What If We Don’t Agree on the Date of Separation?
When a client steps into our office to discuss a looming divorce, one of the most important matters we will discuss is the date of separation. Many assume that is the date that one spouse or the other officially said, “I want a divorce.” However, in Pennsylvania, this not in fact the date of separation, and disagreements about this date can severely impact your divorce proceedings, including when one spouse can receive spousal support or how debt is assigned.
What Is the Date of Separation and Why Is It Important?
Among the various divorce requirements in Pennsylvania, one of the most important is the date of separation. Under Pennsylvania law, this is the official date that you and your spouse separated and began living in separate households. Typically, this date signifies to the court that you and your spouse have separated and that any property acquired after that date is separate from marital property. Thus, this sole property could not be divided in a divorce. This also impacts marital debt, which can be a major factor in divorce proceedings.
But, now you might ask, “If I moved out, is that the date of separation?”
Well, not exactly. The date of separation must be a point in time where it appears that you and your spouse are living “separate and apart.” Of course, if you moved out, got a separate bank account, no longer wore your wedding ring, and no longer referred to yourself as married, that could constitute that you were living separate and apart. In fact, you don’t even have to move out for the courts to consider that you both are living separate and apart. You only have to stop acting as if you are married. In other cases, the date of separation could be when you took legal steps to file for a divorce, but it can also be earlier than this.
Why Spouses Disagree About the Date
As you can see above, several factors can have an influence on the date of separation. It can be a big event like one spouse moving out to get a separate apartment or subtle like taking off a wedding ring and no longer hosting parties together. Thus, it is not uncommon for spouses to have major disagreements about the date. One half may assert that it was the date that both of you agreed to file a divorce, while the other may claim that it occurred months earlier. Unfortunately, if you cannot come to an agreement about the date of separation, the courts may make the decision for you, which could unfairly affect how your marital property is divided.
How Will the Court Decide the Date?
Oftentimes, Pennsylvania courts will use the date that one of you filed for a divorce and initiated court proceedings as the latest date of separation and work backward from there. Prior to that date, the courts will look at several other dates to determine when you legally separated, including:
- When one of you moved out
- When one or both of you opened a separate bank account
- When one or both of you stops wearing your wedding bands
- When you stop having sexual relations
- When you stop attending marriage counseling
- When one or both of you started dating separately
- When one or both of you updated a will
- When you stopped taking vacations together
- When one or both of you stopped referring to yourself as married
Working closely with a Montgomery County divorce lawyer can have a huge impact on how these proceedings go. At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., we can work with you to help you determine a date of separation and may even be able to come to an agreement with your spouse through mediation. If you are having issues determining the date of separation in your divorce, contact our office at (610) 645-0100 to schedule a free consultation.