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 (sometimes known as a Divorce Decree) is an enforceable order that finalizes the terms of your divorce. In this Judgment, you can choose the date to end your marriage with some guidelines, including:
In California, you have to wait at least six months from the date divorce papers are served on a spouse to terminate the marriage. 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 a date that will 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 that is after the six-month period.
Here are some reasons why you might want to choose your own date:
- Health insurance. If you need to get health insurance, start your health insurance on the date you terminate the marriage. That way there’s no guessing: you’ll know exactly the date you need it.
- Undesirable date. If your marriage ended on your or your child’s birthday, for instance, you probably wouldn’t have chosen that date. So pick a date to stop that from happening.
- Tax purposes. Your marital filing status for tax purposes is determined on the last day of the year. If spouses wish to file as “married filing jointly”, they would pick a date at the beginning of the following year to terminate the marriage so they can file as 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, choose a date after your tenth anniversary so you’re 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. Those in the immigration process should consider delaying the divorce until the process is complete.
You can even choose to decide later: you can submit a Judgment for a judge to sign, but leave the date open to terminate the marriage. For example, if your spouse is being treated by a specialist, you could stay married until the treatment is over so he/she doesn’t have to switch doctors. If you don’t know when the treatment will end, 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 will also be unable to remarry until your marriage is terminated.
Carol Severance is an Attorney at Divorce Options in San Diego, California. She helps couples in San Diego and surrounding areas avoid the risk associated with divorce court. She is an experienced divorce lawyer with a strong background helping clients resolve complicated divorces through communicating and listening to each other.