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Senate Bill 1255 – Date of Separation

On July 25, 2016, Senate Bill 1255, authored by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), was signed into law by Governor Brown. This legislation amends the California Family Code to allow for a couple to be considered “living separate and apart” while still living under the same roof for purposes of establishing a date of separation for purposes of a Dissolution of Marriage.

In the recent case of In Re Marriage of Davis (2015), the California Supreme Court found in that case that the spouses must have separate residences in order to legally be considered “living separate and apart.”

The Davis ruling had the potential for trial courts to interpret a bright line rule requiring a move out where couples are trying to establish a date of separation through the divorce process. Such a possible bright line rule could pose a problem for spouses who have various reasons for living under the same roof while going through a divorce, whether they are financial or for the best interest of the children.

“The 2015 ruling makes divorce proceedings even more trying on families than it already is,” said Senator Moorlach. “It means a divorcing couple cannot live in the same house to reduce costs or co-parent their children during divorce proceedings if they want to keep their finances separate.”

Under SB 1255, the date of separation is defined as the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by the spouse’s expression of his or her intent to end the marriage and conduct that is consistent with that intent.  With this change, Courts will be required to take into account all relevant evidence in determining the date of separation, and living under the same roof will become merely a factor, and not a bar, in the court’s analysis.

“SB 1255 will assist families as they enter a highly transitional time, both relationally and financially within the family unit. I’ve been amazed at how many constituents have contacted me on this subject and am pleased that Governor Brown agrees that this supportive change is necessary,” added Moorlach.

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