I recently had a young lady in my Pittsburgh Law Office who had come in for a divorce consultation. At one point during our discussion of her potential divorce issues, I asked her what was the date that she separated from her husband. She responded “why does that matter, someone told me that there’s no legal separation in Pennsylvania”. After chastising her for listening to her Internet/coffee shop lawyer, I explained to her that the date of separation is of ultra importance in Pennsylvania divorce law. I then went on to explain the confusion.
Some states will issue an order establishing legal separation; however, in Pennsylvania, the Court does not issue an order but rather first allows the parties to agree on the date that they became separated. Absent an agreement, the Court will look to the facts: when did one of the spouses move out of the marital residence, or move downstairs if he or she has not left? There is also a presumption of separation on the date the divorce is filed unless the facts indicate otherwise.