California Supreme Court Clarifies What It Takes to Form a Legal Separation
A couple considering divorce in California will first go through a period of legal separation, in which the spouses carry on separate lives but are still legally connected to one another in several ways. Recently, the California Supreme Court clarified exactly what a couple needs to do in order to participate in a “legal separation.”
The court considered a case in which a divorcing couple split their finances, but kept living together as “roommates.” They slept in separate bedrooms for about five years before one of the spouses moved out of the family house. The spouses disagreed on when their “separation” period began – one said it started when they split their finances and moved to separate bedrooms, while the other claimed it did not start until the move-out. Because shares of one spouse’s earnings were at stake and the couple couldn’t negotiate a settlement on their own, the case went to court.
The state Supreme Court held that in order to qualify as a “legal separation,” a couple’s arrangement must include each person living at a different residence – not just in a different bedroom at the same address. As a result, the court held that in the couple’s case, their separation DID NOT legally begin until one of the spouses moved out – which meant that until that point, the income the higher-earning spouse received was community property and the lower-earning spouse was legally entitled to a share of it.
The court ruling tries to make legal separation requirements more clear, the ruling leaves many questions unanswered. The Certified Family Law Specialist attorneys at The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor have begun preparing to help clients deal with this recent change and to answer any additional questions they have during the separation or divorce process. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor at (858) 458-9500.