Hallmark’s Forgotten Holiday: The Date of Separation in Pennsylvania
Ah, holidays – days where families come together to share food and memories. But, there’s one holiday that Hallmark has failed to tell the world about. Can you guess what it is, future divorced readers? It’s the date of separation! One of the most important first steps during a Pennsylvania divorce is establishing a date of separation. But, this date isn’t always easy to configure. You and your spouse may have stopped cuddling and canoodling years ago, but you only recently stopped sleeping in the same bed. Does your date of separation begin years ago or recently? Good question, imminent ex-spouses!
Because of its importance, the Pennsylvania date of separation is often a major issue in divorce cases. If you and your spouse cannot agree to a date, then a court will have to decide. Sometimes it’s as simple as the date of separation being the date that the divorce complaint was filed – in fact, the law presumes this to be the case, unless the other party can prove that an alternate date should be used.
In proving an alternate date, the court will allow the date of separation to be established through one party’s behavior that shows the intent to be separated – financially and emotionally. For example, the court may allow the date that one party moved into a separate house – or even just a separate bedroom – as long as there is clear intent to be separated. This is where a Hallmark card explaining your intent to be separated would be handy.
It helps even more if, in addition to some physical step like moving out, you separate the joint finances. This means that joint bank accounts should be closed and no more marital debt should be accumulated. So, put the joint credit card down, ma’am (or sir).
Don’t think the date of separation is set in stone, however. Just one kiss, canoodle, or hand hold can put you back in Marriage Town, and undo the date of separation. This type of behavior is viewed as reconciliation and, no matter how temporary, may create a new, later date of separation.
In Pennsylvania law, for a non-consent based divorce – meaning, only one spouse wants to get divorced and the other doesn’t – a one-year time period must pass before one party can obtain a “no-fault” divorce. In addition, the date of separation serves as a cut off date for the acquisition of marital assets or debt. So, for example, if your date of separation is March 19th, but you purchased a new home on March 18th, that new home (and the debt associated with it) will be considered marital property. However, if you purchased the home on March 20th, then neither the debt nor the home will be considered marital property.
Here, at Darbouze Law Group, we understand that the date of separation is often a point of contention. Allow us to be your calm through the storm, and assist you in making your divorce as smooth as possible. Once you hire us, we’ll even create your own personal line of divorce greeting cards that you can send to your future ex-spouse: “Roses are red, violets are blue, I want a divorce, and I’m taking the dog, too.”
… okay… we really aren’t that great at greeting cards, and we really won’t do that.
*Our office accepts Pennsylvania family law cases including divorce, equitable distribution, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, alimony, paternity and child support matters, child custody cases, juvenile law cases, and related matters in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Beaver County, Berks County, Butler County, Clearfield County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County (Greensburg).
Our law firm accepts Pennsylvania family law cases from other Pennsylvania counties including Armstrong County (Kittanning), Clarion County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Somerset County, and Venango County.*