Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not have a legal separation process. You do not have to inform the court that you are separated and there are no documents that the court provides that show you are separated from your spouse. Under Pennsylvania law, you have a legal separation when you stop living together “as husband and wife”. This can mean many different things depending on the circumstances. Usually, the date of legal separation means the date that your spouse moved out of the marital residence.
In some cases, you can be legally separated while still living together in the same house as long as you have stopped functioning together as husband and wife. While it is possible to be separated and still live in the same home, this often makes proof of separation more difficult.
When the couple cannot agree on the date of separation, it is often necessary to have a hearing to determine the exact date. At this hearing the judge will listen to evidence regarding whether the couple shared the same bedroom, held themselves out as husband and wife, went on vacations together or separately, whether they managed their finances separately or jointly, and any other evidence indicating when the separation took place.
The date of legal separation can be very important to either party as it can have an impact on the value of assets such as homes and pension values and whether debt was incurred by a party during the marriage (marital debt) or after the marriage (non-marital debt). It is also important in determining the value of the martial property or marital debt as of the date of separation .
The date of legal separation is also important in calculating the two-year time period that must pass before one party can obtain a “no-fault” divorce without the consent of the other party.