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The date of separation
(physical) is important in CA law because it helps determine what is community property
and what is separate property.
Once the parties are physically separated the parties' respective earnings become their own separate property.
However, for determining the party's respective equity in the home residence, there are formulas that are used by the court.
There are 3 types of credits that can be at issue
Epstein credits, which are reimbursements for payments of community property (CP) debt;
Watts credit- reimbursement for exclusive use of CP
Jeffries' credit- combination of the above.
These all get their name from the cases that established the credit.
So when a party uses their separate property to pay a community debt, they can get Epstein credit for this; however, if the party is also using the property exclusively the Epstein credits can be offset by Watts (the value of the community property used- for example, the fair rental value of the property).
So the court would do an analysis as to the credits above, to determine who should be entitled to what reimbursement.
As for the residence, generally one party will buy out the other, or the house will be listed and sold to a third party. It depends on the finances of the couple involved.
If one party buys out the other, there is generally an order that the party retaining the house re-fi the house in their sole name.