Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a "legal separation" in Pennsylvania. One either is or is not separated from one's spouse. So, how do you know if you are "separated" within the meaning of Pennsylvania's Divorce Code?
Actual Physical Separation.
The most obvious is, of course, actual physical separation; i.e., one party removes him- or herself from the marital residence with the intent of being separated within the context of divorce. This does not mean that divorce papers had to have been filed, or even that a divorce ultimately happens; rather, it is the express intent of one, or both, of the parties at the time that one of them leaves the marital residence.
Separation While Still Living Together.
Pennsylvania courts recognize that parties can be separated, even though both are still living in the marital residence. There are several reasons for this, but among the most common are that (i) neither party can afford to maintain separate living quarters; (ii) neither party is willing to move from the marital residence, whether or not he or she can afford to do so; or (iii) the marital residence is owned by both parties and each has a right to live there.It is readily obvious that, under these circumstances, determining a date of separation may be difficult absent some agreement between the parties as to a date certain. Until a couple of years ago, the standard for determining date of separation (albeit imperfect, at best) was when it was clearly communicated to the other spouse. More recently, however, the Divorce Code was revised to state that, in the event that the parties do not agree, the date of separation is presumptively not later than the date that the Complaint in Divorce was served upon the defendant in the divorce action.