Why the Date of Separation Is Crucial to Your Divorce

The Date of Separation and Community Property

In the United States, the division of marital property upon divorce is governed by two different systems, depending on the state where the divorce was filed: equitable distribution and community property. In California, property division issues are resolved using principles of community property, which requires all property that the spouses acquired during marriage to be equally divided between them upon divorce. This means that all property the parties acquired after getting married and before the date of their final separation constitutes community property subject to equal division upon divorce.

A California court tasked with determining whether an asset or property qualifies as divisible community property will focus on the date of acquisition and when it took place with respect to the date of separation. Property that a spouse acquired in their name before getting married or after the date of separation qualifies as their sole and separate property, which is not divisible upon divorce.

As a result, the date of separation is an inherent aspect of determining what property is divisible between divorcing spouses.

For example, imagine that the parties in a divorce case are arguing about the community property character of a vacation home in Lake Tahoe that was purchased in June of 2019. If the parties were married in January of 2014 and separated in July of 2019, the Lake Tahoe vacation home would generally be characterized as community property divisible upon divorce. However, if the parties separated in May of 2019, the Lake Tahoe home would be classified as the separate property of the party who acquired it.

The Date of Separation and Spousal Support

When it comes to determining issues of spousal support, the date of separation is also a vital point. Under California law, the duration of a spousal support order is commensurate with the length of a marriage. Short term marriages—those lasting less than ten years—are more likely to warrant spousal support orders for a finite period. In contrast, long term marriages—those lasting ten years or longer—have a better chance of warranting spousal support awards for an indefinite term—also known as “permanent spousal support.”

Of course, the length of the parties’ marriage is one of many factors that California courts are required to consider when determining issues of spousal support. California Family Code § 4320 lists several factors that courts must evaluate when making spousal support determinations. Importantly, a court presumptively has continuing jurisdiction to settle matters concerning spousal support in cases involving long term marriages.

Therefore, the date of separation is a critical issue for courts to assess during proceedings about spousal support. For example, if the parties in a divorce got married in January of 2009 and separated in August of 2018, a court is more likely to craft a spousal support award for a limited term. Conversely, if the parties separated in March of 2019, this provides a better basis for a court to award permanent spousal support because the court retains jurisdiction indefinitely to do so.

For Legal Advice, Contact Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich

Financial issues connected to divorce can be challenging to litigate. For a better understanding of the pertinent issues that affect your divorce, you should consult Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich for legal advice. Our team of dedicated attorneys has an in-depth understanding of California family law to help promote your financial and legal interests in your divorce proceedings.

For an initial consultation about your legal issues, call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 506-6654 or contact us online today.


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