Date of Separation in California Divorce: What You Need to Know

We know that a couple begins their married life on the date they sign their marriage certification, but the date that the marriage ends is more complicated to determine. A couple of dates could be considered the legal end of the marriage, the date the divorce decree is issued and the divorce is finalized, or the date of separation.

The date of separation is often overlooked and misunderstood. However, it holds significant weight in a California divorce and can impact multiple aspects of the divorce process. This article will discuss the date of separation, why it matters, and how it is determined.

What is the Date of Separation?

The date of separation is when a married couple stops living together as spouses. California defines it as when one spouse expresses their intent to end the marriage and takes action that shows a complete and final break in the marriage. The intent has to be communicated to the other spouse through actions or verbally.

It’s important to note that physical separation alone doesn’t necessarily establish the date of separation. Couples may live apart for many reasons, such as travel, work, or trial separations, without intending to end their marriage. On the other hand, a couple may choose to continue to live together but consider themselves separated because of irreconcilable differences.

Why Does the Date of Separation Matter?

The date of separation is vital in the divorce process and can significantly impact the proceedings. Here are some reasons why it is so important.

Division of Assets and Debts

California is a community property state. That means community property is divided evenly between the spouses in a divorce. Any income earned and all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property and will be part of the property division. Determining the date of separation is vital in identifying what assets and debts are subject to division in a divorce.

Duration of Marriage

The date of separation also affects the duration of the marriage, which can impact spousal support. If a marriage lasts ten years or more, the court is more likely to award long-term spousal support. Therefore, establishing the date of separation can determine the duration of spousal support payments.

Post-Separation Income and Expenses

After the date of separation, each spouse’s income and expenses are considered separate property. The date of separation is essential to determining each spouse’s financial obligations during the divorce process, including child and spousal support.

Preserving Separate Property

Clarifying the date of separation safeguards each spouse’s separate property interests. Property acquired and debts incurred after the date of separation are separate property is considered separate property and will belong solely to the acquiring spouse. This reduces the risk of commingling assets and making property division more complicated.

Cohabitation Issues

There have been times when disputes arise over whether spouses were actually separated or continued to live together as a married couple after claiming a date of separation. Proving the actual date of separation can help resolve these disputes and prevent accusations of fraud.

How the Date of Separation is Determined

Determining the date of separation can be complex and requires evidence and documentation to support the claim. While an outright declaration of the intent to divorce is ideal, establishing the date of separation often involves factors such as:

  • Physical Separation — Evidence of separate residences, such as lease agreements, utility bills, or mail forwarding, can help establish the claim of physical separation.
  • Communication of Intent — Verbal or written communication stating the intent to end the marriage, such as texts, emails, and letters, can help establish the date of separation.
  • Financial Separation — Separate bank accounts, filing separate tax returns, and dividing financial assets can demonstrate the end of a marriage.
  • Behavior Changes — Changes in sleeping arrangements, social activities, or interactions with friends and family can signal a shift in the marital relationship.

The court will review relevant facts when determining the date of separation. So, if you communicate your desire to end your marriage but continue acting like you’re married publicly, the court may assign a later date for the separation.

Turn to Azemika & Azemika for Experienced Legal Representation for Your Divorce

By understanding the date of separation and its implications, couples can navigate the divorce process more effectively and reach a fair and equitable settlement. Consulting with an experienced divorce attorney can provide valuable guidance in establishing the date of separation and advocating for your rights and interests during the divorce.

At Azemika & Azemika, our experienced attorneys focus strictly on family law cases. This allows us to understand and tackle the complexities and emotional challenges accompanying divorce proceedings. Our goal is to provide knowledgeable and aggressive representation at an affordable cost to our family law clients in Kern County.

Contact us today for a consultation.

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