Sometimes a marriage just stops working for one reason or another, and whether consciously or not, spouses start living their own lives without regard for the other spouse. Under Pennsylvania family law, this is known as living “separate and apart.” And living separate and apart can ultimately be grounds for a divorce in the Keystone State.

Given the statutory definition of the phrase, “separate and apart” is a bit of misleading. When living separate and apart in a legal sense, spouses don’t actually have to be separate from one another in the common meaning of the word. Nor do they have to be apart as that word is generally understood. In fact, two spouses can live separate and apart in the same house or apartment.

What the law deems to be separate and apart is when the spouses stop acting like they’re married. They no longer sleep, dine or go out together. They have their own lives with their own friends and activities and have little, if anything, to do with the other spouse. If this sort of a state continues for a year or more, one spouse can use it as grounds to file for divorce.

If the other spouse disagrees, they can challenge the allegation by attempting to demonstrate that there had been instances where the spouses acted like a married couple during the alleged time. If the allegations of living separate and apart are contested, a judge ultimately decides whether that is an accurate characterization of the relationship for at least a year.

The end of a marriage is never an easy thing. But, it doesn’t have to be any more difficult than it already is. Talk to an experienced family law attorney to help take some of the stress out of divorce.

Source: Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 23, Chapter 33, Sec. 3301, “Grounds for divorce,” accessed Mar. 19, 2018.