When married couples and registered domestic partners in San Diego decide to get a divorce, they come across an important question: “When did you officially separate?” This might seem like a simple question, but it holds a lot of legal weight and can greatly affect each person’s financial situation. 

This blog post will dive into the date of separation, its legal implications, and how it can influence property and debt division during divorce proceedings.

Defining the Date of Separation

The “sate of separation,” sometimes shortened to DOS, is an important legal term that carries significant meaning when couples decide to go through a divorce or separation. This date acts like a flag, indicating the end of the financial partnership between married or registered domestic partners.

Establishing the Date of Separation

Determining the date of separation involves two essential elements:

Physical Separation

In the past, when we talked about physical separation, it often meant situations like one spouse moving into a spare room while still living in the same house. But things have changed recently. 

Now, to have a real physical separation, couples must live apart. If there’s a disagreement about when the separation started, the courts tend to lean towards the later date. In some cases, courts have even said that true physical separation only happens when one person leaves the family home.

Intent To End the Marriage

When it comes to establishing the date of separation, it involves more than just physically living apart; it also revolves around the desire to end the marriage. This desire consists of two critical elements:

1. Subjective Intent

Think of subjective intent as a strong, personal feeling. A spouse needs to have this intent for the divorce to happen. You can think of it like an inner voice says, “I want to end this marriage.” This deeply personal and emotional feeling signifies a genuine intention to move forward separately.

2. Objective Act:

However, it’s not enough to have this internal desire alone. The spouse must also show actions demonstrating this intention to end the marriage. These actions can include confiding in a friend about the plan to get a divorce or taking a significant step like sending an email, writing a letter or filing for legal separation to the partner clearly stating the intention to end the marriage.

In determining the date of separation, the subjective intent and the objective act play an important role. These two aspects work hand in hand, helping spouses define exactly when the separation began.

Assets and Debts: Separation vs. Community Property

When we talk about the date of separation, we’re discussing the moment when a married couple or domestic partners decide to go their separate ways, not just emotionally but also financially. Once this date is officially recognized, a fundamental shift occurs in how their financial assets and debts are categorized.

Separate Property

Once the date of separation has passed, any money you make, payments you put into retirement or pension accounts, and things you buy become your property. Simply put, what you earn or acquire after separating legally belongs only to you. This includes any salary you receive, investments you make, or money you save for retirement – it’s all exclusively yours.

Community Property

On the other hand, any things and debts collected while you were married, up until the separation date, are called community property. This means you and your spouse or partner own them together, and when you get divorced, they must be divided fairly. This might include the family house, money in shared bank accounts, and debts you owe.

Handling the Emotional Side of Determining the Date of Separation

Divorce and separation can be tough emotionally, especially when figuring out the date of separation. Here are some simple tips for dealing with the emotional side of things:

  • Talk It Out: Have honest and respectful conversations about your plans and feelings with your spouse or partner.
  • Think About Kids: If you have children, consider how they’ll feel and try to make the transition as smooth as possible for them.
  • Deal with Grief: Recognize that you might feel sad or lost. It’s okay to grieve the end of your relationship.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Look after your physical and mental health by doing things that make you happy and seeking help.
  • Sort Out Finances: Understand your money situation now and after separation. Get advice from a financial expert if it helps.

In a tough time like this, remember you can contact friends, family, or professionals for support. You’re not alone in this journey towards a new chapter in your life.


Contact our experienced San Diego divorce lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108