Why the Exact Date of Your Separation is Important

Few people who haven’t been through it themselves understand just how messy divorce can be.  The smallest details can become major issues, right down to who keeps the coffee pot or which one of you gets the children for the fourth of July. One item that may seem insignificant but which is actually quite important is the exact date of your separation. Not only is it the starting point that determines when you can officially be divorced, it can also have a major impact on the distribution of marital assets, as anything purchased by one partner after the official date of separation would not be considered spousal. So how do you establish when you stopped being a couple?

The state of Pennsylvania takes a pretty liberal approach to defining separation, indicating that the last possible date would be when the official divorce paperwork was filed and the complaint served, but they’ve also acknowledged that there are plenty of unofficial factors that can show that a couple was emotionally or physically separated before then. These include:

  • No longer sleeping in the same bed. Though some people think that in order to be separated a couple has to live in separate structures, that is not the case, and it is increasingly common for divorcing partners to continue sharing the same home until the divorce is finalized, or close to it.
  • Separating finances. If a couple maintained a joint account throughout the marriage and one or both opened a separate account, that can be shown as an intent to divorce.
  • Filing separate income taxes. The government has created several financial disincentives for married couples to file jointly, so when one or both partners decide to file separately it is a strong indication that the marriage is about to end.
  • Discontinuing wearing wedding bands.
  • Openly dating. A relationship with another person and the new romantic interest being included in social or family events can be used as proof of separation.
  • Unofficial correspondence indicating a desire to end the marriage. Though an attorney may not yet be hired and no legal action taken, if one partner conveys clearly that they intend to end the marriage it can be used as proof of separation. The same is true of communication with others, including family members or close friends.
  • Removing spouse from legal documents, including insurance policies or wills.

Depending upon your particular situation, you or your spouse may want to prove or disprove the other’s assertion of the date of separation. Any documentation that you have that can either prove – or disprove – the elements above will be helpful to your divorce attorney.

For more information on the complexities of divorce, contact us today to set up a time to talk.