Legal Separation

Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separation in that there’s nothing you would file with the court to establish separation. Instead, it is a date established between the parties that later becomes relevant in establishing grounds for divorce or valuing assets that need to be divided. Separation does not mean the parties have to live separately. Separation is defined as the termination of cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not. At the latest, it shall be presumed that the parties commenced to live separate and apart on the date that the divorce complaint was served. However, the date of separation can be an even earlier date if one party moves out of the marital home or makes it clear to the other party that the marriage is over by stating so clearly or even reducing it to writing. The effect of establishing “separation” goes toward starting the clock on a two-year separation divorce as well as establishing a cut-off date for valuing the marital estate.

New Jersey does recognize legal separation in the form of divorce from bed and board. Both parties must consent to a divorce from bed and board. The parties will still be legally married but are able to achieve separation financially. Just as with a divorce, the parties can enter an agreement to divide all their marital property or submit to the court for a decision on division. Alimony may also be awarded where appropriate. Health insurance may continue if covered by the other spouse and legal separation is not specified as a reason for termination. A divorce from bed and board can be converted to a divorce from the bonds of matrimony if the parties elect to go through with a full divorce. It can also be revoked such that the parties resume their marriage.

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