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Abandoment of a spouse: For all practical purposes, desertion and abandonment are one and the same. There are two elements that have to be present in order to constitute desertion: the willful desire or the intent to desert and the cutting off of the marital relationship. In Virginia, there is no specific period during which the desertion must continue, but you must wait a year before filing under this ground. There are two types of desertion-actual desertion and constructive desertion.
1. When your spouse packs bags, books, and toothpaste, walks out the door, moves into another apartment, and stays there, he or she is guilty of actual desertion. The spouse voluntarily leaves and has no plans to return except perhaps to pick up a forgotten belonging.
2. You also can be deserted even if your spouse does not leave. If your spouse's behavior is so cruel or despicable that you find yourself dialing suicide prevention, you can leave and charge your spouse with constructive desertion. Constructive desertion is basically defined as one person leaving the relationship-not necessarily the home. The following are some cases of marital misconduct that have been applied to constructive desertion: Willful refusal of sex, without just cause and nonperformance of other marital duties as to practically destroy the home life. The denial of sex alone does not constitute desertion. The spouse also has to stop carrying out the mutual responsibilities of the marital relationship. Conduct that endangers a spouse's life, safety, health, and even self-respect (although an isolated assault or two will not necessarily constitute cruelty unless the act was particularly severe and atrocious). One spouse's failure to move if, for example, the other gets a job transfer. The exception is if one spouse's choice of domicile is unsafe or unsuitable for the other. As A Virginia case has stated, 'The misconduct of an offending spouse which will justify the other in leaving must be so serious that it makes the relationship intolerable or unendurable."
What happens if the spouse returns: Your spouse has left you, spent six months chasing butterflies, and suddenly wakes up one morning and decides that you are the one after all. In good faith, your spouse shows up at your doorstep and begs you to forgive and forget. To end desertion in Virginia, you and your spouse must resume marital cohabitation and you must do so with the intent to end the desertion.
Abandonment of a child: it is considered abandonment of the child when the parent's identity or whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left by the parent in circumstances in which the child suffers serious harm, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or to provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.
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