‘A Win for the Underdog’
Sara Yunus on that 50-year-old child support case
Published in 2023 San Diego Super Lawyers magazine
By Jessica Ogilvie on March 27, 2023
When a case involving the custody of an adopted child with special needs came across Sara Yunus’ desk, some said she’d never win.
Yunus, a family law attorney at Antonyan Miranda in San Diego, represented the child’s adoptive mother. The woman met her husband after she adopted the child, and he never sought parenting rights—until their divorce filing.
In California law, “There is a code that allows a person to go in and ask for parentage even if they’re not the biological parent—as long as they have held a child out as their own and accepted the child into their home,” says Yunus.
But the child was thriving with his mother and would have suffered in a high-conflict scenario in which he moved between homes. In her research, Yunus discovered a critical point: During periods of separation in the marriage, the husband never checked in with the child.
“He would never reach out to say, ‘Can I talk to him? How’s he doing?’” she says. “He took no interest.”
The judge took the case under submission. When Yunus found out they’d won, she called the client. “Both of us just cried together,” she says.
It’s the type of case that Yunus loves: not just a challenge, but one that allows her to learn. “I don’t want to be comfortable every day,” she says. “I like to read new case law and see what the new developments are in family law. Doing different things and more complex matters just keeps you thinking.”
Yunus’ family knows all about challenges. Her mother was born in Afghanistan and came to the U.S. in the 1980s as a political refugee; her father, also of Afghan heritage, was born in the U.S. and lived all over the world.
“My parents, when they got married, they had nothing,” she says. “They built everything together.”
They also placed a strong emphasis on education. And it was while spending a semester in Washington, D.C., as an undergraduate that Yunus developed a passion for politics and the law. “It’s such a motivating city,” she says. “I would be sitting at the bus stop waiting to get to my internship and I would have these amazing conversations with strangers about what’s going on in the world. Everybody was so smart and informed. … I wanted to be one of them.”
At law school, she focused on family law—“the case law was so interesting, reading real stories about people’s lives,” she says—and never looked back.
Recently, Yunus made national news with a child support case with a twist: The client was in her 70s and sought to recover funds she was owed from an order issued 50 years earlier. “There’s no statute of limitations in the state of California for child support,” Yunus says.
Shortly after Yunus negotiated a settlement that, including interest, amounted to $150,000, Yunus’ receptionist let her know: “Hey, Good Morning America is on the line.” She gets the interest.
“This is a win for the underdog,” she says. “The single mom who went years without getting any child support, who supported her kid, who couldn’t save at all. … And now this $150,000 is really going to change her life.”
These days, Yunus focuses mostly on high-asset divorce cases and post-judgment modifications of divorce decrees. “I started out mainly doing custody and child support and I’ve kind of steered away from that,” she says. “I find the more complex issues interesting now.”
Ready for Her (First) Closeup
In college, Yunus interned as a reporter at Ariana Afghanistan Television, an Orange County-based news program broadcast live throughout the Middle East and Asia. Covering international events, she appeared every Friday. “I did a lot of coverage about Iran, and I really had to practice how to say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s name so I’m not offending people,” she says. After the internship ended, Yunus was invited back for several years. One way the experience helped prepare her for the courtroom? “Knowing how to speak slowly—how to communicate a point in the most effective way.”
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