The date of separation in a California divorce plays an important role in many family law cases.
It can be the difference between whether or not an asset is community versus separate property and whether a marriage is of a long duration such that spousal support may continue indefinitely until death or remarriage or a short-term marriage where spousal support may cut off at the “half the duration of the marriage” mark.
In this article we will discuss how the date of separation in a California divorce is determined and what factors the family law court would take the consideration when he or she decides your date of separation.
Few areas of California law have gone through more uproar and change than the date of separation in a divorce. It used to be understood that a date of separation occurred when either the husband or the wife did not intend to continue the marriage and either of their actions were consistent with a final breakup in the marital relationship. Then, in July of 2015, the California Supreme Court turned that on its head in a decision called Marriage of Davis, which created a bright-line rule and made physical separation a necessity for there to be a separation, although the Supreme Court left open situations that could be an exception to that rule. Many family law lawyers, judges and our California legislature were not happy with this decision and in 2016, Governor Brown signed SB-1255 under “dissolution of marriage – date of separation.” As of the date this article is updated, SB-1255 is not yet officially the law. It will become the law on January 1, 2017. Here is its text as of August of 2016.
“SECTION 1. Section 70 is added to the Family Code, to read:
70. (a) “Date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following:
(1) The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage.
(2) The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.
(b) In determining the date of separation, the court shall take into consideration all relevant evidence.
(c) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to abrogate the decisions in In re Marriage of Davis (2015) 61 Cal.4th 846 and In re Marriage of Norviel (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 1152.”
So, in essence, we are kind of back to the way things were before the Marriage of Davis decision.
Nothing in this article is legal advice or intended to apply to your specific situation. To obtain legal advice about your specific situation, consult with an experienced California family law attorney. Do not rely on anything you read here because the information we provide here is very general and not intended to apply to any specific factual situation.
What does the family court look at when determining the date of separation in California?
California divorce courts typically looks at each spouse’s living situation and whether or not the two of them are truly separated. Some of the factors the family court takes into consideration include whether the spouses continue to live under the same roof, continue to hold themselves out to the public including family and friends as married or separated, continue to merge their finances and support each other, file joint or separate income taxes, engage in sexual intercourse with each other, date others and, in general, whether their private conduct is consistent with a couple of people who have had a final and complete break in their marital relationship.
The facts rule the day on date of separation in a divorce
When the issue of date of separation is litigated, the facts are everything. If the facts show, for example, that the husband and wife continue to eat dinner together at the family home, maintain a mailing address, engage in social events including vacations, and continue to behave consistent with a married couple, etc. those factors could be very important. Facts can come into evidence through testimony of either spouse, testimony of witnesses, documents (Exhibits), etc.
Can there be more than one date of separation?
Some cases have the unusual facts of a husband and wife who have more than one date of separation and therefore separation period. This happens when a husband and wife separate from each other and meet the factual test for the definition but then reconcile for a period of time, only to separate again. These types of cases are especially complicated because the decision that has to be made is whether or not there was only one date of separation, which is typically the last one, or whether or not to was more than one instance of the parties being separated from each other and therefore properties acquired during the various separation periods are or are not separate property.
The date of separation impact on a long versus a short term marriage
When the data of separation in your divorce case can mean the difference between a long-term or short-term marriage in California or whether or not a significant asset or debt is community or separate, care you must taken to ensure you gather all the facts and hire an experienced family law attorney.
Our law firm is skilled in litigation and we have had great success in prevailing in such date of separation cases even without a formal hearing or a trial. Many of these date of separation cases, once all of the facts are gathered, settle and do not proceed to hearing.