When you file for divorce, you don't necessarily have to show a reason. All states offer filers the option to file for a no-fault divorce in which no real reason is necessary. However, you might want to cite reasons in some cases and abandonment can be grounds for a fault divorce. To learn what this ground is as well as what it is not, read on.
In marital terms, abandonment is when a party removes themselves from the marital home without a valid reason. Some spouses leave the home with no plans to return. Not all cases of spouses leaving each other meet the guidelines for abandonment, though. Abandonment means the couple lives apart and did not engage in sexual relations for a certain time. The time required varies from state to state.
What Abandonment is Not
Since this situation can be complex, it's important to understand what abandonment is not:
- It's not punishment for not paying child support. Even couples that are not divorced must cope with child support issues. When one parent refuses to pay child support and cuts off all contact, the receiving parent might be tempted to file for abandonment with the court. However, when a parent is found to be guilty of abandonment, it terminates the spouse's parental rights and that means they no longer must pay child support. There are better ways to get the obligated parent to pay than that. Speak to your lawyer and the child support enforcement agency about the issue instead.
- Domestic violence can prompt some parties to flee the marital home and cut off contact with the spouse. That, however, does not constitute abandonment because of the circumstances.
- A legal separation is also not abandonment. In most cases, both parties will stay in contact and deal with financial and custody issues while separated.
- If one party is incarcerated, that is not considered abandonment.
- When the couple has a heated argument that leads to one party leaving the home for a few days, that is also not abandonment.
- If one party must move because of a job, it is not necessarily abandonment since you cannot force a spouse to move with you.
Why are Abandonment Issues Important?
When one spouse can prove that the other abandoned the home or family, it can affect the property, debt, custody, and spousal support issues. For example, if it can be shown that one party abandoned the family home, they might have given up their rights to ownership of the home.
Speak with a family law attorney about this complex issue.