Marital Abandonment

In law, the term “abandonment” may be used in a variety of legal issues, from contract law to real estate law, referring to the giving up or renunciation of an interest, privilege, possession, or right, with the intent of never reclaiming it. As the term applies to matters of Family Law, an individual may abandon a marriage, spouse, child, or property. While abandonment of a marriage or marital property is a civil matter to be dealt with in family court, abandonment of a child may also be a criminal offense for which the individual may face criminal charges. To explore this concept, consider the following marital abandonment definition.

Definition of Abandonment

Noun

  1. The giving up or withdrawal of support from something or someone
  2. The act of leaving or deserting a person or property

Origin

1325-1375        Middle French abandoner

Walking Away and Marital Abandonment

Marital abandonment refers to a situation in which one spouse severs ties with the family, forsaking his or her responsibilities and duties to the family. Simply moving out of the family home in an attempt to create a temporary or permanent separation is not considered abandonment. The difference is often seen in the person’s refusal to provide necessary support, whether financial or otherwise, with no intention to return, or to fulfill those responsibilities. In most states, the remaining spouse has no financial responsibility to the abandoning spouse.

In an at-fault divorce state, abandonment may be considered grounds for divorce. In these states, the spouse claiming abandonment must prove certain things to the court. For example, Jennifer files for divorce claiming that her husband, James, abandoned her just over a year ago. Jennifer would need to show that the couple had not agreed that James would leave, that she didn’t cause James’ departure, and that he hadn’t paid any support during his absence.

Constructive Abandonment

Marital abandonment does not necessarily refer to a spouse leaving the home, but may be accomplished when one spouse forces the other to leave through bad behavior. If one spouse intentionally makes life insufferable for the other, giving the other spouse no choice but to leave, he or she has committed constructive abandonment. Many acts or refusals may give legal grounds for a victim-spouse to leave the marriage and home. These may include:

  • Physical, emotional, or mental cruelty
  • Physical abuse
  • Infidelity
  • Withholding sex
  • Refusing to provide financial support

Criminal Abandonment

Suddenly refusing to provide care, support, and protection for minor children, or for a spouse who has serious health problems, is considered criminal abandonment. The law does not require people to continue living in a relationship, and anyone has the right to walk away from a sick spouse, but there is a price. It is likely the court would consider such an abandoned spouse to be financially dependent on the leaving spouse, and issue an order for continued financial responsibility and care. Abandoning a minor child is, in many cases, considered a crime as well, even if the child has not suffered physical harm as a result of being abandoned.

Property Division in Marital Abandonment

In most states, the fact that one spouse abandoned the marriage is not considered for the purpose of dividing marital assets. However, if one party leaves the residence without making an arrangement as to how the couple will pay the mortgage and other financial obligations, the remaining spouse may successfully argue to the court that the leaving party abandoned the marriage, and neglected the marital property and obligations. If the remaining spouse continued to pay the mortgage and other bills with no help from the abandoning spouse, it could create a very persuasive argument that the abandoning spouse should not be entitled to any equity that has accrued on the property, or possibly to the property itself.

In addition, most states’ statutes make a provision for either spouse who purposely wastes, neglects, destroys, or devalues the marital property, which may be taken into account by the family court judge when dividing the marital assets.

Protecting Oneself When Abandoned by a Spouse

When a couple divorces, each party has certain financial rights, which include the right to request alimony, and the right to an equitable distribution of the marital property. The process of enforcing these rights begins with the filing of a Summons and Complaint for Divorce.

In a circumstance in which a spouse who has been abandoned does not wish to file for divorce, the abandoned spouse may still request spousal support from the other party. Spousal support in an abandonment case with no divorce filed must be requested by the abandoned spouse through the local family court.

In the event an abandoned spouse has children with the other party, he or she may request a custody order from the court, establishing the children’s custodial parent. The abandoned spouse may also seek an order for child support from the other party. The specific process to file for custody and child support varies by jurisdiction. Contacting the local family court, or consulting with a family law attorney, is the best way to discover the correct process.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Financial Responsibility – The obligation of a parent to financially provide for the needs of a child.
  • Marital Property – The property and money acquired by a couple during the course of their marriage.
  • Custodial Parent – A parent given physical and/or legal custody of a child by order of the court.

Welcome all discussions

40 Comments on "Marital Abandonment"

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mary curry
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What if my husband physically abused me several times and mentally abused me. I finisllly had to press charges. He’s know I’ve been sick with depression and fibromyalgia anxiety. I had to go to the psych ward for 7 days because I had a phycotic break down. I got the church to pay last months now 5 days he tells me I better find help again. Now he said he met a girl and call me horrible names. And said it’s over. I filed for disability. He knows he’s leaving me helpless. I need a few more months for an… Read more »
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Shane
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You sick woman, instead of escalating it sort it out with your husband and probably get a mutual divorce.

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Heidi Clark
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Shane, you are the sick one if you think this woman is escalating things by defending herself and her rights. The husband entered into a contract that he now decides he doesn’t want to honor. Too bad. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t just decide you don’t like your spouse and then walk away from legal obligations, and he will find this out soon.

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mary curry
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Read the bottom

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Ljg
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Due to adultery, can the husband just throw the wife out? Even if 2 are on a lease

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go home
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no

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Renee Wat
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What can be done if a husband and wife agreed that the wife go to school for nursing then all of a sudden he claims he can’t pay the bills and tell the wife he needs help. She drops nursing school return to help him and his parents done took over. Then the husband tell the wife that he is gonna stay with a family member for a while once the lease ends on the home that they share and she needs to go stay with her family. Come to find out it was never a family member he was… Read more »
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Freyja
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I was supposed to only visit my mother with my children for a little over a month. It has now turned to three months calling and begging for him to help. He refuses to send money to help. I have said time again I can try to do it on my own, but I have no money. He shut my phone off and now is only wanting to send a hundred a week for our three children and I, because he is mad at me for being so annoying about help. Now he says he will change his number and… Read more »
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Freyja
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The man is my husband and we have three children together.

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Karma666
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I married a Usa citizen 6 yrs ago in the US but was on a visitor visa so had to return back to my country and the only way for me to return to be with my husband is on a spousal visa which he has to file but he wont do it and I can never discuss it with him as he gets angry and hangs up on me. I can never contact him cos Im not allowed to call his house ( his parents) and I can go months without contact cos he wont talk to me. Is… Read more »
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Loretta
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I am in a marriage that has fallen apart , he has stopped supporting household. We have 1 child age 7. He will not buy food or give me any money to support either my child and myself. He still liv9ng in the house, but does not speak to us or support us. House is paid for in full 9nly havr electric bill which is only thing he pays. Can I file for neglect? I have been a stat at home mom have no means of money at this time.

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Karma666
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I’m so sorry Loretta, I hope things improve for you

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Heidi Clark
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It is abandonment of you, but criminal abandonment of your child. Get a lawyer immediately, and ask about filing those charges along with your divorce suit, alimony, child custody belonging to you(with visitation if you think it’s safe). Past bills you paid without his help and finally, the lawyer fees and court cost. I promise you will win! The court does not have tolerate deadbeats.

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Karen
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My friend and his wife were married for three months. The wife abandoned my friend. She refuses to go home. No inciting incident– just left, and never returned… doesn’t want to communicate with him… Is there any cure you can recommend for these ramifications rights– Property? Finances? Legal?

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Jayne
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I got married and became pregnant on the honeymoon at which point my husband began to abuse me emotionally and physically. Within a month, he had filed for divorce. Now I am left with a child to support and since he is a millionaire, the child support order is very low since he has little income. Can I sue him for abandonment?

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My situation abandonment?
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My situation abandonment?
My husband will find any argument and it can be petty. Always blames me even if I ask a question in the most calm, nicest tone , he will yell and cuss at me, and say I’m so stupid. So our communication is not good. He will leave. Just leave for a day or days (weekend or hokiday weekends) then he comes home. I ask where he’s been and he will say its none of my business. He does this like…2 or 3 times a year or I’m on egg shells afraid to do something wrong to keep him Home.… Read more »
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Rosetta
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I’ve been with my husband for 13 years but we have only been married for 8. He has chosen to work overseas since 2012 after her retired from 29 yrs in the military. He comes home 1-2 weeks a yr. But spend most of that time his family out of state. I have no way to any of the money he makes. He was giving me $100 a week since he been gone. But that stopped in march after I tell him my disability is approved.. He no touch me for the past three years. I dont no why. I’ve… Read more »
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Mook
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My husband and I will be married for 11 years this June.im assuming that the abandonment I’m looking towards is constructive abandonment. In the beginning he worked and he took care of us. Meaning my child before him and I. I also worked until I was laid off in my 6th month of pregyeoth our first child together. I went back to work after 4 months of having our first child and he was still employed as well. He was hurt on the job after having before our second child together was born. He received a sum of money where… Read more »
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Tonya
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Spouse left then marriage and family, stopped financially supporting, stopped visiting out children, then quit his job because he didn’t want to share half of his job assets when the divorce was to be filed and moved out of state. No financial support at all. What can I do now that he no longer in the state anymore? What can the state do to help me get child support? Can I obtain any compensation for abandonment of the marriage as well?

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Dennis Haymond
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Marital seperation , one spouse abandons all financial responibilty on mortgage payments and house insurance. Kids are 14 and 18 and have freedom to live with either party? Abamdoning spouse refuses to pay any of house paymwnts and hasnt for all 12 years of ownership. With separation abandoned spouse has been depressed and finds it hard to run the business and isnt making enough income to pay all new bills plus old ones? Yet she wants to sell and take half of all assets and 0 of debt. Is that legal? What are my rights on the property dislovement and… Read more »
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Mel
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I am in a marriage that has lasted for over 20 years. We had a lot of ups and downs. But this time it’s different and I have said stop I am of done with the fighting/arguments. So I have and agreed to move out to start my own new chapter. But if I leave the house volunteering this means he can file for abandonment on me. So now I can’t leave and of course we both agreed that this would be best but I would hate to filed later for abandonment. Just tired of the beckering and the agreements.… Read more »
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Kim L Beaty
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My husband forced me under the influence of pain medications that we had to sell my home, which was mine before he came along, we left to “full time RV’ only to land in Houston Texas because I was disabled, and very shortly after we sold my home. I had an implanted pain pump that malfunctioned, dumping dangerous HIGH doses of fentanyl an Dilaudid and baclofen into my spinal fluid, that very nearly took my life. He quit talking to me, caring for me and refused to take or pick me up from procedures that required me to be be… Read more »
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Jimbo
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You realize once married everything is 50/50 no matter what is owned before the marriage – unless there is a pre-nup agreement. It happens to many of us – I feel sorry and hope you persevere and make it through this

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Frocka Navia
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My mother is married and she was in an abusive relationship where he hit her in from of my younger brother, the husband committed adultery and she became mentally ill and incapable. One day he sent her to an assistant living facility lying to her that it was going to be for a few weeks. its been 4 years and I need assistance to help my mother. She is on medication and all her disability and social security benefits are used up by the living facility where she lives. She is oblivious to what is going on and he controls… Read more »
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Bobbi Jo pferrer
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If my husband leaves me for another woman and leaves our home that is pd for but bought from his mother and did not put in our name but have a written agreement can he rip me off for my half of the marital property

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Kay
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So if a wife abandons her husband an they have no kids together an they agree there will be no reconceltiin can he get. Adultry charges if he chooses to be with an other woman..

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Rhob
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My father has Parkinsons, diabetes, and suffers with dementia. I live with them by renting the smallest room in their house. However, my stepmom keeps on complaining that she is the only one taking care of my dad. She knows that I am still working but she insists that I watch over him just as she does. They are both retired. Now she is threatening of abandoning my father with me if I do not help her out in her own terms. What must I do? I could ignore her but I am afraid my father will be severely affected… Read more »
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Tara Maher
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My husband left me for another I can deal with that if he doesn’t love me I won’t force him. But it hurts that he picked he new women over our two older kids and now they don’t speak , he still sees our younger daughter and has her 4 nights a month, he pays mortgage but nothing towards her up keep , we both work but he has a lot larger income than me and when the mortgage is paid and the rent that he pays in his new place is paid he still has more money than me.… Read more »
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Chris s.
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Before you do anything consult a church minister about the matter. Alot of times when these things happen we are quick to jump to conclusions and look for the best way out or to deal with situations. I’m going threw it withmy wife right now and it’s not easy at all but I trust in God and know he will get us threw.. Also look up online about abandonment. When separation or divorce takes place whether paper work is filed or not the up keeping of the home the wife and the children is your right by law. But im… Read more »
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Chris s.
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Wife signed up for food stamps for welfare then moved out left the kids with me and been coming to watch them sometimes during the day while im at work. I make almost $5,000 a month and she didnt report it to her worker. She now wants me to pay for her car to get fixed as well has all her expenses. She quit her job recently also and left me with all the bills. I’m trying my best to hold everything together. We are approximently $35,000 in debt and she wants me to pay for everything plus her expenses… Read more »
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Deanna
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So if my mother abandoned me and my brothers and my father never to be seen again and then 30 years later decided to show back up but while she was gone married another man and when she returned claims she is still married to my father and expects us to take care of her in her older age and claims that she will get me for elderly neglect because I don’t want anything to do with her ..is this legal??

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Sean
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Since summer last year my wife has been taking off too someone else’s home for the weekends, another guy. I called her out on it and she stopped for a few weeks, this year she lied again about going to someone else’s home another man again and was disappearing all weekend and some week days. Now since March offers this year there is 3rd guy 10 years younger than her she just recently told me that that she is dating him. She leaves all the time weekends and weekdays blowing through the money in our account going to bars and… Read more »
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Tracy
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I have a big question, I have been married to my husband for 4 years. He has physically and emotionally abused and neglected myself and our children. He is the only one working since, am a stay home mom taking care of 5 children and also going to college. I do everything for my children, while on his days off he goes out and spends money we don’t have. My question is, what do I need to do to get away from this abuse. Since I don’t work, I don’t have the money to leave but I cant afford where… Read more »
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Sylvia
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Just went thru this.. had emotionally abusive husband removed from the home with an emergency ex parte order.. also known as a domestic violence protection order.. it doesn’t have to be physical abuse for them to be removed from the home.. you can file the papers at the local clerk of court and you will have to speak to a judge.. there should be no charge to file and you will need to provide specific examples of abuse in the paperwork.. you can possibly have him removed from the home within 24-48 hrs and there will be a hearing that… Read more »
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Rebecca Way
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Ok. So here’s my situation. I’ve been in a “common law” relationship for18 years now. We have a 17 year old together. For the past 8 years I’ve been EXTREMELY unhappy not to mention physically and emotionally neglected. So in return I’ve met guys online and just had flirty chats. Until recently. I met a guy on Facebook that lives 3 hours away from me and he’s been driving all that distance every so we can be together every weekend for the past month now. We have fallen in love with each other. We have both voiced that to one… Read more »
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Bonnie Nickerson
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My husband moved out of our apt I had for 20 years came back fooled me into moving in his one bedroom apt said new start a few month later he stopped talking to me or anything for that matter he told me to get a life about seven weeks later got emotional packed up setimental little things n left I calmed down the next morning still crying and tried to go home he changed the locks I think I did what he pushed me to do we have been together on n off 34 years so hurt homeless n… Read more »
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John simmons
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My wife is in a motel room with her ex husband and is threatening to come empty our house of its things. What can I do to stop this? Don’t this stuff have to be logged in some way? She walked out.

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setta mack
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well my husband is addicted to heroin and doesn’t work to provide or the things a husband is supposed to do plus steals form me and my parents money from the children

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Wally
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What if a wife promised the husband that she would help with the bills by getting a job. This was 5 years ago. The wife refuses to work stating that she doesn’t deal well with people, it’s not the right schedule, or there is no public transportation. She also doesn’t know how to drive and refuses to learn. The husband is tired of feeding and being around the dead weight. All things cost twice as much since she can’t remain behind. Her belongings take up most of the apartment and storage unit which the husband pays for. She is a… Read more »
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Ruth emily
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Hi! I ‘ve been married for the past 8 years now. In 2013 my hubby had a stroke. I did pass through hell. I was accused by his family that I am a witch, I want to kill him. My hubby has been diabetic for the past 18 years and he got stroke out of it. Some members of his family died with stroke too. I was abused by his family. Calling me all kind of names. I did not know what to do. My brother in law went to my parents and told them they don’t want me to… Read more »
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