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Family Law Specialists

Steve Fernandez and Mark Karney are both Certified Family Law Specialists* with over 50 years of combined experience.

Santa Monica Divorce Attorney


Working with an experienced divorce lawyer in Santa Monica can make a difficult process easier for everyone involved. Learn more about how we can help.

A Divorce Attorney in Santa Monica Explains Annulment vs. Divorce

Although in some specific situations, an unhappy couple in California can seek an annulment, most married couples require a divorce attorney Santa Monica to help them navigate a breakup. An annulment means nullifying the marriage or domestic partnership. This is when a court verifies that the domestic partnership or marriage is not legally binding.

With an annulment, it is like the marriage or domestic partnership never occurred, and everything reverts to the previous state because it was never legal. Reasons include:

  • Bigamy
  • Force
  • Fraud
  • Incest
  • Physical incapacity
  • Unsound mind

Many invalid marriages or domestic partnerships that seek to dissolve through an annulment are unable to do so due to exceeding the statute of limitations. Therefore, the only way to dissolve the marriage is through a divorce.

Filing for a Santa Monica Divorce

In the state of California, the spouse who is seeking a divorce is known as the petitioner. Three forms are necessary: the summons, the petition, and the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (if minor children will be involved). You can file these with or without a Santa Monica divorce lawyer, but additional paperwork may be required. You should contact the clerk of courts in your county or an attorney to see what else you need. A Santa Monica divorce attorney 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 paperwork in their county. There is a filing fee required for this, but you can submit a Request to Waive Court Fees if you cannot afford it. Upon review, if the court decides fees should be waived, no payment is due to file the documents. Los Angeles family lawyers may be able to help complete and submit the appropriate forms.

Some divorces are relatively straightforward, with no additional issues. In high-asset cases and marriages that lasted ten or more years, however, there are likely more complex issues to be resolved, best addressed by a family law attorney.

If there are minor children, real estate, business property, or investments, the divorce becomes much more complicated. Even if the separating couple has the best intentions, there are bound to be disagreements. An attorney in Los Angeles or Santa Monica like Fernandez & Karney can handle all aspects of the divorce and provide support during this trying time.

When Should You Hire a Divorce Lawyer in Santa Monica?

If you have not retained a divorce lawyer in Santa Monica or family law attorneys in Los Angeles, by the time you submit your paperwork to the court, now would be the time to begin seeking the right law practice to handle your separation.

Once the forms have been submitted, the clerk of courts will stamp the divorce papers with the date and time they were filed and return copies to the petitioner to deliver to the respondent, the other spouse. The copies should be provided promptly. The respondent will then share them with his or her divorce lawyers.

It is called the Service of Process when the respondent is delivered the papers. This ensures the respondent is aware of the impending process against him or her and knows they can appear in court to defend themselves and are not “ambushed.” In uncontested actions without lawyers, the petitioner should send or give the papers directly to the spouse. If the spouse or domestic partner has a lawyer, the Santa Monica divorce attorney should also receive any documents.


A Santa Monica Divorce Attorney Explains the Divorce Process

As the 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. This can help determine how much child support should be paid or whether alimony should be given. For more information, seek advice from your family lawyers in Los Angeles.

A 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, the couple might want to consult with a mediation attorney. If they still do not agree, the divorce takes place in court with the assistance of a divorce attorney Santa Monica.

Top Divorce Law Firms in Santa Monica

In the state of California, it takes a minimum of six months from the time the paper is filed to finalize a divorce. This does not include issues with finances, children, or property. It is not uncommon for a contested divorce to 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. Our attorneys will let you know what to expect and help you gather the documentation needed in order to move things along as efficiently and painlessly as possible.

No one plans for their marriage to end and divorce can be a daunting prospect. We’re here to help you get to the best possible outcome. Contact Fernandez & Karney for a free consultation.

Practice Areas

Child Custody

Complex Property



Move Aways


Spousal Support




Spousal Support


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1 Certified Family Law Specialists

2 Over 50+ years of combined experience

3 Experienced with complex divorce and child custody cases