Santa Monica Divorce Attorney

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While no one enters a marriage expecting to divorce, circumstances change that can make life unbearable for spouses within a once peaceful partnership. At Fernandez & Karney, our Santa Monica divorce attorneys understand the impact a divorce can have on spouses and children and want to act as your guides through this emotionally challenging and often complex process.

Divorce Attorney

The divorce attorneys at Fernandez & Karney are:

  • Dedicated to you as an individual with unique needs.
  • Successful in creating realistic solutions to today’s family issues.
  • Skilled in all areas of family law negotiations and courtroom litigation.

Our law firm’s founders and managing partners, Steven Fernandez and Mark Karney, are Certified Family Law Specialists by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization. They have the experience and resources to provide you with the quality legal representation you want and deserve.

With knowledgeable attorneys boasting over 120 years of combined legal experience, we are highly experienced in dealing with every aspect of a California divorce, giving you the confidence that your case is in capable hands.

Meet with one of our skilled family law attorneys in Santa Monica during a confidential consultation today to learn more about our approach to family law cases. Fernandez & Karney is a full-service family law firm that can assist you with any family law matter, regardless of its complexity.

Santa Monica Divorce Attorneys Who Understand Your Unique Case

Our trusted Santa Monica family law attorneys provide dedicated legal counsel for individuals and families involving:

We understand each type of divorce, and each couple’s divorce is unique, which means the additional details that must be decided during their proceedings can be complex.

At Fernandez & Karney, our experienced family law attorneys in Santa Monica partners with our clients to understand their complete family dynamics and how a divorce will impact each aspect of their lives to customize their legal strategy to produce the best outcome for their unique legal needs so they can move forward with confidence.

Our skilled divorce lawyers in Los Angeles County will oversee each aspect of your marriage’s dissolution, including creating customized legal strategies to produce the best results for any of the following details:

  • Complex Property Division.
  • Spousal Support.
  • Child Custody and Visitation.
  • Child Support.
  • Domestic Violence/Restraining Orders.
  • Move Aways and Relocation.
  • Order Enforcement.
  • Judgment Modification.

No two marriages are identical; therefore, no two divorces are either. Each couple brings their unique circumstances, including the length of the marriage, the presence of children, the financial situation, and any specific issues or conflicts within the relationship.

The emotional dynamics involved in a divorce can vary significantly from one couple to another. Factors like the reason for the divorce, the level of cooperation between spouses, and the ability to communicate effectively can all influence the divorce process and its outcome.

These cases must be assessed based on their unique details and how they will impact the lives of everyone involved in the short and long term. Our skilled Santa Monica family lawyers can help protect your rights and best interests from the start of your legal journey. Contact us today to learn more about our customized legal strategies that produce results.

How Our Santa Monica Divorce Attorneys at Fernandez & Karney Can Help You

Divorces are life-changing events, and how you end your marriage can dramatically affect your future finances and relationships. That is why it is imperative that you secure legal representation before filing for a divorce or as soon as possible after being served with divorce documents.

While you may have some degree of legal knowledge and divorce in general, your divorce attorney handles complicated divorce issues for clients like you daily. At Fernandez & Karney, our skilled Santa Monica family law attorneys can help you in several ways.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Offering sound legal advice and guidance.
  • Ensuring you understand California’s divorce and family laws as they apply to your case.
  • Clarifying your divorce concerns and keeping dealings between you and your spouse fair.
  • Keeping your divorce proceedings moving in a timely fashion through the court system.
  • Taking over communications between yourself and your spouse or their attorney.
  • Making decisions that are less emotionally based and more logically thought-out.
  • Determining and advising you as to the best legal course of action.
  • Prepare and file all necessary court documents.

There is no reason to face your divorce alone. Contact Fernandez & Karney to schedule your confidential consultation today.

What is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce in Santa Monica, California?

There are a few specific situations in which an unhappy California couple can seek an annulment. However, most married couples require a Santa Monica divorce attorney to help them navigate a divorce or legal separation.


An annulment is a nullification of a marriage or domestic partnership. In an annulment, the court verifies that the domestic partnership or marriage was void or not legally binding at its inception.

An annulment is treated as if a marriage never legally occurred. This means that both parties return to their single status as to property and all other matters. However, provisions will be made for any children of the illegal union. There are several reasons a spouse may seek an annulment.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Bigamy.
  • Coercion.
  • Fraud or Deceit.
  • Incest.
  • Physical Incapacity.
  • Unsound Mind.

Some spouses in invalid marriages and domestic partnerships cannot seek an annulment as they have exceeded the time limit or statute of limitations. These spouses must pursue a divorce.


California is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the court may grant a divorce or dissolution of marriage for “irreconcilable differences” or an “irrevocable breakdown of the marriage.”  Neither spouse must shoulder the blame for the divorce.

California’s Residency Requirements for a Divorce

California requires at least one spouse to be a state resident for six months before filing the divorce petition. The divorce petition must be filed in the same county where the filing spouse has lived for at least three months.

Filing for Divorce in Santa Monica, California

In California, the spouse seeking a divorce is the petitioner, and the other spouse is the respondent.

Three forms are necessary to file a divorce: the summons, the petition, and the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (if minor children are involved). These can be filed with or without a Santa Monica divorce attorney, but additional paperwork may be required.

The petitioner can contact the clerk of courts in their county or an attorney to see what other documents may be needed. A Santa Monica divorce lawyer or a law firm with experience in relevant practice areas can guide the petitioner through the process.

A divorce is set into motion when the petitioner files the necessary paperwork in their county. A filing fee is required, but the fee may be waived upon submitting a Request to Waive Court Fees.

If the filing fees are waived upon the court’s review, no payment is due to file the divorce documents. A Santa Monica divorce attorney may be able to help complete and submit the appropriate forms for this process.

What Issues Complicate a Santa Monica Divorce?

Some divorces are relatively straightforward, with no additional issues. However, high-asset cases and marriages that last ten or more years will likely involve more complex issues. An experienced divorce attorney best addresses these.

Divorce can be complicated if there are minor children, real estate, business property, or investments. Even when a separating couple has the best intentions, there are likely to be disagreements when minor children and assets are involved.

A Santa Monica divorce attorney, like Fernandez & Karney, can handle all aspects of a contested divorce while providing much-needed counsel and support.

High-Asset Divorce in Santa Monica, California

Home to celebrities, business owners, and entertainment industry moguls, Santa Monica is widely recognized as one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County.

High-net-worth individuals often have diverse and substantial assets, including multiple properties, investments, business interests, retirement accounts, stock options, and valuable collections. Dividing these assets equitably can be intricate and require expert valuation and negotiation, which is our specialized legal area.

Whether a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement guides your high-net-worth divorce or involves considerations such as maintaining multiple residences, funding children’s education, and sustaining expensive hobbies or memberships, our Santa Monica divorce attorneys at Fernandez & Karney have the legal knowledge, resources, and skills to develop a customized legal strategy that prioritizes your best interests. Call us today to learn more.

The Divorce Process

When the petitioner submits their divorce paperwork to the court, the clerk of courts stamps it with the date and time of filing and returns the stamped copies to the petitioner. These official copies are then delivered to the respondent.

The respondent will then share the paperwork with their divorce attorney. The delivery of paperwork is called the service of process. Service of process ensures the respondent is aware of the impending divorce and knows they must appear in court to defend themselves.

In uncontested actions without attorneys, the petitioner should send or give the papers directly to the spouse. If the spouse or domestic partner already has an attorney, the Santa Monica divorce attorney should receive the documents.

Financial Disclosures in a Santa Monica Divorce

As the divorce case develops, the petitioner must provide financial information to the court and the respondent through the Declaration of Disclosure, Income and Expense Declaration, or Financial Statement forms. The Schedule of Assets and Debts form and Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure form must also be completed as proof of service.

The above documents detail each spouse’s financials, from employment to assets and monthly expenses or liabilities. Tax returns or pay stubs may be attached as further proof. These records can help determine how much child support should be paid or whether alimony should be awarded.

For more information on financial disclosures, seek advice from your Santa Monica divorce lawyer.

Contested or Uncontested Divorce in Santa Monica

A Santa Monica divorce can be contested or uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree to all terms; in a contested divorce, they do not. An uncontested divorce is more straightforward and inherently less expensive than one that must be argued in the courts.

With complicated child custody, the complex division of property or other assets, family disputes, or an inability to agree, spouses may want to consult a mediation attorney. If they still do not agree, the divorce will occur in a courtroom with the assistance of a divorce attorney.

Waiting Period for a Santa Monica Divorce

In California, a divorce must be finalized within a minimum of six months from the time the initial paperwork is filed. If spouses disagree over finances, children, or property, a divorce can last much longer.

However, working with a top divorce law firm in Santa Monica can help you prepare for the process so there are no surprises.

Property Division in a Santa Monica Divorce

California is a community property state. This means that assets and debts acquired during a marriage will be split equally upon divorce.

The exceptions to this rule are those items excluded by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement and separate property of the spouses.

Separate property includes:

  • Items owned by a spouse before marriage.
  • Rents, profits, or monies earned from a spouse’s separate property.
  • Property bought with a spouse’s separate property.
  • Anything acquired after the date of the spouses’ separation, including earned income.

An expert may be needed to separate marital and separate property after a long marriage or when assets are difficult to value.

Child Custody in a Santa Monica Divorce

The court must ensure any child custody agreements made by parents are in their children’s best interests. When parents cannot reach a custody arrangement independently, the court will order a schedule.

When making its ruling, the court considers several factors, such as:

  • The children’s health, safety, and welfare.
  • Whether either parent has a history of abuse against the children or the other parent.
  • The nature and amount of contact the children have with both parents.
  • Whether either parent has a history of illegal use of controlled substances, alcohol, or prescribed medications.
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant.

In California, there are two types of child custody. These are legal and physical custody. Parents may share one or both types of custody, or one parent may exercise sole custody.

A parent with legal custody makes decisions as to their children’s:

  • Education.
  • Religious upbringing.
  • Elective surgeries.
  • Other essential matters.

Physical custody refers to the parents with whom the children primarily reside. Although parents may share physical custody, they may have the children for about the same amount rather than an equal amount of time.

Child Support in a Santa Monica Divorce

When child support is awarded in a divorce, it ensures the couple’s minor children maintain the approximate standard of living to which they grew accustomed during the marriage. California has statutory guidelines to determine the monthly child support each parent must pay.

The child support formula uses several factors to calculate the child support amount, including:

  • The parents’ incomes.
  • The time each parent spends with the children.
  • Any mandatory union dues paid by the parents.
  • Health insurance premiums paid by the parents.

Deviations from the guidelines are permitted when necessary for fairness. The non-custodial parent typically pays child support until the child reaches eighteen. This is extended to nineteen if the child is still in high school.

Spousal Support in a Santa Monica Divorce

Spousal support is only awarded in cases where one spouse needs financial support, and the other spouse can afford to pay for that support. Without both of these elements, there can be no spousal support award.

California allows two types of spousal support: temporary and permanent. Temporary support is awarded only during the divorce proceeding, while permanent support is awarded as a final divorce order.

The court calculates temporary spousal support using California’s child support guidelines.

However, there is no formula for computing permanent spousal support.

When awarding permanent spousal support, the court reviews statutory factors like:

  • The age and health of each spouse.
  • The financial situations of each spouse.
  • Each spouse’s income.
  • Whether one spouse contributed to the education or training of the other spouse.
  • Whether one spouse gave up a career to rear the couple’s children.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • Other considerations deemed valuable by the court.

If you are unsure whether your divorce case qualifies for temporary or permanent alimony, an experienced Santa Monica divorce attorney can advise you further.


Contact an Experienced Santa Monica Divorce Attorney

At Fernandez & Karney, our Santa Monica divorce attorneys will explain what to expect in your divorce and help you gather the documentation needed to move things along as efficiently and painlessly as possible.

Divorce can be a daunting prospect. Fernandez & Karney is here to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Contact our office in Santa Monica for a complimentary consultation. Do not allow your legal burdens to weigh you down. Let us shoulder your legal concerns so you can confidently move forward.