In the biggest news in recent days on the celebrity divorce front, Clint Eastwood and his wife of 17 years, Diane Eastwood, have reportedly separated. This means, at minimum, that they are maintaining separate residences and have stopped all marital relations.
In some states, legal separation requires it's own legal process, for which documents must be filed and property must be distributed. However, the end result of that process in those states is that the parties are still married, only (as a general rule) maintaining separate residences. However, because they are still married they may take advantage of marital benefits, such as being covered by the other spouse's health insurance. If Clint and Diana filed in California, a state which does allow for couples to petition for legal separation, then they likely negotiated these important factors.
In Pennsylvania, on the other hand, technically there is no such thing as legal separation. Parties may be "separated" (which has important effects on the divorce process), however there is no way to make a filing with the court for a determination that the parties are "legally separated."
As previously stated, the standard for parties being legally separated is that they have commenced "living separate and apart." In many cases, the parties will be able to agree on the day that they began to live separately, and will both stipulate to the same day of separation. In other cases, this can be a question to be litigated. The court will look at the circumstances of the lives of the parties and will make a determination as to when the parties began to live separately. Alternatively, if both parties are still living in the same household when the divorce complaint is filed, then the date of separation is presumed to be the date of filing of the divorce complaint.
The date of separation is very important, as it plays a role in divorce, equitable distribution, and may make parties eligible for spousal support and child support. In certain types of divorce filing, the date of separation marks the first day of the two year waiting period before a contested divorce may proceed. In equitable distribution, the date of separation is the day for which the values of all marital property will be calculated. The value of a marital asset on the date of separation is usually the value of the marital asset that will be used by the court or in settlement negotiations.
If you are considering separating from your spouse, contact our team of experienced Pittsburgh divorce lawyers today!