In California dissolution cases the phrase “Date of Separation” (“DOS”) is what we refer to as a “term of art”–it is a phrase with legal significance separate from its colloquial usage.
In California, this legal term refers to the day that one spouse finally determined that his or her marriage was over, and subsequently did not change his or her mind. If there is a contest over date of separation, the court looks to external behaviors which support the internal decision to finally end the marriage. Commonly, the court will look at whether the parties maintain a romantic relationship, whether they hold themselves out in public as man and wife, whether they exchange articles of affection, whether they maintain joint finances, whether they engage in therapy or similar to revive the marriage, whether they communicate with each other or third parties about continuing the marriage, or getting back together, etc. The court is looking for “indicia of finality.”
For example, a spouse may loudly declare a marriage over, but if he or she subsequently discusses with the other spouse the possibility of engaging in marital therapy to save the marriage, a court might conclude that the Date of Separation lies after the spouses’ discussions about engaging in therapy, finding that the discussion demonstrates the spouses had not made a “final” decision.
At Divorce Helpline, our lawyers have the experience you can trust in helping divorcing couples navigate separation, divorce and California Family Law.