The date when a couple decides to separate is not just an important financial and emotional milestone. According to Forbes contributor Jeff Landers, the end of a marriage is a necessary detail in the court system.

“The courts are not interested in establishing a timeline for social or emotional reasons,” Landers explained. “Instead, the courts need to establish a formal Date of Separation (DOS) in order to determine various property interests and to establish valuation dates for certain assets.”

Deciding on this date can be difficult, so it is important for couples going through a divorce to keep careful records. It is also imperative that they consult their state’s specific laws regarding DOS.

In some regions, this date is defined as the moment an ex-spouse physically moves out of the shared place of residence. In other states, DOS is characterized by the date divorce papers were filed or the date when a spouse informed the other about his or her intention to divorce.

Many times, the date of separation can be very different than the day a divorce is finalized. In the case of television star Laurie Metcalf, her husband filed divorce papers on September 12, 2011, but he listed the date of separation as November 2008, according to TV Guide.

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