How do I determine the date we separated?

mom consoling toddler girl

This is the second in a 3-part series on women’s financial rights and responsibilities when a relationship ends. Part 1 looks at property division and Part 3 discusses spousal support.

Determining the date of separation is not always easy.

Some couples remain under the same roof and move in and out of various levels of intimacy over a period of months or even years. Some couples separate on a trial basis, reunite, then separate again permanently.

Sometimes, one person leaves the relationship knowing it is over, while the other hopes for a reconciliation and thinks of the relationship as still ongoing.

However, you have to set the date that you and your partner separated. In particular, you need to know when you got married and when you separated so you can work out how to divide up the property you acquired during your marriage.

You are considered separated as of the date at least one of you has formed the intention to end the relationship and there is no reasonable prospect you will reconcile.

You and your partner can be legally separated even if you are still living in the same house.

Factors for the court

If you and your partner can’t agree on a separation date in this circumstance, the court will consider a number of factors, including:

  • Physical separation: Have you moved into separate bedrooms? Do you spend most of your time apart from one another even if you are both living in the same house?
  • Absence of a sexual relationship, although this is not a determinative factor on its own.
  • Changes in how you and your partner communicate with one another and with others: Do you now communicate with friends separately? If you had a shared email account, do you each have your own? Do you and your partner communicate with one another via email or notes rather than verbally? Have you told friends and family that you are separating?
  • Separation in child rearing responsibilities and time: Do you now spend time separately with the children? Have you each taken on different responsibilities with them?
  • Separation of household responsibilities: Are you each doing your own laundry rather than doing it together? Are you cooking and eating separately?
  • Separation of social activities: Are you attending social functions independently of one another? Do you make your own arrangements to see friends and extended family members? Do you attend work-related functions on your own? Are you making separate plans for holidays and cultural/religious events and celebrations?

Last in the series: How do I qualify for spousal support?