Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania
September 4, 2012
Living Together Living Separately
Under section 3301 (d) of the Pennsylvania Divorce law a couple may have grounds for divorce if they “have lived separate and apart for a period of two years and the marriage is irretrievably broken…” What does this mean?
For many people who have been living together, but apart, for various reasons, the good news is that you do NOT have to be living in separate residences. In these times of economic difficulty it may not be feasible for couples to support two households while contemplating divorce, so one spouse may move to another part of the marital home. I have clients who have been living under the same roof, but basically as “room-mates” for years. In another case a couple lived separately for over four years, but the husband came back and forth to the marital residence at will. The wife believed fully they were not separated and this was a temporary situation; the husband asserted that the separation began when he first moved out. Since substantial assets were at stake based upon date of separation, and the parties could not agree, the matter went to litigation on this issue.
The law defines “separate and apart” as cessation of co-habitation whether in the same residence or not, and there is a presumption that the time of separation begins when a divorce complaint is filed. The dating of separation, however, often is something the parties do not agree upon.
Since property division is triggered by the time of separation, one party may wish to move the date of separation either back or forward in time. If a spouse is in denial about the marital breakdown, resisting a divorce, or a party is trying to preserve or deny assets, date of separation also may become a issue. If you think this may be an issue in your case, it is wise to discuss it with your attorney.
Reference 23 Pa C.S.A. § 3301(d)