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

96 Comments on "Marital Abandonment"

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tony
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i have a wife that hasn’t slept with me for 4 years and no sex for four years i want to leave my children don’t respect me i provide for them everyday what should i do

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Manika Hinton
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U sound crazy U can divorce your wife but your kid’s who’s the parent you lead by example need to seriously ask yourself after the first month why you didn’t put a end to it I take it counseling and respect for your family was a no go SMH

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ORG
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Consider the ages of the children. If appropriate make them goto family counseling (yeah you too). Get a good family law attorney, and live a better life.

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ICEMAN
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This old lady use me for my VA benefits she bought sofa refrigerator washer dryer dining room table bed use my USAA account to buy a brand new Volvo she didn’t want me to touch none of her stuff she bought and she left the home we just bought 7 months ago and moved out while I was at work and disable all the cameras on the house so I couldn’t see the MESS she bought inside of the home and on the way out she’s scarred up the hardwood floors I guess she think that’s real cute to do… Read more »
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Carla Denis
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In the criminal abandonment under Virginia law, my husband cheated on me in our home, I caught him, then he left me and my son in our rental home that his parents owned, we rented together, left me the day after my mastectomy, never came back, then his parents kicked me and my son out of the house. Child support and custody visitation is already done through the court. Do I have a case?

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Confused and fed up
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Married going on 9 years, wife stopped having sex with me about a year ago. Always throws her ex in my face. Come to find out there still talking and recently she took a trip to where he lives. He’s a football coach in the NFL, says her and her cousin just went to the game. Where he lives and coaches. But he gave her tickets and who knows whatever else happened while she was there. He knows she is married, evidently he doesnt care. We have a new home and a 5 year old. She claims there just friends.… Read more »
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Michael Langlois
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Can anyone tell me what my rights are as far as a house that I’ve been building alone for the past 2 and half years When my estranged wife and I seperated she moved in with her sister and wanted nothing to do with me or my efforts to build a house. I had no where to go so I bought a cheap acre lot out of the city limits and decided to build a place to live since I had lost my 29 year career after being injured on the job. My wife turned cold on me and showed… Read more »
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M elwell
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If it is a separation it is different than abandonment because separation (depends on state) means you will reconcile sooner of later; abandonment is when she out right leaves you with out any choice in the matter.

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M T
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Recently my boyfriend and I have been arguing and he wants to buy me out of our house. I know if he buys me out he will not be able to afford the home on his own income. He said he won’t leave until i pay him a certain amount of money. I have been paying 80% of all the bills including the mortgage payment. This all started when i saw infidelity through text messages and confronted him about 4 days after I found the messages. We have been together for 6.5 years and bam, a month ago wants nothing… Read more »
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theresa
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i have a husband and me and this man has been separated for about 7 months. he lives in a house that was purchased by him after we was married. we were still together and in a good space after the house was renovated. he decided to leave the marital home when we was separated and move into the home that was recently renovated. he doesnt want me at the recently renovated home unless he is okay with it. well i recently came to the home and another woman was there. how can i make him pay for what he… Read more »
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CELIA D DOMINGUEZ-BARBOSA
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CELIA D DOMINGUEZ-BARBOSA
I have been married for 4 1/2 years to a much , much younger guy.. I’m 51 , he’s 29.. Yea.. I know what you’re gonna say; ”NO WONDER HE LEFT, RIGHT?” Well, this young man was very much in love with me, and don’t get me wrong, he’s never been a bad guy as far as abusing me physically or mentally.. For a young guy he was very responsible and mature for his age.. And, I think that’s what attracted me to him. But, I beieve he had a big crush on me too ( lpl) Anyways, to make… Read more »
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Barkley
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My Name is Barkley. I will love to share my testimony to all the people in the forum cos i never thought i will have my girlfriend back and she means so much to me..The girl i want to get marry to left me 4 weeks to our wedding for another man..,When i called her she never picked my calls,She deleted me on her facebook and she changed her facebook status from engage to Single…when i went to her place of work she told her boss she never want to see me..I lost my job as a result of this… Read more »
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Paul Lambright
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What can I do if if My wife left years ago back to United Kingdom & I can’t get a divorce from her, after signing covenant marriage papers.

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Annaliza B. Richard
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Hi. Im married with a Britiah National and I stayed in the Uk for almost 6-7months for my Visa got expired. We are about to renew but he lost his job ao I decided to go back to Philippines. At first we still have contact but then suddenly I lost contact with him. He is not replying on my emails that much. I dont know what to do. I told him that I want to go back but he said that he dont have anything. I did not even tried applying for Visa for I dont know what to do… Read more »
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Scared
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I have a husband that walked away December 27th I got diagnosed with Kira malformation a year ago waiting for disability we have for dogs he left without me knowing anything and just to a note now I’m alone trying to take care of myself and my for dogs he doesn’t reply to texts phone calls or anyting and I don’t constantly text or call once a week just to discuss the bills he hasn’t checked in to see if I was okay or the dogs I am lost and don’t know what to do been together for 12 years… Read more »
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Ras
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What if your wife abandons you and takes your son???

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Carsh
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It is a criminal act to leave a relationship and take minor children, and not know where spouse went and especially where children are. I am not a Lawyer, but I know you need to file with your local Police Station immediately. Good Luck! In my prayers.

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Ras
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What if your wife abandons you and takes your son?

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Mark Daniels
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My wife and I have been together coming up on 22 tears married 16. I’ve been disabled since 2012. I have had total of 4 back surgeries and one shoulder. we split the bills up .I get 2500.00 month for disability . when I was working I made 4300 month plus she made 3700 a month. She gave me a 24 hour notice she was moving out. Now I’m paying everything on 2500.00 a month. I get 1169.00 from workers comp. and 1364.00 from SSD. She empty half of one savings account. What can I do to survive I know… Read more »
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Lorie
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I am in the same damn place only my husband took off after getting multiple dwis, my car insurance was canceled. I have been running around trying to find insurance. He destroyed a wall in my house by falling into it multiple times while drunk. Ran up all my bills then after I found him a rehab gave him money over and over he takes off claiming I am abusive. ha, but I have text messages where he threatens to kill me, tells me to slit my throat. I am trying to climb out of hell right now. He never… Read more »
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Pat
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Can I leave a disabled husband without ramifications?

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Jessica
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I am wanting to move into my own home without my husband. He is emotionally and verbally abusive. At times he can be physical. He refuses to respect me and the rules I have for my children. I am just flat out tired and ready to move out. I won’t abandon my children or my responsibility as a parent. At the same time he will refuse my rights to be a parent once I leave and will not allow me to have my kids. How do I fight this?

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Lonely
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My husband left n September I was 6 months pregnant w our second child. He had not financially been supportive of our household. I would like to seek ful custody of both children. He had only given me 500+ for mortgage. No food no diapers. And constant disconnect notices. We have a child support and maintain hearing on Tues. What should I plan for.

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Joe
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We were together for 2 years, Wife n I were only married for 3 months, she beat me, refused sex, cheated on me, all through the relationship. I thought marrying her would cure it all. She disappeared in the middle of the night and was pregnant with my, now confirmed, little girl and left to go back to the Midwest after I told her we were through, I couldn’t handle the abuse both psychologically and physically anymore. Even though I have tried to get her she refuses me contact and I have never met her. This was 3 years ago.… Read more »
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T.Marie S.
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My husband of 17years got bad into crystal meth and it changed him in a bad way. He went back home to San Diego to get his head straight? In his late 50’s&18;years, he strung me along for 4months now to say Leave him alone&move on. He’s lying about not doing the drug anymore; but it brings out the pervy sex addict &his son is enabling him by allowing him to stay rent free. So, he has SSDI monthly with only a cell phone bill, stonewalled me, I’m in a SSDI claim now and unemployed. I supported him for 2years… Read more »
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Kathy
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I have been married for twenty years. My husband, and I don’t get along at all anymore cause he has a drinking problem.all this years it’s being a struggle for me. I am eleven years older then him, and on social security, and still working tree times a week.i don’t have any money to pay all the bills can’t afford to stay in the house. He told me he is not going to pay the bills next month, he makes really good money, but he spends it! In bars bought new truck went to Florida last summer, and charged five… Read more »
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Carol H
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My husband quit his job and left to hike the Appalachian Trail leaving me with our 17 y/O daughter and all our debt. I cannot pay all of our bills and mortgage. He told me to sell everything and get our daughter through college. I only work part time as he didn’t want me to go back to work after our daughter met was born. What do I do? I am alone and lost.

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john
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my wife and I married I bought a home with my 401k she abandoned the house and myself and filed for divorce now she wants the house do I have a arguable case

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john
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she has been gone for almost two years before filing I have attempted to give her back her possessions she did not want them

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