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

16 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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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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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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