Santa Monica Divorce lawyer

We handle all aspects of Family Law, including but not limited to the following:

Santa Monica divorce

Child Custody

Child custody consists of two parts: Legal and Physical. Physical custody is the right and duty to care for and/or have physical possession of a minor child at particular times. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about the child and to exercise legal rights (i.e., obtaining a driver’s license) for the minor. Both physical and legal custody may be sole or joint. Joint physical custody does not mandate an equal amount of custodial time for each parent; it may be any arrangement of shared custodial time. Joint legal custody means that either party, acting alone, may make decisions and exercise legal rights for the minor. In a joint legal custody situation, mutual agreement between the parties is not required. The court, in making an order of joint legal custody, should specify which decisions require joint agreement.

Child and Spousal Support

Under federal law, all states have guidelines to determine child support. In California, the guideline is a formula that considers the income of the parties, the number of children, and the custodial time split between the parties. Courts plug numbers into the formula and come up with an amount of support that should be paid. The parties can argue that because of certain circumstances (enumerated by statute or case law), a court should order more or less support than the guideline amount.

Spousal support is money paid from one spouse to another for the support of the spouse with fewer financial resources. Unlike child support, there are no statewide guidelines for spousal support. Before trial, the standard for awarding spousal support is need and ability. At or after trial, the standards for awarding spousal support are found in Family Code § 4320, et. seq.


A divorce or dissolution of marriage is a decree by a court that a valid marriage no longer exists. It leaves both parties free to remarry. The court will award custody, divide property, award attorney fees, and order spousal and child support.

Although divorces may be emotionally contentious, close to 95 percent of divorces do not end up in a contested trial. Usually, the parties negotiate and settle property division, attorney fees, spousal support, and child custody between themselves, often with the help of a lawyer. The parties then present their negotiated agreement to the Court. Approval is virtually automatic.

If parties are unable to agree about property, support, attorney fees, or child custody, they may ask the court to decide one or more of those matters.


An annulment is a court ruling that a marriage was never valid. The most common ground for annulment is fraud or misrepresentation, going to the essence of the marriage (such as the willful nondisclosure of an inability to engage in sex or have children). Annulment may also be granted for bigamy, incest, or marriage to an underage person.

They are uncommon because divorces are easy to obtain and the bases for an annulment are narrower than the bases for a divorce.

Legal Separation

A Judgment of legal separation allows the husband and wife to live separately and formalize the arrangement by a court order or a written agreement. The order or agreement will specify what support, if any, one spouse will pay the other. If the husband and wife have minor children, the agreement or court order will set out arrangements regarding custody or visitation.

A legal separation is not the same as a divorce. Most important, people who are legally separated may not remarry. They must wait until a divorce is final before marrying again.

In connection with a dissolution of marriage, when a husband and wife separate, they no longer accumulate community or marital property. The property acquired after the separation will be considered each partner’s separate or nonmarital property. In this case a separation is not a final legal decree, but the subjective intent of a party objectively manifested.


You and your child’s other parent may agree to modify the child support terms, but even an agreed-upon modification for child support must be consistent with the State Guidelines to be legally enforceable.

If you and your ex can’t agree on a change, you must request the court to hold a hearing in which each of you can argue the pros and cons of the proposed modification. As a general rule, the court will not modify an existing order unless the parent proposing the modification can show changed circumstances.

Non-Parental Custody

In some cases, people other than a child’s parents may wish to obtain custody — including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close family friends.

There are specific procedures that must be followed by people seeking non-parental custody. In California, the matters are usually handled in Probate court.


Unwed parents must support their children to the same extent as married parents. As with children born to married parents, the obligation of support usually lasts until the child is an adult.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

A premarital agreement, also known as an antenuptial agreement or prenuptial agreement, is a contract entered into prior to marriage. The agreement usually describes what each party’s rights will be if the couple divorces. Premarital agreements most commonly deal with issues of property and spousal support: who is entitled to what property, and how much support, if any, will be paid in the event of divorce.

Move-Away Issues

When a parent in a child custody proceeding requests an order from the court allowing him/her to move a significant distance away, thereby interfering with the noncustodial parent’s visitation and contact with the children, this is commonly referred to as a move-away case. A move-away case is one of the most difficult cases for the family courts to hear, because the request by a parent to move away with his/her children often has a negative impact on the frequent and continuous contact the children will have with the other parent.

Restraining Orders

A temporary court order prohibiting a party from certain activities. Issued in response to a motion, restraining orders often are issued to protect marital assets and to prevent domestic violence.

Community Property Issues

Most property that is acquired during the marriage is considered community property. If either or both spouses buy a house or establish a business during the marriage, that property will usually be considered community property, particularly if the house or the business is purchased with earnings obtained during marriage.

Separate property is property that each spouse owned before the marriage. In California, separate property also includes inheritances and gifts (except perhaps gifts between spouses) acquired during marriage. During the marriage, each spouse usually keeps control of his or her separate property. Each spouse may buy, sell, and borrow money on his or her separate property. Income earned from separate property, such as interest, dividends, or rent, is generally separate property.

Separate property can become community property if it is mixed or commingled with community property, and the separate property can no longer be identified. If, for example, a wife owned an apartment building before the marriage and she deposited rent checks into a joint checking account, the rent money could become commingled and lose its separate property character — although the building, absent some other action, will remain the wife’s separate property. If, however, one spouse puts work into the other spouse’s separate property, or the community makes principal payments or improvements to the property, the community can obtain an interest in the separate property.


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