Spousal Abandonment and Divorce (What You Must Know)

Marriages are exciting but not without their ups and downs. Sometimes couples can work through their issues, while other times, a divorce is the only solution. If your spouse has left, here’s how to file for abandonment of marriage.

To file for divorce claiming abandonment, be prepared to prove the other spouse left without the intent of returning, nor do they plan to contribute financially, nor be involved if children are in the picture. However, desertion may not be a legal basis for divorce until after two years.

Spousal abandonment is when a spouse abandons their partner.

They neglect their legal obligations and are impossible to contact. Many people put up with marital abandonment, and therefore, they are left with taking care of their kids alone.

Spousal abandonment can also be a case in civil unions. Only one significant difference exists between marriage and civil union: the federal government does not recognize civil unions.

Suppose you are in this precarious situation or know someone who is but does not know the way forward. It is best to get legal advice from your family lawyer before making any major decision. However, this article aims to shed light on spousal abandonment and how you can deal with it.

Let us dive in and explore the significant tenets of spousal abandonment and divorce.

What is abandonment of a marriage?

Abandonment of a marriage is when one spouse leaves the marital home without the intention of returning. This can be either physical or emotional abandonment.

Physical abandonment occurs when one spouse moves out of the marital home and does not return.

This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as infidelity, abuse, or simply wanting to end the marriage. In some cases, physical abandonment may also involve one spouse leaving the state or country without informing their partner.

Emotional abandonment occurs when one spouse withdraws from the marriage emotionally, even if they remain in the same home.

This can include neglecting to communicate with their partner, refusing to participate in activities together, or avoiding any kind of intimacy. Emotional abandonment can also involve one spouse becoming emotionally distant and unresponsive to their partner’s needs and feelings.

Abandonment of a marriage is a serious issue that can have long-term consequences for both spouses involved. It is important for couples to seek help if they are experiencing any kind of abandonment in their relationship so that they can work through their issues and find a way forward together.

What happens when a husband abandons his wife?

Legally, when a husband abandons his wife without prior notice, it is called criminal abandonment. However, if the husband had to live separately because he is a threat to the wife and children’s safety, it is constructive abandonment.

Filling for divorce is usually straightforward and does not take much time. However, this may not be the case if both parties want different things. In a no-fault state, you can get a divorce in the presence or absence of your spouse.

The court cannot force anyone to stay in a marriage.

Likewise, a judge cannot make one who abandoned his family come back. However, a court order can ensure they pay child support, financial support for a dependent spouse, and property division.

A divorce case is often long and messy when both parents can’t find common ground in child custody.

How do you prove desertion in a divorce?

In a divorce case, if you are the deserted party, you have to prove to a court that your spouse willingly abandoned you.

Desertion in marriage means one partner has neglected the marital relationship. However, desertion may not be a legal basis for divorce until after two years. Therefore, the deserting partner has continuously shown this behavior for at least two years.

For example, your spouse vanishes without prior notice for six months and returns for one week. Next, they go for another six months without communication or a sense of responsibility.

The two years are not affected by those few days they were home.

One of the ways to prove desertion is that both spouses are physically separated, which is a residency requirement. As a result, they reside in different households for two years. Nevertheless, this should not be confused with sleeping in separate rooms within the same house.

Another way is to prove that the spouse had the intention to desert them.

This can be translated as an intention to break marriage ties without any just reason. Additionally, both parties are not in agreement concerning the ending of the marriage.

For example, one spouse may live outside the marital home due to separation.

If spouse A proposes that they come back together, but spouse B disagrees. Therefore, spouse A can file for an absolute divorce because Spouse B has the intention to desert them. In situations where one of the spouses has to be away from home due to work, this cannot be categorized as intent to desert.

The spouse guilty of desertion can also file for a divorce if they can prove it to be constructive desertion. This occurs when Spouse A had to leave due to the uncharacteristic behavior of spouse B.

However, the court will grant Spouse A’s request if they can provide concrete evidence. For example, if spouse B is an addict and emotionally or physically abuses Spouse A, it is legal for spouse A to file for divorce because they have a just cause to end the marriage.

How do you prove spousal abandonment?

Spousal abandonment does not include temporary orders for a married couple to stay apart to work on their issues.

The abandoned spouse must be able to offer constructive or direct evidence to support said claims. It also helps if the spouse claiming abandonment can prove that the couple has been living apart and has not engaged in marital relations.

It is important to note that separation is not abandonment, although it involves living apart.

This is because both parties continue to honor their duties. In addition, when one partner leaves home a few days after an argument is not a case of abandonment.

Furthermore, spousal abandonment is not applicable when a spouse leaves because their partner is abusive. A spouse who refuses to relocate when their partner is transferred to another city through work cannot sue for spouse abandonment.

Another way to prove spousal abandonment is by providing evidence that the marital home or real property has been abandoned. Therefore, the abandoned spouse is left with the sole task of caring for the marital property, paying the bills, and bank accounts.

As a result, they can have a slam dunk case.

Spouse abandonment may become precarious when minor children are involved. You can prove spousal abandonment when the child(ren) has been neglected. This may also prove helpful in gaining ground during a custody battle.

The court will favor the abandoned spouse in keeping the children because they provided care when the other spouse was MIA.

Suppose you are looking forward to proving spousal abandonment.

You will need a divorce attorney to help you prepare evidence to support your cause. As a result, you can prove your spouse has abandoned you for a specific period. The laws in different states are slightly different, so it is best to understand how abandonment works in your state.

In addition, prepare evidence to demonstrate that your spouse has refused to communicate, has no just reason for leaving, and has the intention to end the marriage.

What are the consequences of abandonment in a marriage?

The first consequence of abandonment in marriage is divorce.

Divorce, of course, can be challenging both financially and emotionally. It requires some courage to discuss intimate family affairs in a courtroom full of strangers. So in any abandonment case, be ready for legal and financial troubles.

One of the hardest parts of abandonment is dealing with the emotional turmoil. Sometimes, you can feel various emotions at once. If not properly controlled, it may have a negative impact on your mental health.

Coping with a lack of response from an abandoning spouse is never easy, especially when there are little kids who will always innocently ask for them.

Some people need time to grieve like they do when someone dies. 

The abandoned spouse has to go through all the stages of grief. However, they must still put up a strong façade because of the kids. Abandonment leaves one questioning many things they initially believed.

Sorting through the legal divorce, child custody, and other issues from the marriage’s annulment takes its toll. You have to become mommy and daddy to the kids and take on other roles to suit the new family dynamics.

Also, you have to come up with the best way to break the news to the kids. Children are quite sensitive. Dealing with their emotional outbursts at this stage can be too much to handle for one person if they are not determined.

Other consequences of abandonment include self-doubt, frustration, denial, and hopelessness.

The abandoned spouse begins with where they went wrong, which may lead to depression. Get all the help you can. Also, spend time with friends and family who sincerely love you. You may need to get a family therapist to help the family through these difficult times.

Another issue that may arise from spousal abandonment is the child custody battle.

Although spousal abandonment is different from child abandonment, they often follow each other. The parent who abandoned the family has less chances of getting the children. In cases where the remaining parent is assessed to be unfit, alternative homes may be sought for the children.

Therefore, an abandoning spouse can lose rights to their children. A family member can adopt them as long as they can convince the court that they have the means to take care of them.

Can you sue a husband for emotional abandonment?

Yes, you can sue a husband for emotional abandonment. However, like all legal cases, the court needs evidence that a crime was committed.

Emotional abandonment occurs when one spouse disregards the other person’s feelings in the relationship. The abandoned spouse feels neglected, unheard, unimportant, and alone in the marriage.

Spouses who endure emotional abandonment are not always quick to seek a divorce.

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When your spouse begins to give you the silent treatment without any just cause, it can cause emotional distress. It is emotionally demanding to live in a home with a spouse who ignores you.

Married couples face various challenges. Talking to each other is a rational way of sorting out their differences. However, when one person refuses to talk and blames the other person, this can be a ground for divorce.

Additionally, if you walk on eggshells around your spouse, this may be a warning sign. They do not treat you with respect. Instead, they talk down at you like you are a nobody. All these factors can be appropriately arranged as evidence of spousal emotional abandonment.

Furthermore, you can sue for emotional abandonment when there is an intentional withdrawal from sexual intercourse. Intimacy is one of the bonds of marriage. It brings a husband and wife together physically and emotionally.

Therefore, if your spouse has intentionally caused you emotional distress, you can file a civil lawsuit.

As a result, your spouse is held accountable, and you can get some compensation. You may need an injury lawyer to handle this case. Subsequently, you need to talk with a family law attorney to determine your options.

Suppose you are willing to go to court. You have to prove at least three things depending on your state’s law:

  1. Your spouse engages in behaviors that show no regard for your feelings.
  2. You have tried to make them see reason, but they continue their actions.
  3. Your spouse’s action has undoubtedly caused you emotional distress.

As a result, they have succeeded in causing you severe emotional harm.

Is abandoning your spouse a crime?

Yes, abandoning a spouse and financial responsibilities is a crime. However, it is essential to determine if the state of residence is an at-fault or no-fault divorce state before filing divorce papers.

Spousal abandonment can be discussed under two categories- criminal and constructive abandonment.

Domestic violence is a case where one spouse neglects his responsibilities or support to the welfare of the children (minority) and dependent spouse without any reasonable explanations.

Taking care of a sick spouse is a huge responsibility.

However, running away is not the solution. You can simply file for a divorce. The court will grant your request, but you will not be free from your responsibilities.

The situation gets trickier when you have children less than 18 years of age. Legally, they are your responsibility, and it is a crime not to provide for their needs.

Constructive abandonment is when you leave the home because living with your spouse has become unbearable. You may need to provide a good reason for leaving the marriage.

A family court judge may sanction legal separation in cases of domestic violence, abandoning a spouse, or having sexual relations with others.

How can you get a divorce if you don’t know where your spouse is?

In the past, divorces weren’t always granted if your spouse was missing.

Many people use this method to stay in a marriage. However, in recent times, the law has been more generous. As a result, you can file for a divorce, follow up with the divorce process, and get the judge to annul the marriage.

I must add at this junction that it sounds easier than it is. This is because the court has to be satisfied with your efforts at finding your spouse. If the court decides your effort is not enough, the case will be dismissed.

The court will not begin the divorce proceeding until the filing spouse notifies (serves) the other spouse of the divorce papers. However, this may be impossible if you cannot locate your spouse.

One method to serve an absent spouse is to contact your local sheriff’s department.

You have to pay a fee for them to serve your absent spouse. Another method is to hire a private company to serve your spouse. However, they may be reluctant to serve the papers if you cannot provide an address. You may also hire a private investigator to find your spouse, but this is quite expensive and time-consuming.

Since your spouse is unreachable, you can ask the court for an alternative service method. However, you must meet some criteria before the court grants your request. First, the court would need you to demonstrate that you have done your best to locate your spouse.

Based on each state, the criteria are different, so make your findings and discuss them with your divorce attorney.

On a general note, you need to bring evidence that you have sought your spouse at their previously known job, resident, family home, and other marital property.

Additionally, you can bring evidence of conversation on unresponded emails, voicemails, and text messages. Also, if you can provide at least three instances where you have tried to serve them the divorce papers. You have a higher chance of swaying the court.

The most common alternative method is Service by Publication.

Here, you pay a newspaper to place the notification in their legal section. It is imperative that you follow the court’s procedures; else, the process is null. The advertisement will be placed in a local newspaper closest to your spouse’s last known location. Of course, you would need to pay for this service.

Usually, the advertisement needs to be in the newspaper for three weeks.

Depending on your state, the court may offer some other alternate method. They may include serving through social media and posting in a courthouse.

Now that you have completed all the requirements to serve your spouse, they have about 28 days to respond. Usually, a spouse will respond to a divorce petition.

But what happens in the case of no response?

After the waiting period, you can request a divorce based on fault grounds.

The court will review all the facts and evidence before making a decision. If you have minor children, the best course of action will be considered. Once the court grants your request for a default divorce, you are free.

Nevertheless, you must get a copy of the final divorce decree. The court may also need you to present a Notice of Entry of Judgment document. You may need to mail or publish this document as you did the initial divorce papers.

Does abandonment of a marriage affect child custody?

Abandonment of a marriage can have a significant impact on child custody. In some cases, abandonment may be considered a form of neglect and can be used as evidence in court to determine the best interests of the child.

When one parent abandons the marriage, it can create an unstable environment for the child.

The remaining parent may not have the resources or support to provide for the child’s needs, which could lead to an unhealthy home life. Additionally, if the abandoned parent is not involved in the child’s life, it could lead to emotional and psychological issues for the child.

In cases where abandonment is an issue, courts will consider factors such as who was responsible for leaving and why they left. If it is determined that one parent abandoned their responsibilities as a parent, then they may not be granted custody or visitation rights.

The court will also consider whether or not there are any other family members who could provide a stable home environment for the child.

Ultimately, abandonment of a marriage can have serious implications on child custody decisions. Courts will take into account all relevant factors when determining what is in the best interests of the child and will make decisions based on those considerations.

How does abandonment in a marriage affect alimony?

Abandonment in a marriage can have a significant impact on alimony. In some cases, abandonment may be considered a form of marital misconduct, which can affect the amount of alimony awarded.

When one spouse abandons the other, it can be seen as a breach of the marital contract and may be taken into consideration when determining alimony.

The court may consider the length of time that the abandonment lasted and whether or not it was voluntary or involuntary. If the abandonment was voluntary, then it could be seen as an indication that one spouse is not willing to fulfill their obligations under the marriage contract which could result in a reduction in alimony.

In addition, if one spouse has been abandoned by their partner, they may be entitled to additional financial support to help them get back on their feet.

This could include temporary spousal support or even an increase in permanent alimony payments. The court will take into account any financial hardship that has been caused by the abandonment when making its decision about alimony payments.

Ultimately, abandonment in a marriage can have a significant impact on alimony payments and should be taken into consideration when determining how much support should be provided to each spouse after divorce.

How does abandonment in a marriage affect dividing up community property?

Abandonment in a marriage can have a significant impact on the division of community property. When one spouse abandons the other, it can be difficult to determine who is entitled to what assets.

The court will typically look at the circumstances surrounding the abandonment to determine how to divide up the community property. If one spouse left without any warning or explanation, then the court may decide that they are not entitled to any of the assets.

On the other hand, if one spouse left due to abuse or neglect, then they may be entitled to some of the assets.

In addition, if one spouse abandoned their partner and left them with significant financial obligations, such as credit card debt or medical bills, then they may be responsible for paying those debts even after they have left. This can make it difficult for the remaining spouse to manage their finances and can lead to further financial hardship.

Finally, abandonment in a marriage can also affect child custody arrangements.

If one parent has abandoned their partner and children, then it is likely that they will not be granted custody rights. This can have a significant impact on both parents and children as it affects their ability to maintain relationships with each other and access important resources such as education and healthcare.

Overall, abandonment in a marriage can have serious implications for both parties involved when it comes time to divide up community property. It is important for couples facing this situation to seek legal advice so that they understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes time for the division of assets.


Filing for a divorce may be easy but proving spousal abandonment may be challenging. You can get a divorce in the absence of your spouse. If they eventually show up, you both have to negotiate the separation agreement.

Such things as spousal support, division of property, and child custody will be discussed.

One crucial area affected when a spouse leaves the marital home is child custody. The other spouse may refer to such a thing to prove that the spouse who left is not a fit parent.

Unfortunately, divorce is the inevitable outcome of many marriages.

Have you ever wondered who moves on faster after a divorce? I have an interesting recent article that breaks it down. Women file for divorce far more often than men. But does that mean they move on quicker too?

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Image by 0fjd125gk87 from Pixabay

Of course, I have to add that I am not a lawyer, nor do I know the laws in your state or country. I am, however, divorced (twice) and have recent experience going through one. However, my comments and articles should not be taken as legal or professional advice. If you need legal or professional advice you should consult a professional in your area.

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