Legal Separation in Pennsylvania

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In Pennsylvania, you can be either married or divorced. There is no such thing as a formal legal separation in Pennsylvania. However, the husband and wife can form a separation agreement which dictates the terms of separation regarding property division, child custody and child and spousal support.

This agreement is a legally binding document which protects the interests of both the parties and is notarized. The couple signs the separation agreement and divides the responsibilities and expenses as well as the debts and liabilities that they have acquired and accumulated over the years when they got married.

Separation Agreement in Pennsylvania:3

The separation agreement in Pennsylvania is prepared by a professional attorney, signed by both the husband and the wife, and notarized by the notary. It becomes legally binding after it is notarized and the couple is supposed to follow the arrangements as mentioned in the document.

There are few sections in this document which are important. These sections should be revised and reviewed carefully by a professional attorney as well as the spouses and then signed. If anything is not mentioned in the agreement, the other spouse can challenge it in the court if you proceed to the divorce case.

These sections are as follows:

  • Division of Property - Determining the marital as well as the individual property is important so that you can divide your assets and debts accordingly. Decide carefully who gets what and determine the responsibilities and duties accordingly. It should also be decided whether this agreement is permanent or temporary; i.e. whether it can be used during the divorce case proceedings or it is valid only until one of the spouses files for divorce. As the statute of Pennsylvania does not recognize any documentation for legal separation, you need to devise a proper plan regarding the division of your property, assets, real estate, debts as well as other expenses such as installments, taxes, pensions, retirement plans and mutual investments.
  • Support - A spouse is responsible for the medical and other day-to-day living expenses of the dependent even after they are legally separated. The dependent spouse can ask for alimony in order to pursue a degree or education or basic course to attain a job. Until the dependent spouse can support herself / himself, he can ask for spousal support or alimony in order to sustain. Another type of support is the child support. Both the spouses are responsible for the children of their marriage or adopted together, if any. The calculations for the payment of the child support are done according to the earning ability of the custodial spouse, the lifestyle that children have been leading until the separation of their parents and other factors such the provision of funds for education, etc.
  • Custody - Usually, the earning ability and the environment in which the children are residing are the major factors while deciding about the custody of the children. Determine who will have the primary custody of the child or children and the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent. Generally, the visitation is allowed for every alternate weekend, long vacations and small holidays. However, this may differ in case of physical or substance abuse, imprisonment, criminal background such as felony or fraud, etc.
In such cases, the custody goes to the sober parent and generally a restriction order is granted against the convicted parent. There is no need to file for legal separation in court. You can get a proper legal document done by an attorney, signed by both the partners and notarized. While preparing a document for legal separation in Pennsylvania, the date of separation i.e. the date when you stopped acting like a couple (not having sexual relations) is important as the marital and individual property is determined according to this date and the court orders the division of property considering that particular period of time.

The separation agreement in Pennsylvania is and can be effective for an indefinite period of time. You are bound to follow the court orders as per written in this agreement. Hence, do not sign this agreement if you feel that you are being treated unfairly. If you want to change some of the provisions, ask your attorney to do so. Taking the help and guidance of the professional attorney will make sure that you don't chalk down something which contradicts the state law. If such a thing happens, the whole agreement will have to be reviewed and it will be time consuming.

As Pennsylvania is a state which does not recognize the documentation for legal separation, you need to be extra careful while preparing a settlement agreement which decides your duties and responsibilities throughout your separation period until one of you files for divorce. Besides, mutual agreement on the terms of separation helps you to keep the court involvement at the minimum and your children do not face the adverse effects of your separation.

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