Legal Separation in Pennsylvania

legal separationThere is technically speaking no “legal separation” in Pennsylvania.  While some states allow you to file notice with the court that you are separated from your spouse, Pennsylvania does not.  A separation between a husband and wife occurs when the parties’ stop living together as husband and wife.  This, of course, can be difficult to determine.  Often time the husband and wife disagree as to when they separated and a hearing before the court is necessary.  This legal separation date is established, either by consent of the parties or by judicial determination, as part of the divorce process.

Is it possible for parties to live in the same house as “housemates” and be separated? Under Pennsylvania law the answer is Yes.  Evidence of the absence of sexual relations is entitled to significant weight, and if there is also evidence that the parties have been living separately and not as husband and wife, and that at least one of the spouses has no intention of resuming normal marital relations, the evidence may be sufficient to establish irretrievable breakdown of marriage; this is so even if the parties have been living in the same house, and although they have been sharing common expenses, entertaining common friends, and otherwise maintaining a level of civility uncommon in parties seeking a divorce.  However, since the ties that bind two individuals in a marital relationship involve more than sexual intercourse, evidence that the parties have or have not had sexual intercourse during the statutory period is not, by itself, sufficient evidence to establish that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Determining the date of separation becomes even more difficult if there is an attempt at reconciliation which fails.  The determination then becomes whether you reunited and resumed the marital relationship or not.

If you have been separated but living together for some time, you can still go through a divorce proceeding based upon an irretrievable breakdown.  Pennsylvania does not, however, have a formal method of filing for a legal separation.


Legal Separation in Pennsylvania.