by Carol Severance, Attorney at Law and Certified Family Law Specialist
You chose your wedding date and you and your spouse can choose your divorce date.
Some people think the day the Judge signs your Judgment is the day your marriage terminates. But that’s not always true. Spouses have some control over that date.
A Judgment is an enforceable order that finalizes the terms of your divorce. It’s sometimes known as a Divorce Decree. But in your Judgment, spouses can choose the date to end their marriage with some guidelines:
- In California, you have to wait at least six months from the date divorce papers are served on a spouse to terminate the marriage. But you and your spouse can pick a date that is after that six month period.
- You have to pick a date that allows the Judge enough time to sign your Judgment before the date you select. Your attorney can help you choose that date to allow enough time.
You don’t have to pick a date. If you decide it doesn’t matter what date the marriage is terminated, the Court will just fill in the date for you after the six month period.
Five reasons why you might want to choose your own date:
- Getting health insurance when you need it. If you need to get health insurance, start your health insurance on the date you terminate the marriage. So there’s no guessing. You will know exactly the date you need it.
- Avoid the wrong date. If your marriage ended on your birthday, or your child’s birthday, it would not be a date you would have chosen. So you can mutually pick a date to avoid this from happening. It may not be a reason in itself, but if you are choosing the date anyway, you can avoid meaningful dates you don’t want ruined.
- Tax purposes. Your marital filing status for tax purposes is determined on the last day of the year. If spouses wish to file married filing jointly, they should pick a date at the beginning of the following year to terminate the marriage, so they can file married for the current year.
- Social Security benefits. The ten year mark is significant for social security benefits. So if you’ve been married for nine years, you might choose a date after you have been married for ten years, just to be eligible for derivative social security benefits. This may not be beneficial to all spouses, but if it is, you should secure those benefits.
- Immigration process. People working through the legal immigration process may wish to delay the termination of the marriage until the process is complete.
You may even decide to decide later. This means you can submit a Judgment for a Judge to sign, but leave the date open to terminate the marriage. For example, your spouse is being treated by a doctor and does not wish to switch doctors. So the spouses choose to stay married until treatment is over. If you don’t know when the treatment is ending, you can agree to decide on that date later.
Be aware there may be downsides to delaying a termination of marriage, such as liability for your spouse’s debts and accidents, or lawsuits that may expose both spouses to liability. You also are unable to remarry until your marriage is terminated. On the other hand, if one or both spouses may benefit , you can mutually choose your own date.
By working with your spouse in a collaborative process, you can work together with your attorneys to open up more options that may be beneficial to you. This is just one more way that collaborative divorce may work best for you and your spouse.