When you go through a divorce, you’ll be confronted with many terms and concepts with which you’re unfamiliar, or which can be confusing. One of these is the date of separation – it’s a critical date to pin down, so it’s important to understand what it is and why it matters.
How is it determined?
When a couple separates may be obvious at first glance, but it’s treated differently from one state to the next. California has not always used the same definition when addressing date of separation – like many other states, it has been synonymous with the physical separation of a couple, when one of them moves out entirely.
However, California passed a statute in 2016 which expanded the definition of date of separation, allowing other circumstances to trigger its calculation. Now, the date of separation is determined as the date one spouse, through either words or actions, demonstrates their intent to end the relationship. The court will consider any relevant evidence to conclude what that date should be.
Why does it matter?
Since California is a community property state, all assets and liabilities accumulated during the marriage belong to both spouses. The date of separation represents the date when such joint accumulation ends, which can have a significant impact on how property division occurs in the divorce.
With respect to spousal support, California has a 10-year line of demarcation. For marriages that last longer than 10 years, the court can order permanent spousal support. But if your date of separation is earlier than the 10-year mark, spousal support can only last half the length of the marriage.