What is Spousal Abandonment?
At its best, marriage is a permanent partnership between two people who love each other. In the eyes of the law, marriage is also a civil contract that requires a license, witnesses, and registration with the state. When either spouse decides to end the partnership, he or she usually files for divorce, and the family court system helps determine issues related to distribution of assets, spousal support, and custody.
However, sometimes a spouse chooses to leave the marital home, stop fulfilling reasonable responsibilities and duties to the family, and, in some cases, cease all contact instead of filing for divorce and ending the marital contract in family court. Known as spousal abandonment, this type of behavior can have devastating effects on a family.
Types of Spousal Abandonment
There are several types of spousal abandonment, including:
- Criminal – withdrawing necessary financial support and refusing to provide for the care of a dependent spouse or minors without just cause
- Constructive – creating a hostile or unbearable marital environment (g., through domestic abuse, infidelity, withholding assets, etc.), giving their spouse a justifiable reason to leave
- Emotional – completely disregarding a spouse’s feelings or emotional needs
It’s important to note that simply moving out of a shared home does not necessarily qualify as spousal abandonment. As long as the spouse in question continues to provide financial and other support and does not sever all ties with the family, there is no case for marital abandonment.
Spousal Abandonment in California
Since California is a no-fault divorce state, the court system does not recognize spousal abandonment as grounds for divorce, so you would not need to provide evidence of abandonment. Instead, you would likely cite “irreconcilable differences” as your reason for filing, which allows you to move forward quickly with your divorce.
Although spousal abandonment will not affect the divorce filing, the California family court would most likely take it into consideration throughout the divorce process when considering custody, alimony, and property division.
How Spousal Abandonment Affects Divorce in California
When filing for divorce, California requires you to make a good faith effort to locate your spouse and serve divorce papers to inform them of your intent. If your spouse has abandoned you, however, the court might approve alternative means, such as publishing a notice in a newspaper, to serve a spouse who cannot be found.
During the divorce proceedings, a judge might consider spousal abandonment when determining:
- Spousal support – your spouse may be required to pay you alimony as a result of their actions.
- Division of marital estate – you may be eligible to receive a greater share of marital assets, and/or your spouse may be obligated to repay a more significant portion of shared marital debt.
- Child custody and visitation rights – your spouse might receive only minimal visitation rights or may lose parental rights altogether and might be compelled to pay you a greater amount of child support.
We Will Fight For You
If you are the victim of spousal abandonment and considering divorce, it’s important to have someone on your side to help you navigate the California family court system, especially in this complicated situation. At Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri we have been helping clients protect their rights and best interests in divorce cases for decades. Please contact us at 408-553-0801 or fill out our online form here for a free, 30-minute consultation to discuss your case and your options. Let us fight on your behalf.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.