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Understanding the Requirements for Date of Legal Separation

Understanding the Requirements for Date of Legal Separation

As a family law firm, we are often asked about the difference between a general date of separation and a legal date of separation. The truth is that these terms are widely misunderstood. If you want to know what your best options are, and what each one means, then we highly recommend talking directly to a family law attorney. You can reach Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908.

Filing for legal separation may not do what you think it does

One of the biggest misconceptions of the divorce process is that filing for legal separation automatically establishes a date of separation. This is not necessarily true, as the date of separation and a Judgment of Legal Separation are two entirely different concepts.

The definition of the date of separation

According to California’s Family Code, “date of separation” refers to the date that there was a “complete and final break” in the marital relationship. This date is very important because it is the date at which community property stops accruing. Several actions can indicate the date of separation, from one of the parties filing for divorce or one of the parties moving out of the house.

The definition of a legal separation

On the other hand, if you ask for a legal separation then you are asking that your marital status stays the same but that property be divided. If applicable, spousal support would also be established. The most common reasons for a couple to decide to file for legal separation are due to religious reasons that prevent divorce, or if one spouse wants to remain on the other spouses’ health insurance.

Sometimes a Request for Legal Separation is used if the spouse who wants to file does not meet the California residence requirements, which require that they have lived in the state for six months and in the county in which they are filing for three months. That situation often involves the legal separation converting to a Request for Dissolution once the residence requirements are met.

Both parties must agree to the legal separation

In the state of California, a person can get a divorce even if their spouse does not want one and does not agree to the dissolution of the marriage. This is not the case with a legal separation because both parties must agree to it.

It’s most often the case that spouse would rather have a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage in which they have a date of separation, rather than filing a Legal Separation. However, keep in mind that the six-month waiting period before your marital status is officially terminated and you are officially single means you should make sure that your Petition is clear about what type of relief you are seeking.

Do you have other questions about divorce? Are you ready to file? Do you want to talk to an experienced family law attorney? If you have answered yes to any of these questions then we welcome your call to Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908.


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My ex-wife hired an attorney which prompted me to do so for our divorce. Torrence Howell was highly recommended from a friend of mine who used Torrence’s services for a divorce just like mine. The results came out much better than he ever thought it would. With all things being equal I felt Torrence would

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