One of the more important determinations in any divorce case is establishing when the parties have officially separated. Establishing a date of separation is key to determining the value of the parties’ marital assets and for ascertaining when the court may issue a divorce decree if both parties do not consent to the divorce. As a divorce attorney, clients are often confused as to when the date of separation actually lies.
In Pennsylvania, the Court will set the date of separation as either the date a divorce complaint is filed or the date the parties agree they began living “separate and apart.” Pennsylvania law defines separate and apart as “the cessation of cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not.” Once one spouse communicates his or her intent to dissolve the marital relationship, the parties then begin living separate and apart.
Obviously, when the couple stops residing in the same residence, they begin living separate and apart. However, the issue is more complicated when they continue to live in the marital residence but are no longer living as husband and wife. Under these circumstances, the Court can still determine that the couple began living separate and apart at some point while living under the same roof. The Court will consider a number of factors when making this determination including: (1) how much time the parties spent at the marital residence; (2) whether the parties slept in the same room; (3) whether the parties ate meals together; (4) whether or not the parties took vacations and outings together and whether or not those outings were for the child’s benefit only; (5) whether or not the parties gave the appearance that everything was fine for their child’s sake; (6) whether the parties lived separate lives; and (7) whether the parties had sexual relations.
If you are beginning the process of obtaining a divorce, it is important to contact an experienced divorce attorney to advise you on this and other issues. Contact our Pittsburgh Law Office, Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, for and attorney that will be able to discuss your options and make sure that your best interests are protected.