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Why your date of separation matters in a divorce

If you are contemplating a divorce or believe that your spouse is, it's essential to note your date of separation (DOS). This date can have a significant impact on how assets and debts are divided if you divorce.

The DOS is determined differently throughout the country, depending on state law. Here in Rhode Island, it's the date when spouses began living separately.

That may sound simple enough to determine. However, couples can and do disagree on when that happened. Maybe one spouse moved into a friend's apartment, but was still getting mail at the family home and didn't officially change his or her address, for example. Spouses have to agree to the DOS (or ask a court to decide) as they move forward with the divorce.

A difference in even a few days can mean a significant gain or loss of money. For example, if a spouse signs a lucrative contract or receives a large bonus while the couple is still together, the other spouse may be entitled to a share of it. However, if the spouse who got that money can demonstrate that the couple was already separated, he or she likely won't have to share it.

Further, assets like homes and boats that are often divided in the divorce are valued based on the date of separation. Say you kept a boat in Narragansett that was valued at $250,000. If that boat was seriously damaged in a storm at some point during your marital troubles, devaluing it considerably, it will matter whether its value dropped before or after the DOS.

The DOS is also important in determining responsibility for debts. If your husband decides he needs some plastic surgery to begin his new bachelor life or your wife splurges on a vacation to St. Bart's with her personal trainer, you don't want to be on the hook for that debt. If those things were charged before the DOS, you could be.

If you and your spouse can't agree on a DOS, it's important to have as much evidence as possible to back up the date that you have designated. Your Rhode Island family law attorney can work to help you get an agreement by your spouse or the court to that date and to get a fair settlement.

Source: Forbes, "Why Divorcing Women Need to Pay Careful Attention to the Date of Separation," Jeff Landers, accessed Dec. 06, 2017

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Rioles Law Offices
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Providence, RI 02909

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