What does Abandonment spouse mean?
Spousal abandonment occurs when one spouse leaves or forsakes the other spouse without justification and renounces their duties and responsibilities as outlined by the marital agreement. State laws vary and may refer to leaving as desertion or abandonment, but regardless of the term, if one spouse leaves the other for a specific period of time and fails to provide the necessary support it is usually grounds for divorce in states that recognize fault-based divorces.
What if I have to leave the marriage?
The spouse who leaves the marriage is not necessarily the spouse who has “abandoned” the marriage. For instance, constructive abandonment can occur when one spouse makes the conditions of the marriage so difficult or intolerable it forces the other spouse to leave. Common reasons one spouse may leave include infidelity, refusing financial support, domestic abuse, or withholding sexual contact.
Legal consequences of abandonment
Contrasted to divorce in the past, proving fault now may not be relevant in the divorce process. Although many states still have fault based divorce, most couples will file for divorce without assigning fault and simply claim irreconcilable differences.
For this reason, abandonment is now less of a concern than it would have been in the past for couples who needed to prove fault to receive a divorce. Abandonment is not only hard to prove, it may or may not be legally material. Even if a spouse has abandoned their partner the courts will not force either party to stay or return to the spousal home.
Regardless of whether abandonment occurs, however, both spouses can be held responsible for establishing a child custody plan and ensuring the children are cared for through proper child support payments. Abandonment may also not eliminate the responsibility of one spouse to pay spousal support to the other spouse (ex. If your husband leaves you it may not eliminate his obligation to pay you support).
Other Legal Consequences of Abandonment
As mentioned above, states laws can vary. Talk to a divorce lawyer if you have questions about the legal consequences of abandonment. For example, if your spouse has left you and allowed you to become destitute some states may impose a civil penalty, such as a short jail sentence or fine. Other states may eliminate the right of one spouse to claim spousal support if they abandoned the marriage (assuming there was not good cause for them to leave). Spouses may also forfeit their right to other marital benefits such as survivor's employment benefits.