Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

3.12 - Financial Stages of Separation: Stage Two

3.12 - Financial Stages of Separation: Stage Two

Stage Two is During Separation. You should be moving toward separating the financial ties with the other person.

The goal is to create two financially separate households from one.

  • Take your personal documents — such as your birth certificate and passport — out of a joint file and create a new file for yourself.
  • Review your insurance policies.
  • Negotiate agreements about  child custody time spent with the child, child support, spousal or partner support, and property division.
  • If you have children, decide who will take the dependent tax exemptions for children, and who will claim the Child Tax Credit and the credit for child and dependent care expenses so that each parent can file their tax returns without additional complications.

In stage two, you or your partner may have filed the first papers in family court to ask for a divorce or legal separation. The first papers include the family law summons and petition.

If this is your situation, be sure to read the family law Summons (form FL-110) carefully.  It contains important information for you and for your spouse or domestic partner about the divorce or separation process.  It also includes “standard restraining orders” on the second page that go into effect for the petitioner as soon as the petition is filed and on the respondent and soon as the respondent is served with the petition and summons. 

The standard restraining orders on the summons specifically limit what either of you can do with your property, money, and other assets or debts. For example, they prohibit you from cancelling, borrowing against, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance policies you have. They also prohibit changing any property that either of you have. For instance, with few exceptions, you cannot sell, transfer, or borrow against any property unless your partner agreed to do so or the court made such an order.

The restraining orders on the family summons also prohibit you or your partner from:

  • moving out of state with your children from your marriage or partnership,
  • applying for a new or replacement passport for any of your children together, without the prior written consent of the other or a court order; and
  • Incurring extraordinary expenses while the case is pending without telling your partner at least five business days in advance.

Along with the Summons, you need to also pay close attention to the Petition (Form FL-100). It lists every issue that the court needs to resolve in your case.

For example, the petitions identifies the children you have together. It describes the parenting arrangement that is requested, as well as if spousal support, attorney’s fees, and a name change is requested. In addition, it describes the property claimed to be community, quasi-community, or separate property.

Another key piece of information in the petition is the date of separation. It  can be very significant because it  is used in determining:

  • If an asset is community or separate property;
  • If a debt is a community or separate property debt;
  • Each person’s entitlement to pensions;
  • The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership, which is a key factor in making an order for long term spousal or domestic partner support; and
  • How long a judgment for spousal or partner support will continue.

For information about the procedure and all of the forms needed to start and respond to a case for divorce or legal separation, visit the California Courts Online Self-Help Center at www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp.

In the next section, you can fill in the Stage Two checklist.