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Why your date of separation matters

You and your spouse separated before you technically got divorced. You knew that divorce could take months, and you also knew the marriage was over. You moved out to live on your own, already "done" with the relationship, even while the legal process played out.

Write down the date that you moved out. Keep track of anything that you bought or sold after that date. Pay attention to what your spouse does with assets until he or she is really your ex.

In many cases, when dividing assets, those considered marital property are the ones you owned up until that separation date. Things you bought afterward, even if you were still technically married, may be separate property.

For instance, perhaps you and your spouse shared a car. When you moved out, you bought your own. Technically speaking, you and your spouse were still a legal couple at that time. Specifying that you bought the car when you were separated can help you prove that your spouse has no claim to it.

On the other hand, if the two of you bought it together six months before that separation, even if you intended to drive it and your spouse did not, it may count as marital property. Then you'll need to divide the value, and that's when things start getting complicated.

The best thing to do during divorce is to keep records and notes. Document everything you can. At the same time, make sure you look into all of your legal rights, and you'll see more ways that this documentation can help protect them.

Source: Forbes, "Why Divorcing Women Need to Pay Careful Attention to the Date of Separation," Jeff Landers, accessed March 28, 2018

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