When Is it NOT Okay to Give Your Paramour a Ferrari? By Vickie AdamsThe laced thong, the Easter bunny costume, the Ferrari and the $1.8 million dollar Spanish-style duplex were not his to give away.

That’s what Shelly Sterling, estranged wife of disgraced Los Angeles Lakers owner Donald Sterling, asserted last month in her suit against her husband’s mistress, V. Stiviano. It is alleged that Donald Sterling lavished V. Stiviano with millions in cash and assets from the marital estate.

Shelly, who is still legally married to Donald, sued Stiviano and won. In this case, the judge believed that Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano actively collaborated and schemed to hide the gifts from Shelly. The court ruled that Stiviano must turn over the duplex and repay Shelly Sterling $800,000.

With few exceptions, all assets and income from the “date of marriage” to the “date of separation” is community property in the state of California.

Anything acquired after the date of separation is separate property. California uses the date of separation as the essential date for determining property interest, as well as critical issues such as spousal support.

Dissipation of marital assets through an affair to an affair partner — that’s a big deal. Donald and Shelly Sterling were estranged — not separated. They didn’t live in the same house but, they still made appearances together. They still owned things together. The date of separation occurs when one of the parties physically separates from the other and shows intent to end the marriage. Because there was no date of separation, Donald gave away property that technically belonged to his wife.

Community property or property that is jointly owned can not be sold or given away without the knowledge and consent of both parties. If a spouse is hiding financial transactions from their partner, that could be considered “financial infidelity.”

Remember, a spouse cannot legally splurge on their lover out of a joint marital account. Anyone who suspects that their spouse is having an affair, start by keeping a look out for changes in:

  • Bank account statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Joint credit reports
  • Statements which suddenly ceased coming to the house

Determining the date of separation has many components. If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure, contact me today. I can help you establish and document the financial timeline necessary to support your date of separation. I may also be able to help you determine if financial infidelity or inappropriate transactions have occurred.

How Will The Date of Separation Affect My Divorce Settlement?

See my past article on how the date of separation can affect your divorce settlement here.

Vickie Adams Divorce Financial PlannerVickie Adams, CFP®, CDFA