While most people view marriage and
divorce as primarily personal and private matters, they are important legal statuses
that state governments regulate. For instance, California has laws prohibiting
bigamy, marriage between close blood relatives, and marriage with a minor.
But, why is the state so concerned about the relationship between two people?
Marriage is not only a special relationship between two adults, but it
is also a social institution that traditionally serves as the cornerstone
for starting a family. The government grants married couples various tax
benefits and legal privileges. Marriage also gives rise to certain legal
duties between the couple. As a result, the state has an interest in keeping
track and regulating marriage as well as its termination.
In California, the two most important dates in a divorce case are your
wedding date and the date of separation. Why is this? Because marriage
gives rise to specific legal duties and rights—such as joint ownership
of property and spousal support—establishing the date of separation
is essential for determining the extent of those duties and rights after divorce.
What Is the Date of Separation?
When California courts address issues regarding the date of separation,
they look at whether the couple lived in separate residences and ceased
all marital relations with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
A situation where one spouse sleeps on the couch after a fight usually
won’t be enough to set the date of separation. The separation must
have a more permanent character.
In some marriages, the couple had been living separately for years before
filing for divorce. Such situations illustrate the importance of the couple’s
date of separation for divorce cases, regardless of when the parties filed
To establish the date of separation in a divorce case, the parties should
submit evidence to the court show that the parties lived in different
residences. Such evidence includes as mail with separate residential addresses,
rental applications, and payment records. Furthermore, a sworn statement
that the parties ceased marital relations (sexual intercourse) should
also be submitted to the court.
Date of Separation for Community Property Issues
The date of separation is crucial because it sets the scope for determining
property rights in a divorce. California uses the community property system of
property division in divorce cases. Both spouses are entitled to an equal share of community
property assets upon divorce. All property acquired during marriage is
considered to be community property, absent a showing that the asset in
question qualifies as the party’s separate property. Property a
party received before marriage and after the parties’ date of separation
is considered to be their separate property.
Some states limit community property—or “marital property”
in states that use the equitable distribution system instead of community
property—to property acquired after the beginning of marriage and
before divorce. However, California law consistently restricts a married
couple’s joint ownership rights to property according to the period
where they lived together as a married couple.
Date of Separation for Spousal Support Issues
Another duty that arises from marriage is the duty for spouses to provide
sufficient financial support for one another. This duty serves as the
basis for courts to issue spousal support payments.
Spousal support is designed to allow the parties to maintain a standard of living set
during marriage. The duration of a spousal support obligation depends
on how long the marriage existed. A marriage that lasted for ten years
or more will likely implicate an indefinite spousal support obligation.
Short-term marriages will justify a spousal support award for a more limited duration.
Speak to a Qualified Attorney at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich
If you are facing a challenging divorce or family law issue, you can benefit
from the professional legal advice of a licensed attorney from Hanson,
Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. Our team of attorneys has over five decades
of collective legal experience and a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist
so you can rest assured that you and your family’s legal rights
are in capable hands.
For a free consultation with one of our skilled advocates, call us at (951)
contact us online today.