The date of final separation, when spouses begin living “separate and apart”, is crucial for deciding the grounds for divorce as well as determining what is or is not marital property subject to equitable distribution by the court.

This is essential for Jon & Kate and every couple seeking divorce in Pennsylvania.  It is also an issue frequently litigated, especially when big money is involved.

Pennsylvania law defines “separate and apart” as:

Cessation of cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not.  In the event a complaint in divorce is filed and served, it shall be presumed that the parties commenced to live separate and apart not later than the date that the complaint was served.

In further defining “separate and apart” Courts have given additional guidance by requiring one of the parties to manifest the independent intent to dissolve the marital union and clearly manifest and communicate same to the other spouse.  Additionally, the notion of separate and apart is not defeated by isolated attempts at reconciliation or even sexual intercourse between the parties.  The gravamen of “separate and apart” is the existence of separate lives, not separate roofs.  It is when the parties stopped living as a married couple.  Determining the date of final separation requires a fact specific inquiry.  Considerable emphasis is placed on how the parties held themselves out to the public: did they go to social events as husband and wife?  Did they take family vacations together?  Did they change their financial arrangements from joint accounts to individual accounts?  Did they cancel joint credit cards?  Did they stop filing joint tax returns? Did the stop wearing their wedding bands?

Most of this information will never be revealed to the public.  But suffice to say the fact they continued to hold themselves out as a married couple to the public through their television program certainly supports the finding that Jon & Kate only recently began living “separate and apart”.
The high profile of Jon and Kate provides the public with a unique opportunity to explore issues that arise in contested divorce cases. Through this ongoing series I will offer comments and analysis of the proceedings and provide insight on how developments in Jon and Kate’s case may occur in other divorces.  I am a Pennsylvania divorce attorney who is not involved in the Jon and Kate matter and the comments I present in this blog series are not case specific but rather intended to provide the public with helpful information on Pennsylvania divorce law.