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