As long as you were separated for 12 months and a day – even under one roof – you are eligible for divorce, whether your husband wants the divorce or not. You can fill out the divorce application by yourself, completing all of the information about him. If you don’t know some of the answers, just write in “not known” on the form.
Pretty much what you would have done if one of you had moved out. But now you may be required to prove that you are leading “separate lives”. Social Security law breaks down the relationship into five categories when determining whether or not there was separation under one roof.
1. The financial aspects of the relationship. Have you separated out your finances? Do you hold different bank accounts? Is there a property settlement or did you seek legal advice about dividing your property?
2. Nature of the household. This factor considers the physical separation within the house, making you and your spouse independent of one another. Are you living in separate rooms? Have you stopped eating together? Do you no longer help each other with laundry, cleaning, cooking and shopping?
3. Social Aspects of the Relationship. This has to do with how you are viewed by others. Do you no longer go out together – to functions, parties, holidays – as a couple? Have you told other people that you are no longer together? Do one or both of you have a relationship with someone else?
4. Absence of a sexual relationship.
5. Nature of the Commitment. This factor considers whether the level of commitment between the partners has changed. Have you stopped discussing joint plans for the future? Would you help the other person in a time of crisis?
A court may consider any or all of these factors when deciding whether or not the separation requirement was fulfilled.
Reconciliation and resumption of cohabitation can have a monumental effect on your divorce proceedings. A reconciliation will affect your date of separation, which in turn can affect property division and other aspects of your case. The impact of reconciliation combined with the attitude that the courts generally prefer parties to reconcile, has resulted in some special rules with regard to reconciliation and resumption of cohabitation.
First, with regard to reconciliation, if the court determines that based on the evidence or attitude of the parties, a reasonable possibility of reconciliation exists, the court has the power to suspend the proceedings. This adjournment is designed to allow the parties the time and opportunity to consider reconciliation. However, if either party wishes to resume court proceedings, the court is compelled to grant this request.
Moving back in together, more specifically, resumption of cohabitation can also have a huge impact on your divorce proceedings. If you resume cohabiting, and then later agree to separate again, the period of time you had previously been separated may not apply when trying to meet the twelve-month separation requirement for divorce.
Now you may be wondering – what exactly equates to a resumption of cohabitation? The answer is that both parties must intend to resume cohabiting, act on that intention, and also be living on substantially the same terms as they were prior to the separation. An agreement to move back in together that never comes to fruition does not meet this standard. Also, simply moving in under the same roof but not resuming other aspects of the marital relationship will not equate to a resumption of cohabitation.
If you are considering moving back in with your ex, you should be aware of the special rules regarding resumption of cohabitation. As we mentioned earlier, the court has a preference for parties to make amends, and they would prefer parties at least attempt reconciliation if there is a chance it might work rather than be too afraid to try because of the impact that a reconciliation can have on the divorce proceedings. For this very reason, the court allows parties to move back in together for one period of time up to three months without there being any prejudice to their application for divorce.
Practically speaking, if you resume cohabiting and then separate again within three months, you may use the period of time you were previously separated in calculating the twelve-month requirement. On the other hand, if your resumption of cohabitation lasts for three months or longer, you will have to separate for a further twelve months before you can file for divorce.
There are a number of practical steps to take regarding your credit cards after you separate.
- Write down the date you actually separated. Even better, send an email to your spouse or partner stating clearly that “on May 1, 2014, we officially separated”. This date may become important later on when and if debts need to be divided. If your spouse incurred the debt after the date of separation, the court may hold him responsible for it when dividing up property.
- If possible, get rid of joint credit cards. If you are the primary card holder – great! You can lower the credit limit, which prevents your spouse from going crazy with the card and running up more debt. The best option is to cancel the card all together, if the company allows it. If your name is on the account, no matter who runs up the debt, you are also responsible.
- Make sure to print out all of your balances from your credit card account, including all purchases and payments. Even if you are held accountable, when the time comes to draw up a property settlement, you may be able to have these listed as your spouse’s debt and deducted from his share of the assets.
- Discuss with your lawyer signing a legal separation agreement. Written correctly, this may limit your liability for your spouses’ debts, including credit card debts.
Sometimes there are variations of separations. Perhaps you separated under one roof for three months and then one of you moved out for another 9 months. If you lived under one roof for any part of the 12 months required prior to filing for divorce, you need to file an affidavit along with your divorce application. An affidavit is a statement made by you or another person, serving as your testimony about particular issues.
In your affidavit, you need to show that you and your spouse separated even though you were under one roof (see above) and you need to explain why you remained living in the same house. You also need to explain what the living arrangement were for any of your children who were under 18 during the separation and what government agencies you told about your separation.