If you are like most people, you did not get married expecting a divorce and it is often difficult to pin down the exact moment when the end became clear. Maybe one conflict gave way to another and the differences slowly pushed a wedge between you and your husband. A single act of infidelity may have been the breaking point, but things were not great before it.
Whatever the reason for your separation, you probably feel doubts along the way. Uncertainty is natural with separation as you wrestle with the thought of changing what has likely become part of your identity. When arguing questions of asset division, the date of separation (DOS) becomes very important.
So what marks the difference?
You may see trial separations, getting back together, sleeping apart, separating finances or a serious argument as indications of separation. In a legal process such as divorce, where specific dates will influence the division of property, many wonder how the court determines the date and if the filing date of divorce papers matters.
The short answer is yes, the filing date for divorce papers matters (dissolution of marriage in Florida). The statute in Florida that sets the rules for the date of separation isn’t the same as it is in other states. As is so often the case in our legal system, the statute is also written in English but not necessarily plain language.
“The cut-off date for determining assets and liabilities to be identified or classified as marital assets and liabilities is the earliest of the date the parties enter into a valid separation agreement, such other date as may be expressly established by such agreement, or the date of the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage. The date for determining value of assets and the amount of liabilities identified or classified as marital is the date or dates as the judge determines is just and equitable under the circumstances. Different assets may be valued as of different dates, as, in the judge’s discretion, the circumstances require.”
Unpacking this statute, the first three options are the date a separation agreement is signed, a date each of you agrees to name or the date that the papers are filed. The judge also has discretion in determining a “just and equitable” determination of dates and for the purpose of asset division, multiple dates may even be applied.
The date of filing does matter in Florida, but it is one factor among several that a judge takes into consideration. The DOS is a complex legal issue and it is important to submit your petition with the timeline in mind.
When should you file your personal case? The answer depends on your individual situation, which is why you should consult with an experienced attorney to guide you and help you determine when the right time to file is based on your circumstances.