The Financial Effects of the Separation Date
History books refer to June 6, 1944, when the Allied armies landed the largest invasion force ever assembled on the north French coast of Normandy, quite simply as "D-Day". Generally speaking, historians mark this date as the official beginning of the end for Hitler's Nazi Germany. During the divorce process, there are references to three such D-Days: the Date of Marriage, the Date of Separation, and the Date of Divorce. In reality, with respect to a marriage, the beginning of the end traditionally comes with the formal Date of Separation. Not unlike June 6, 1944, its impact is far-reaching.
Dependent upon the laws of the state in which you reside, the actual Date of Separation is quite critical and can have a dramatic effect on things such as credit, pension benefits, and other marital assets.
From this date on, you and your ex-spouse to be are now in limbo both legally and financially, and will retain such status until such time as the actual Date of Divorce. During this time period, there is quite literally a potentially large amount of money at stake, depending upon you and your spouse's particular situation. You may still be held responsible for any debts incurred by your spouse after the DOS; the value of a retirement plan or other marital asset such as residential property can go up or down, often by thousands of dollars, contingent upon the applicable laws of your home state.
What Determines the Date of Separation?
Exactly what determines the actual Date of Separation varies among the different states. In some, the DOS is the date you or your spouse actually physically relocates from the marital place of residence. Others define the DOS as the date in which the actual divorce papers are filed in a court of law. Still other states regard the DOS as the date on which one spouse officially informed the other that they INTEND to file for divorce. In some cases with regards to the last two situations, a couple may continue to live together even after the DOS, usually at the behest of financial reality. Therefore, no matter where you live, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your attorney as to exactly what laws are applicable to you and your circumstance.
For obvious reasons, each party will attempt to plead their case for the actual Date of Separation. For example, if you are to be held liable for debts incurred during the marriage, it is wise to establish the DOS before your spouse invades the mail with a pocket full of joint credit cards. Or, if a pension plan is due to receive a large payment in June, perhaps it would be wise to formally relocate from the place of marital residence in May. Again, there may be a great deal of money resting on the formal DOS.
What Happens to Finances After the Separation Date?
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COMMUNITY PROPERTY VERSUS EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION -- There are two basic ways to handle divorce property division: Community Property: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Puerto Rico are community property states. This means that all marital property is typically defined as community property or separate property. When divorcing, community property is typically divided evenly, and each spouse keeps his or her separate property. Equitable Distribution: All other states follow equitable distribution. This means that a judge decides what is equitable, or fair, rather than simply splitting the property in two. In practice, this may mean that two-thirds of the property goes to the higher earning spouse, with the other spouse getting one-third.
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