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.

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

Working with an experienced Santa Monica divorce lawyer from Fernandez & Karney in Santa Monica can make a difficult process easier for everyone involved. Read further to learn about how Fernandez & Karney can help make your divorce go as smoothly as possible while achieving your legal goals and expectations.

How a Santa Monica Divorce Attorney 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 just like you every day. 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
  • Preparing and filing all necessary court documents.

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

Santa Monica Annulment vs. Divorce

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 a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, may be granted by the court 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 the filing of the divorce petition. The divorce petition must be filed in the same county where the filing spouse has lived for a minimum of three months.

Filing for a Santa Monica Divorce

In California, the spouse who is seeking a divorce is known as the petitioner. The other spouse is called the respondent.

There are three forms necessary to file a divorce. These are the summons, the petition, and the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (if minor children will be 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 for this, but the fee may be waived upon submitting a Request to Waive Court Fees.

If, upon the court’s review, the filing fees are waived, 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. These are best addressed by an experienced divorce attorney.

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

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

The Divorce Process

When the petitioner submits their divorce paperwork to the court, the clerk of courts will stamp the divorce paperwork with the date and time of filing and return 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 service of process. Service of process is to ensure the respondent is aware of the impending divorce and knows they need to 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 will be required to provide their financial information to the court and the respondent. This is done through the Declaration of Disclosure, Income and Expense Declaration, or the 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 paint a detailed picture of each spouse’s financials, from employment to assets and monthly expenses or liabilities. As further proof, tax returns or pay stubs may be attached. 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, and 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, other family disputes, or an overall inability to agree, spouses may want to consult with a mediation attorney.  If they still do not agree, the divorce will take place in a courtroom with the assistance of a divorce attorney.

Waiting Period for a Santa Monica Divorce

In California, it takes a minimum of six months from the time the initial paperwork is filed to finalize a divorce. 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 prior to 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 of a type that is 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 on their own, 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 which parent with whom the children primarily reside. Although parents may share physical custody, they may have the children for about the same amount of time rather than an equal amount of time.

Child Support in a Santa Monica Divorce

When child support is awarded in a divorce, it is to ensure 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 amount of child support each parent is obligated to 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

When necessary, deviations from the guidelines are permitted for fairness. The non-custodial parent typically pays child support until a 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 that support. Without both of these elements, there can be no spousal support award.

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

Temporary spousal support is calculated by the court using California’s child support guideline. 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 let you know what to expect in your divorce. We will also help you in gathering 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 get to the best possible outcome. Contact our office in Santa Monica for a complimentary consultation.

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