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Date of separation vital to asset protection during divorce

The legal separation date between divorcing spouses in Texas and everywhere else is often acknowledged to be a significant emotional break. It should also be noted, however, that the date a couple parts can have an enormous influence over the post-marital financial lives of both parties involved.

A couple's official breakup date sets a timeline in preparation for a divorce settlement. Property division is often dependent on the date of separation, known in family law courts as DOS. States laws are inconsistent about when the legal separation date between a husband and wife occurs. The most definitive DOS occurs when one spouse physically leaves the marital home and formally changes an address. In some states, a physical separation between partners may be declared even when the couple remains in the same home.

Other states determine that the separation date is driven by appropriate paperwork. The date a divorce petition is filed or a legal separation agreement is signed may also be considered the official DOS.

Still other states consider a couple's separation date to be the day one partner informs the other of a pending divorce. It is important to know what the date of separation is, because in many cases, a date of separation becomes an effective way for the courts to portion a couple's assets and liabilities. The value of investments, property and pension accounts wrap around a DOS.

For the most part, any income or assets that are acquired during a marriage and before the separation date are considered the property of both husband and wife. Once a DOS is determined, the assets acquired going forward become separate property.

However, it is not all cut-and-dry. Some marital property may be valued on the date of legal separation, but the worth of some assets also may be delayed until the trial date. Those who are going through a divorce should be sure they have a clear understanding of the laws surrounding divorce in their area.

Source: forbes.com, "Why Divorcing Women Need to Pay Careful Attention to the Date of Separation," Jeffrey A. Landers, Sept. 28, 2011

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If you aren't familiar with the legalities of a divorce or the legal system itself, a divorce attorney will walk you through it. Since can be such a sensitive situation, surprisingly, they can make a good shoulder to lean on. They will give you advice on your rights and how to handle the situation as quickly as possible.

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