Providing Compassionate, Intelligent Counsel

Defining legal separation for community property assessment

by | May 13, 2015 | Firm News, Property Division, Property Division |

It is always helpful when things are straightforward. When it comes to divorce, however, things can be quite complex in nature. One California couple, who are going through the divorce process, are awaiting a State Supreme Court ruling on the date that they can legally be deemed to have separated. Their situation may be more common than one might expect in the current economic climate, and could impact significantly on their community property assessment.

The couple was married in 1993 and lived in Castro Valley. Six years later the marriage broke down, resulting in the cessation of marital relations, a reduction in joint social activities and separate finances. After a further seven years, the wife decided that their marriage was at an end, at which time she removed his name from a jointly-held credit card account and presented him with a schedule detailing which bills should become joint expenditures. Shortly after this, she accepted a new job in Los Angeles, which necessitated her living in the city for half the week or more.

The wife did not serve her husband with divorce papers until late in 2008, and did not leave the marital home until mid-2011. The effective date of separation is, therefore, unclear at present. The couple may not be deemed to have lived ‘separate and apart’ until the wife vacated the marital home, in which case the husband could have a potential claim on the income received by the wife (which was higher than that earned by the husband) until that time. A ruling is expected shortly.

Community property assessments are designed to divide assets fairly at the point of separation. This ruling could offer some important lessons to those California residents who are unable to financially separate at the time their marriages are declared over. Advice and guidance appropriate to one’s own unique circumstances is essential in order to ensure fair and equitable distribution of jointly owned assets.

Source:, “State Supreme Court to decide definition of marital ‘separation’“, Bob Egelko, May 6, 2015


FindLaw Network