Francis A. Gembala

Birnbaum, Haddon, Gelfman & Arnoux, LLC
180 North LaSalle Street
37th Floor
Chicago IL 60601
T: 312.863.2800
F: 312.863.2801
Direct: 312.863.2805

[email protected]

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Francis Gembala entered the private practice of family law in 2003 after retiring from nearly 20 years of service as an associate judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County. During his last 12 years on the court he successively served as supervising judge in the Domestic Violence Section and as judge in the Child Protection Division and the Domestic Relations Division.

In his current practice, Francis focuses on difficult and complex cases where his background and experience both as a judge and earlier as assistant Cook County public defender can serve his clients. That includes representing both petitioners and respondents in complicated domestic relations and custody disputes. With a background and training in economics, and a post doctorate LL.M. degree in taxation, Francis excels at resolving financial issues involved in marital dissolutions and related asset division and support concerns. He also is called in as an attorney expert to comment on financial issues in such proceedings.

As a court-appointed guardian ad litem for the Cook County Circuit Court, Francis frequently accepts appointments to represent children caught in the middle of domestic disputes. Domestic relations judges and attorneys of divorcing parents – including instances where one or both parents are lawyers – often request Francis’ services to represent the best interests of the children as legal proceedings are resolved.

Domestic violence and other criminal complaints are an additional area of emphasis in Francis’ practice. He frequently secures orders of protection on behalf of clients. As an instructor at the National Judicial College he has taught courses on dealing with domestic violence, and he was a founding member of the Illinois Family Violence Council. He also was a member of the Illinois State Bar Task Force for Technical Revisions to the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. Francis has received a number of recognitions for his work in this area, including the Family Rescue Domestic Violence Advocates Award.

Francis is certified by the Center for Dispute Resolution in Family and Divorce Mediation, and is a certified arbitrator for the Circuit Court of Cook County. His alternative dispute resolution skills are particularly useful in resolving family law controversies.

In recognition of his accomplishments as a judge and advocate, Francis has received extensive professional recognitions. He is a former faculty member of the National Judicial College and has previously served as president of the Chicago Advocates Society, as chairman of the Chicago Bar Association Criminal Law Committee, and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois Judges Association. Francis frequently is a faculty member and guest lecturer for numerous professional organizations and has served on the editorial board of the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Bulletin. He has several times revised (most recently in a 2017 update) his work as author of the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education treatise, Family Law: Dissolutions of Marriage Court Proceedings, Chapter 3 (“Obtaining Orders of Protection“).

Extensive community and professional service are also important aspects of Francis’ qualifications. He is a member of the Chicago Catholic Charities Board of Advisors, serves on its Legal Committee, and is a regular participant in legal clinics and other outreach programs to disadvantaged persons. In 2003 he was invested as a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., in Saint Matthew’s Cathedral and currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the order’s Federal Association.

Professional Recognition

  • Member, Illinois Leading Lawyers
  • National Judicial College Special Recognition for service to judicial education
  • Family Rescue Domestic Violence Advocates Award
  • National Advocates Society Person of the Year, 2005

Professional Associations

  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • Chicago Bar Association (past chair, Criminal Law Committee)
  • Chicago Advocates Society (past president)
  • National Advocates Society
  • Illinois Judges Association
  • Justinian Society of Lawyers
  • Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago

Prior Experience

  • Associate Judge Circuit Court of Cook County, 1983-2002
    •  Domestic Relations Division – Trial/Post Decree
    •  Child Protection Division, Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department
    •  Supervising Judge – Domestic Violence Section of the First District, Chicago
  • Assistant Public Defender of Cook County, 1973-1983


  • DePaul University School of Law, LL.M. in taxation, 1983
  • Loyola University of Chicago, J.D., 1972
  • Loyola University of Chicago, B.A., 1970


  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Tax Court