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“Separate and apart” doesn’t mean what you think in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2021 | Family Law

You can honestly say that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of your marital relationship, and you’d like to get a divorce on those grounds. However, you aren’t ready to move out of the marital home.

Pennsylvania law requires couples who want to end their marriage based on an irretrievable breakdown to live “separate and apart” for at least a year before they can proceed with their divorce. However, that doesn’t mean you have to live under two different roofs.

You don’t have to live in separate residences to stop cohabitating

Essentially, as long as you and your spouse are living like roommates, not a married couple, that’s enough to count as living “separate and apart.” If you are keeping your own hours, buying your own groceries, have separated your finances, maintain independent social lives and no longer engage in intimate relations, that’s entirely sufficient to meet the requirements of the law.

It’s not uncommon for couples to use the date that they moved into their own bedrooms as the date of their separation — but it is helpful if couples agree upon the date of their separation. Not only does that make it easier to determine when they are eligible for divorce, but it also has significant consequences when it comes time to divide any marital property. Assets and debts acquired after separation usually aren’t part of the “marital pot.”

Divorcing (and divorced) couples continue to live together for many reasons. Sometimes there are young children or children with special needs involved, and the couple puts aside their differences to be an effective co-parenting team. Other times, it’s simple economics — one or both parties can’t afford to live on their own.

If you’re ready to talk about divorce, don’t let confusion about what it takes to get started slow you down.