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What is abandonment?

When it comes to divorce, North Carolina is a no-fault state. That doesn’t mean that certain behaviors won’t weigh heavily on the judge’s mind when it comes to ancillary issues. One of those actions is “abandonment.” But what exactly is abandonment?

Abandonment comes from the idea that cohabitating is one of your marital duties. If one spouse willingly stops cohabitating, that may constitute “abandonment.” But it’s not quite that simple. It has to be proven that the cessation of cohabitation was not warranted, consensual or temporary. It’s a rather complicated topic, and it’s a good idea to discuss these matters with a family law attorney.

What abandonment is not

Having to be out of town for work frequently: While you might not have signed up for this life, it likely doesn’t constitute abandonment.

Military service: If your spouse is a member of the military and is required to serve overseas or elsewhere, is not considered abandonment.

Taking care of an ill family member: If your mom is out of state and needs temporary care due to an illness or injury, you can tend to her without the risk of committing abandonment.

The key here is that abandonment means the other person leaves the marital home with the intent of never coming back. Now if your spouse leaves for any of the above reasons, but then decides he isn’t coming back with the intention of ending the marriage, this may count as abandonment. If these intentions were put into writing or there were actions to indicate that this was the case, you may have all the evidence necessary to prove abandonment.

What can abandonment impact?

It’s important to remember that in no-fault states, things like abandonment are not relevant to the actual divorce proceedings. It doesn’t make a difference. This type of marital misconduct, however, can make a difference on other divorce-related issues.

If you have children, the issue of abandonment can impact a custody case. If your spouse left your marital home, then consequently, he left the children in your care. This proves two things:

1. You are fit to care for your children. You already knew this, but perhaps he might have tried to say otherwise. The act of him leaving the children with you for an extended period of time proves your point.

2. He doesn’t have a good reason for getting primary physical custody. He already made that clear by leaving them in your custody exclusively when he left. Not only would it make it difficult for him to pursue that route, the judge might also consider that changing anything related to physical custody would disrupt the children’s lives unnecessarily. Of course, in any custody matter, the children’s best interests should always be put first.

Abandonment can also have an effect on things like alimony and post-separation support. While abandonment is not a sole reason a person is entitled to alimony, it is something a judge might consider when making the determination.

Divorce is never easy, and abandonment can make things more challenging – both legally and emotionally. With time, you will move forward from this into the life you deserve.

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