Legal Marriage Separation
When two people in a marriage have drifted apart, or when one has done something that makes staying in the marriage untenable, there may come a time when the two no longer wish to stay together. They may begin seeking a divorce, or the time to start the legal procedure may not for some time. They may even still be living together, but not see themselves as still married.
Chester County Marriage Separation Attorney
If you’re facing separation, or you believe you’ve been separated and are trying to understand the legal implications, our experienced family law firm can help. We will put together our experience to help guide you through a legal separation, regardless of your circumstances.
Call (610) 692-8700 or send an online message for a free consultation so we can act as soon as possible. We are based in West Chester PA and serve clients throughout Chester County, Lancaster County and suburban Philadelphia including West Chester, Kennett Square, Oxford, Avondale, Landenberg, West Grove, Paoli, Malvern, Downingtown, Coatesville, Exton, Parkesburg, Berwyn and Devon. We have convenient meeting locations in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, and Radnor. Our family lawyers serve those with immediate legal needs in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County and Lancaster County.
We represent spouses who are separated or seeking separation throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including in Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster County, Philadelphia, and Montgomery County.
Information on Pennsylvania’s Process of Legal Separation
Proof of Separation in Pennsylvania
There is no firm legal definition of separation that says exactly when two married people are separated. They are presumed to be married upon filing for divorce, but may be separated before that time. If separation becomes a legal issue, the spouse trying to say the couple were separated at a certain time must prove it.
Possible proof includes living apart or no longer telling people in public you are married. You can even be separated while living in the same house: If Spouse A tells Spouse B she no longer wants to be married, they sleep in separate rooms and no longer have a physical relationship, they may be legally separated.
A spouse may have to prove separation for several reasons in a divorce proceeding:
- Under a no-fault divorce, if one spouse does not give consent, the spouse seeking the divorce must wait until the couple has been separated for two years before the divorce may be final.
- Property acquired after separation is not considered marital property, and will therefore not be considered for equitable distribution.
- Sexual relations and other intimate relationships with other partners are not considered infidelity after separation, and cannot be considered for fault during a divorce. For instance, Spouse A begins dating Person C after Spouse B says he no longer wants to be in a marriage and moves out. Spouse B files for an at-fault divorce, alleging infidelity due to Spouse A and Person C’s relationship. If Spouse A can prove separation at the time when the relationship began, it cannot be considered unfaithfulness.
Common Issues that Arise in Marriage Separation
There are also a variety of practical issues you should consider when deciding to separate in Chester County. It’s especially advantageous when you and your spouse can work together on these issues:
Resolve how college tuition will be paid. Both parents’ contributions to college expenses will need to be addressed in the divorce agreement. Be cautious about using your retirement assets as a source of education funding as these assets could take a very long time to replace. College costs can be met through a patchwork arrangement of low-interest loans, financial aid and part-time student jobs.
Reevaluate your retirement plan. You may be unaware of the phased increase in normal Social Security retirement age from 65 to 67. In other words, don’t expect to be eligible for full benefits earlier than you actually will. Hopefully, your Social Security will be supplementary income, not a major source of retirement wealth.
To significantly complement your retirement savings, you may need to rely on an investment portfolio. While some investments may involve your assuming greater risks than others (i.e., investing in stocks versus Treasury bonds), they may be more likely to produce higher returns, particularly if you are years away from retirement.
Negotiate the best health insurance coverage for you and your children. If one parent has access to health insurance at a reasonable cost, most states have laws permitting or requiring the court to order that parent to keep the children on the plan. Children are typically covered until they reach age 18. If health insurance becomes an expense, it should be factored into the child support award.
Take note that under COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986), if a spouse’s employer has 20 employees or more, the spouse’s employer must allow the other spouse to have a policy with its health insurer for three years after the divorce.
Calculate the long-term costs of keeping the house. Keeping the house may make sense if you are hoping to maintain custody of your children and preserve some continuity in their lives. It is also a very valuable asset. But a home is an illiquid asset that can be very expensive to maintain in the long term. A mortgage, taxes, utilities, maintenance and general day-to-day upkeep add up. Down the road, will you still be able to maintain the house once the marriage is dissolved? Make sure you run the numbers ahead of time – and determine your ability to acquire a new residence – before you stake your claim and fight to keep your home.
Keep in mind that any reduction in your standard of living during this transition period may be used as grounds for providing less support in the future. Tuition, extracurricular costs, childcare, health care, recreation, transportation, housing and food should all be accounted for as part of your expense package. Therefore, when negotiating the terms of your separation agreement, think carefully about the priorities you set and the decisions you make, as these choices will most likely serve as the basis for your final divorce decree.
Working with an Attorney to Separate Legally
Separation is a complicated legal issue. An experienced Chester County divorce lawyer from our firm can help make sure your bases are covered. We represent clients across Phoenixville, Coatesville, Paoli, Lititz, Ephrata, Norristown, Villanova, Media, Newtown Square, Glen Mills, Ardmore, and nearby areas. Call us today at (610) 692-8700 or send an online message to set up a free consultation.