seek Melanie for legal help or aid in your most desperate of times. She is amazing. 

Melanie Santos

I had the pleasure to have Melanie's expertise as a lawyer. My whole experience with her was nothing but amazing. She made me feel like my case was important to her and took the time to answer every single question I had. When I had doubts, she made me feel at ease. I would recommend her for her outstanding demeanor and professional etiquette. She is an amazing lawyer that will fight by your side. 

Michael M.

Melanie is a professional and attentive lawyer. I recently hired her to assist me with legal matters involving my ex-employer. Within days they responded to her letter and met all of her demands. In my opinion, there is no one better. 

Juliane S.

My husband and I used Melanie to prepare a custody modification agreement for my stepson. She was professional, caring, and got the job done in a timely fashion. Melanie thought of things that were important to add to the agreement to make it more clear for everyone involved to prevent future misunderstandings. If you're looking for an attorney who cares about your interests, I'd highly recommend her services.

Ron M.

Having legal issues can be very intimidating but because of Melanie's research, advocacy, and negotiation skills, she helped me avoid a costly litigation where I settled the case out of court and in my favor. When I used her services again, she wrote a very convincing letter that resolved a breach of contract situation without further legal action. I appreciate her dedication to resolving issues rather than dragging them out.



Please Note: We will be working virtually and will only be available in our office location by appointment (once Covid-19 orders allow). For prompt assistance during normal business hours, please email or call. Thank you!



Mailing Address:

14850 Highway 4, Ste A # 236, Discovery Bay, CA 94505


Physical Address:

5179 Lone Tree Way, Ste. 531
Antioch, CA 94531


Typing on a Laptop


Please Note: We are working virtually and will only be available in our office location by appointment (once Covid-19 orders allow). For prompt assistance during normal business hours, please email or call. Thank you!



Mailing Address:

14850 Highway 4, Ste A # 236, Discovery Bay, CA 94505


Physical Address:

5179 Lone Tree Way, Ste. 531
Antioch, CA 94531



General Information:

This website is intended for general information purposes only.

Legal Advice: 

No part of this website should be taken as legal advice for any person or subject matter whatsoever.

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Viewing this website or interacting on it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship and therefore communication through or because of this website is not privileged or confidential.


The testimonials or endorsements contained in this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your case. Any result portrayed was individual and dependent on the facts of that case, therefore results will differ when based on different facts.

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Signified Law does not seek, and this website is not intended to solicit, legal engagements in jurisdictions outside of California, our state of licensure, when the engagements would constitute the unauthorized practice of law in any jurisdiction.

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