For many years, California Divorce Attorneys have fought ferociously in Family Court over the issue of when – exactly – is the “Date of Separation” in a case where the divorcing spouses continue to dwell in the same house.

But now, finally, the California State Legislature has spoken.  As of January 01, 2017, if Husband and Wife both intend to get a divorce, and have ceased sleeping together and comingling funds as well as “fun,” then they can be legally “Separated,” even if they are living under the same roof.

In an acknowledgment of the weak California economy, and the consequent housing shortage, as well as the public policy of not unnecessarily causing one of the divorcing spouses to become “Homeless” … usually the Husband … Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation — SB 1255 — which will take effect in January 2017, allowing divorcing couples to be considered legally “Separated,” while still living in the same house.  Under prior California Case Law, the fact that the couple lived under the same roof was usually taken as an indication that they were not legally “Separated.”

This important new law was written and advocated by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).  He believed it was necessary to change the Family Code language because many spouses wish to separate legally in order to protect their personal finances, but also, wish to continue sharing a residence in order to save costs during their divorce. 


Thus, SB 1255 should better reflect the reality of modern divorce experiences.


While the amended Family Code sections do provide clarity and allow couples more post-separation flexibility, it is important to note that SB 1255 may not be the end of legal disputes about separation dates—in the coming years, case law will further refine the relevant legislative provisions. 


Additionally, couples in the process of a divorce should not let SB 1255 pass by them unnoticed because when the new law goes into effect on January 01, 2017, it may retroactively apply to any cases pending on that date, but this issue still needs to be resolved and addressed by the Family Courts in California.


Since there are some complicated and confusing issues, you should consult now  — right away! — with your Family Law attorney to develop a “date of separation” strategy that is in your best interest.


If you are considering a legal separation or divorce, please contact the experienced family law attorneys at Los Angeles Jewish Lawyers – we can help you navigate the effects of SB 1255 and answer any questions you may have about how the new law will impact your divorce. 


The sooner you understand how SB 1255 will affect your legal plans, the better you can prepare for the new rule when it goes into to effect on January 01, 2017.

As before, but to a somewhat lesser extent, the nuances of what a divorcing couple does  –  or does not do  –  while living under the same roof could alter the Family Court’s decision as to their legal status, e.g., the sharing of credit cards and bank accounts, the giving and receiving of gifts, and even the exchange of written thank you notes and greeting cards, could well have been determining factors.

The status of the couple in terms of sharing of debt may be of crucial importance as well.  Generally, the martial status of the couple will determine the character of the debt at the time it was incurred.

The status of the couple’s children will also need to be considered.

We welcome the new legislation by the State of California, because children generally do better if both parents are present in the home, unless the situation involves violence or abuse, or is totally untenable in other ways.  Divorce is not pleasant for anyone involved, whether parents or children.  

Perhaps you’ve seen the 1989 movie, “War of the Roses,” in which a Divorce Attorney, played by Danny DeVito, and with the movie having also been Directed by Danny DeVito, recalls and describes to his new client – who is thinking of divorcing his wife – the sad story of Mr. and Mrs. Rose, whose horribly contentious Divorce ends very badly.  At the end, DeVito advises his potential new client, listen … why don’t you just go home, take your wife out to a nice restaurant for dinner, go back home, each of you going to a different room, on a different floor … and just don’t argue about anything … and … as Rodney King famously suggested, “just get along.”

Starting on January 01, 2017, you can live under the same roof with the spouse that you are divorcing, and still be considered as legally “Separated,” if, and only if, you do not sleep together, do not exchange holiday gifts or greeting cards, and … as at the Courthouse, always watch what you say !