Should I Stay or Should I Go? What is “Date of Separation” and Why Does It Matter?

The date of separation is legal term of art that has significant implications on your financial rights.  The date of separation is used by California courts to determine the community assets and liabilities, the amount and duration of spousal support, and the date of divorce or legal separation. 

For many families it makes sense financially or for the benefit of the minor children for a separated couple to live under the same roof for a period of time.  Unfortunately, in a case decided in 2015, the Marriage of Davis, the California Supreme Court held a couple must be living in separate homes to be legally separated under California Family Law.  On July 25, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1255, authored by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), so that California law reflects the reality of California families.  Senate Bill 1255 removes the requirement that the parties live physically separate and apart. Under the current legislation, you may establish a date of separation by any conduct consistent with an intent to end the marriage, even if you continue to live under the same roof with your spouse. This conduct may include, by way of example only, communicating your unconditional intent to end the marriage, separating your finances, and/or moving into different bedrooms. 

This law is retroactively applicable to all cases pending as of January 1, 2017.  Our attorneys can assist you in determining your date of separation, explain the legal ramifications of this date in your case, or help you decide how to manage your separation.