Can you live “separate and apart” under the same roof?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2024 | Divorce |

In Pennsylvania, the date that you and your spouse began living “separate and apart” can control everything from when you can actually get divorced to what is considered part of the marital estate.

With rents skyrocketing and economics being what they are, a lot of couples find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to share living space even though their marriage is all but legally over. Fortunately, the court makes allowances for these situations.

Separate households aren’t necessarily required

Case law has long established that a couple doesn’t even have to live in the same home to be living as a married couple – and the reverse is also true. Couples can reside under the same roof and still be considered living “separate and apart” so long as they no longer have a marital relationship.

What does that mean? If there is a dispute about when a couple actually began living separate lives, the court will look at a variety of factors, including things like:

  • Does the couple engage in sexual relations?
  • What are the couple’s sleeping arrangements?
  • Does the couple share meals?
  • Are their living expenses divided?
  • Do they spend most of their time apart?
  • Do they vacation together? 
  • How do they present themselves to their families?
  • Do they hold themselves out as still married to the larger community?

This is why it can be very important for couples who want to remain in the same home while pursuing a divorce to set clear boundaries with each other – physically, financially and emotionally. If you have any doubt about whether your living situation qualifies as “separate and apart” under this state’s rules, early legal guidance can help you avoid some big mistakes.

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