Ask Avvo: If I move out, does that mean we’re legally separated?

Divorce, Relationships

Q: My wife and I are having problems, and I moved out of our home. Does this mean we’re legally separated? If not, what steps do we need to take to become legally separated?

A: Not all states have the category of legal separation. In states where legal separation does exist, parties can get a decree of separation and carry on separate lives financially, though they are not officially divorced and thus cannot remarry.

It depends on the jurisdiction in which you are located whether your physical separation constitutes legal separation. Even if you are legally separated, that does not equate to a divorce; however, it may be a necessary step toward a divorce.

Some states, like Pennsylvania, do not have legal separation but instead recognize separation based upon common law. In other states, like Delaware, a separation is a prerequisite to a no-fault divorce, or a divorce where there is no allegation of misconduct or fault.

It is recommended that you meet with a family law specialist in your particular state to determine whether your state recognizes legal separation and if you meet the criteria for separation.

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