MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1255 — July 26, 2016

SB 1255 received notice in the San Francisco Chronicle. The piece below does a very good job of explaining the bill, the history behind it, and the results.

Below the piece is our press release and e-mail blast. While I practiced accounting, there were times that I had to advise clients through a divorce. So I appreciate the awkward position that the recent State Supreme Court decision put many families in. And, I’m gratified by and appreciative of the e-mails we’ve received from those that understand the nuance this bill addresses.

Thank you to all who testified on behalf of SB 1255, those who wrote letters and e-mails of support, and those who encouraged their state legislators to support it.

New Calif. law says couples can live separately under same roof

By Bob Egelko

A newly signed California law acknowledges the unhappy reality to which many estranged couples can attest: You can share the same address and still be living separately.

Under SB 1255, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday and effective in January, a married couple’s date of separation will be defined as the date that a complete and final break in the marriage has occurred, even if the couple continue living in the same home. The court will consider the stated intention of one or both spouses to end the marriage and whether their behavior toward each other shows they have broken up.

The state’s community-property law requires spouses to share their income and their jointly acquired property until they are found to be living “separate and apart,” at which point they can keep their own earnings. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in July 2015, in a case from Alameda County, that a couple living under the same roof could not be considered “separate and apart,” regardless of physical or emotional alienation.

“SB 1255 will assist families as they enter a highly transitional time, both relationally and financially within the family unit,” state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, the bill’s author, said in a statement. He said the court ruling, which the new law will overturn, has made “divorce proceedings even more trying on families” by discouraging spouses from staying in the same house to reduce costs or co-parent their children while they prepare for divorce.

The court case involved a Castro Valley couple, Sheryl and Keith Davis, who married in 1993 and became estranged after six years and two children. In mid-2006, Sheryl Davis told her husband their marriage was over, took him off her credit card and took a job in Los Angeles, where she spent three to five nights a week. She filed for divorce in December 2008, but continued to live at the Castro Valley home until July 2011.

Lower courts ruled that the couple had legally separated in 2006, entitling Sheryl Davis to keep her income through 2011 rather than sharing it. But the state’s high court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, said the language of the law — requiring spouses to share their income until they start living “separate and apart” — referred to physical separation as well as emotional distance.

Moorlach’s bill won bipartisan support in the Legislature, with backing from legal groups, including the State Bar’s Family Law Section.

“Often, one spouse cannot afford to move to a separate residence, and can only afford such a move once a divorce is finalized,” the Family Law Section’s executive committee said in a letter to lawmakers. “This bill would remedy this situation, ensuring nobody is forced to either continue in a bad marriage, or face being forced out of the residence.”

Governor Brown Signs Moorlach ‘Date of Separation’ Bill

Legislation Will Support California Families During Transition
Sen. Moorlach presenting SB 1255 in Judiciary Committee | SB 1255 Debate on Assembly Floor, June 27, 2016
(Watch full hearing & floor debate HERE)
(Sacramento) Senate Bill 1255, authored by Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), was signed into law by Governor Brown today. This legislation will amend the California Family Code to allow for a couple to be considered “living separate and apart” while still living under the same roof for purposes of establishing a date of separation as a precursor of divorce.

In the recent case of In Re Marriage of Davis (2015), the California Supreme Court ruled that a couple must have separate residences in order to legally be considered “living separate and apart.” This ruling removed judicial discretion in sensitive situations where couples are trying to establish a date of separation through the divorce process. SB 1255 makes an important change for couples who have various reasons for living under the same roof while going through a divorce, whether they are financial or revolve around discreet family issues.

“The 2015 ruling makes divorce proceedings even more trying on families than it already is,” said Senator Moorlach. “It means a divorcing couple cannot live in the same house to reduce costs or co-parent their children during divorce proceedings if they want to keep their finances separate."

With the signing of SB 1255, date of separation is defined as the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by the spouse’s expression of his or her intent to end the marriage and conduct that is consistent with that intent. Courts will be required to take into account all relevant evidence in determining the date of separation, and living under the same roof will become merely a factor, and not a bar, in the court’s analysis.

"SB 1255 will assist families as they enter a highly transitional time, both relationally and financially within the family unit. I’ve been amazed at how many constituents have contacted me on this subject and am pleased that Governor Brown agrees that this supportive change is necessary," added Moorlach.

SB1255 received widespread support from organizations including: Family Law Section of the California State Bar (FLEXCOM), Family Law Section of the Beverly Hills Bar Association (BHBA), and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Southern California Chapter.

For more information on SB 1255, CLICK HERE.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.

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