Legal Importance of the Separation Date in a Divorce

Divorce Attorneys in Marietta and Canton

Determining when a marriage is over can be a challenging time in any person's life. It is often difficult to put an exact date on when things were officially "over." However, people filing for divorce need to know this important information because they often have to list a separation date on the divorce petition.

Difficulties in Determining the Date of Separation

Different states interpret the separation date in different ways. Georgia defines the separation date when the parties stop having sexual relations. Some common ways that other states determine a separation date include:

  • The date the parties no longer share a residence
  • When the parties no longer share a bed
  • When one of the parties files divorce papers with the court
  • When one party tells the other of the intention to file divorce papers

What makes things more complex is that interpretation of these events can differ. One party may not believe that the other was serious in his or her intent to file divorce, for example, or the parties may dispute the dates that the events happened.

Why the Separation Date Matters

Courts will use the separation date to determine marital and separate property. Anything the parties had before the date of the marriage and obtained after the separation date is separate property. Issues arise when one spouse receives significant assets, such as a bonus or commission, near the separation date. One spouse may claim that the separation date was before he or she got the asset in an effort to declare it separate property.

Finally, the court will apportion liability for debts according to the separation date. Any debt that each party accrues after the separation date will be solely that party's responsibility. Similar to the issue of people trying to manipulate the separation date to protect assets, one of the parties may try to set the separation date to ensure that the other spouse has to share in debts that the person amassed near the separation date.

The dissolution of a marriage is often a difficult thing and it may be hard to tell when things were over. Parties need to be aware of the separation date, however, because it affects many aspects of a divorce.