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Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separation as a marital status. The Pennsylvania Divorce Code contains a presumption that parties begin living separate and apart when the complaint in divorce is served upon the non-filing party. However, a couple can be separated well in advance of service of the complaint in divorce. In fact, the date of service is the last date that should be considered for a couple's date of separation, assuming there is not a subsequent reconciliation.
A separation can begin when one spouse leaves the marital residence with no intention of returning, or one spouse clearly communicates to the other their intention to end the marriage. It is possible for a couple to be separated while still living in the same home. However, if the date of separation is contested, this can be an issue of proof.
The date of separation is significant in a divorce matter because it is the cut-off for the accumulation of marital assets and marital liabilities. The date of separation is also relevant to establishing grounds for divorce and moving the matter forward when one party will not consent to the divorce. Finally, pursuant to Pennsylvania law, once parties are separated, they are free to date without any implication of fault.
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