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Spousal Abandonment Laws

A man abandons his spouse and child

What is abandonment? The term can mean different things to various people. Spousal abandonment can leave the remaining partner lonely and unsure of what to do. Each state has its own spousal abandonment laws. This can lead to uncertainty and legal questions. Below are most frequently asked spousal abandonment questions, answered by Family Lawyers on JustAnswer.

What is spousal abandonment?

Spousal abandonment is a term used to describe the situation when one spouse leaves the marital home or relationship without informing or getting the consent of the other spouse. Abandonment is grounds for divorce in many states. However, courts in most states require that the spouse must be gone for a minimum period of time before divorce can be filed on these grounds.

Is spousal abandonment grounds for a divorce in California?

Spousal abandonment is usually not sufficient grounds for a divorce in California. The state of California only recognizes two grounds for divorceirreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. While spousal abandonment can actually push a marriage to irreconcilable differences, it is not recognized as grounds for divorce by itself.

However, many other states do recognize spousal abandonment as legal grounds for a divorce. If you feel that you may have been abandoned by your spouse and need clarifications on the legal provisions in your state, ask a Family Lawyer to get your questions answered.

Is it considered spousal abandonment if a spouse disappears for over 72 hours?

In most cases, this duration is insufficient to constitute spousal abandonment. Abandonment of a spouse usually results when a spouse leaves with no word of their whereabouts for six months or longer. Complete absence for longer than one year is considered abandonment of the marriage and home. Many courts look at spousal abandonment on a case-to-case basis.

Does stranding a spouse at an airport with no money have any legal implication?

It isn’t usually against the law to leave an adult stranded, with or without money. The only legal recourse you have in this situation is to file for a legal separation or divorce. However, this won’t result in any criminal charges for the abandoning spouse.

Since it is not a criminal offense, the only course of action the abandoned spouse has is to try and protect their status quo in the marriage. This means protecting the marital property and possibly obtaining financial responsibility in the marriage. Depending on your specific situation, legal counsel may be needed. A Legal Expert can answer any questions you may have regarding spousal abandonment, and help you determine whether you need to hire a lawyer.

Is the abandoning spouse responsible for marital bills?

There is a fine line between legal and moral responsibility. Legally, anyone with financial responsibilities is required to pay bills and amounts due. Morally, not everyone takes care of their responsibilities. When someone is abandoned by their spouse, their partner’s lack of responsibility can lead to financial stress.

The first step in this situation is to file a petition with the court for a legal separation or divorce. This will help divide the assets and financial obligations. In most marriages, community property  needs to be divided. The court usually determines property division if no agreement has been reached between the spouses prior to finalizing the divorce.

Spousal abandonment is not illegal in many states. However, some states are considerate towards an abandoned spouse or a spouse left in destitution. Since the laws differ from state to state, you may want to ask a Family Lawyer to gain legal insight. 

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