When you file for divorce, each party is required to list a “date of separation” on the Petition for Dissolution and the Response to Dissolution. In many cases, both spouses agree on a date of separation or their dates are so close that there is no issue. However, in some cases the parties do not agree on the date of separation.
California uses the date of separation as the crucial date for determining the spouses’ property interests.
The Significance of the Date of Separation
Agreeing on the date of separation can have a significant impact on a case. California uses the date of separation as the crucial date for determining the spouses’ property interests. Property acquired by a spouse after the date of separation is classified as that spouse’s separate property, whereas property acquired before the date of separation is community property.
For example, the date of separation could be a major issue if one spouse is awarded a big bonus or stock options just after he or she claims to have separated from the other spouse. Another example of where date of separation could be important is if one spouse racks up significant debt and claims that it was incurred prior to separation.
Determining the Date of Separation
The date of separation occurs when either of the parties does not intend to resume the marriage and his or her actions bespeak the finality of the marital relationship. No facts are determinative; the ultimate test is the parties’ subjective intent, and all evidence relating to that intent is to be objectively considered by the trial court.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the date of separation, and if the date of separation has a significant financial impact on your case, then your attorney can file a motion to have the court conduct a separate trial on the issue of date of separation.
If this motion is granted, the court will conduct a “mini-trial” regarding the issue of date of separation. Oftentimes resolving the issue of date of separation early on in your divorce helps to resolve the entire case.
If you are facing pressure from your spouse regarding the determination of your date of separation, consult with a California divorce attorney before agreeing to anything. Our expert attorneys can advise you on how to proceed so that your best interests are protected throughout the divorce process.