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.

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Keith Allen
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Keith Allen

My wife of 29 years up and walked out of our marriage and just left a letter. In the letter she said I had lifetime rights to the home. After 2 and half years she comes back and has filed for divorce and now says I have to vacate the house. What are my rights.

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Mackie Jayson
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Mackie Jayson

I have a serious case im still solving..with prosecutors internationally from ICC. What i had believed took place in my life is that i was born in Europe, my family went to the USA in 1974, parents disputed between living in NY versus Pennsylvania where my mom’s siblings settled down later, my mom took everything and all the children there with one uncle and some guy who later turned out to be my step father 1977. All i remember was my father came to PA, arguing took place between in laws, then we ended up in VA leaving the two… Read more »

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Joshua Kohen
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Joshua Kohen

amazing, its like a movie, in your case i see that con artists in your mothers family used women and victim hood, anonymous complaints to state run organizations to attack their victims to protect themselves.

The topic here is about abandonment between spouses, your mother seems to of topped that subject, i wish you luck, make videos, share the evidence…even if she passed away.

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Debra Woods
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Debra Woods

If a couple marries 26 years ago for the sole purpose of providing insurance for the children of the bride,and this is marriage #2 for him, and later they get in trouble for fraud is the marriage still binding? They filed for divorce and she says she never signed the papers.
He remarried twice after #2 and he recently passed away while married to #4. Wife #2 is coming after his estate saying they were still married.
No one has heard anything from her, until he dies…. so what is wife #4 to do?

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junior
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junior

hey if my wife is in one country an am in another not together from 2012 how do i go about getting divorce by abandonment

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Gay
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Gay

Hi, I have been married for only 2yrs the end of March this year. My husband had his home
Prior to us getting married. My question is how long do I have before he can make me
stay away. I have stayed at my daughters for 2 nights because of his mental abuse

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Rachel Hernandez
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Rachel Hernandez

My fiancé of 5 years has moved out of our home twice in 2 years. While I was out of State with family for a wedding. The home that we shared was refinanced in order to purchase another home with the woman he had been seeing. He paid cash for the home and put it strictly in her name. With no knowledge of the events happening or his intent of ending our relationship I am now responsible for the remainder of the mortgage, upkeep, insurance and taxes. Due to the loan being in his name only and since general maintance… Read more »

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Crescente Amor
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Crescente Amor

My wife left a month ago supposedly for a vacation to another country and should have been back after a month. But changes her plan to prolong her stay indefinitely. I am disabled. Can I file for marital abandonment? What are my options? Please advise. Thanks.

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matt duncan
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matt duncan

my wife moved out with child and furniture. she has not assisted in any expenses during marriage including house. can i file for abandonment?

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John Gonzales’s
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John Gonzales’s

my Wife abandoned me 10yrs ago can I file abandonment

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Carlotta
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Carlotta

My husband leaves the marriage often without us talking about it. Can I take him to court for marriage abandonment?

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John Hernandez 3333
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John Hernandez 3333

My wife abandoned are marriage 10yrs ago no she comes back and said she wants half of everything is she entitled to it

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Done playing games
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Done playing games

My husband and I have been married for six years Be has never faithful, he had been abusive physically and verbai.
We took possession of the house his parents previously bought loved y and died in. None of his siblings wanted the process e so we did the paperwork to have the house deeded in our names. Be you had been in and out of jail for the best part of the two years since we took possession of this property How will this be divided now that I’ve filled for divorce

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Understanding Marital Abandonment | Men's Divorce

[…] Marital abandonment comes up in a variety of contexts when discussing a spouse deserting the family unite, but from a legal perspective, 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, according to the Legal Dictionary. […]