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This is a great question. The answer is that no state in the USA requires spouses to live together, while they are married. Understanding of marital law isn’t based on them sharing the same roof. Unless you, or your spouse, files a document with your court, such as a settlement agree for a legal separation – the court isn’t aware that you aren’t functioning as a married couple. As a result, while you may be morally considered separated, you aren’t legally separated.
Legal Separation is different from informal separation
In states that recognize legal separation, your separation agreement addresses all the issues between you and your spouse – like custody, support, and other martial division of assets. Without this, even if you don’t live together – you aren’t considered separated.
Even if you are legally separated – you are still legally married. That means if you become romantically involved with someone besides your spouse, then that’s considered adultery. It also means means, if you decide to get divorced soon – then your spouse can use that relationship – that adultery, against you. Some states will take this into account, and weigh it against you when deciding things like alimony.
In some states, marital property is considered everything acquired from the data of the marriage, to the date one of the spouses files for divorce. It includes assets and debts. If you live in one of these states, and haven’t filed for a legal separation, then you remain responsible for any debts your spouse runs up. Your spouse is legally entitled to a portion of the property you acquire during the informal separation. So, even if you aren’t living together – if you acquire any property, your spouse will be entitled to it. If one of your spouses files for divorce, and asks a court to distribute that marital property – some states will look at the situation, and acknowledge the fact you didn’t intend on remaining married – if you lived apart for so many years. It all depends on the discretion of the court.
In some cases, it can make sense to have a long-term separation, without a divorce. For example, one of the spouses can continue getting coverage on the other spouses health insurance policy. In addition, you can collect Social Security benefits, based on your spouses’ contributions if you have remained married for 10 years, or more, without divorcing. In addition, if your spouse dies, and you’re legally married – then you are entitled to his, or her, assets and property – since it’s considered your mutual property.