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San Jose Family & Divorce Lawyers / Blog / Divorce / Understanding the Impact of Marital Abandonment

Understanding the Impact of Marital Abandonment

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What is Marriage Abandonment?

Desertion, spousal abandonment, or marriage abandonment. It may have different names, but it is the same thing. Marriage abandonment is when a spouse leaves the marriage without provocation or consent, abandons marital duty, and does not intend to reestablish the marriage or return.

Often, this is by a spouse leaving the marital abode. However, it is also considered desertion if a spouse excludes the other by restricting their access to their shared home, usually by changing the locks.

When a spouse walks away from their financial and contractual obligations in their marriage, abandons their responsibilities, and shirks the responsibilities, this is marital abandonment. If a spouse stops providing for the marriage or contributing to their family, it can also be considered marital abandonment.

Can I Use Marital Abandonment as Grounds for Divorce?

The state of California is a no-fault divorce state. This means that neither party does not need to prove the other did something wrong to file a divorce. So no, you can not use marital abandonment as grounds for divorce.

However, the court may use evidence of marital abandonment when making rulings on property, spousal support, child custody, and child support. For this reason, it is important to keep detailed documentation of the desertion, ranging from financial impact to emotional distress. The compassionate attorneys of Argyris Mah, LLP are here to assist you during this stressful situation.

Differences Between Divorce Separation and Abandonment

Sometimes, a couple may decide to practice a separation where they live apart and divide their duties accordingly while remaining married with the intent to return to the marriage. It is not a legal procedure and is something a couple may navigate with the help of a counselor or alone.

A legal separation is a legal process where you and your spouse separate financial obligations, duties, and family support, which may include custody and support of children while remaining legally married. A legal separation may or may not involve a lawyer but always involves a court ruling. A court may get involved when determining finances, custody, and support. Neither party may remarry while in a legal separation.

A divorce, also known as a dissolution of marriage, is the legal end of a marriage. You or your spouse may remarry after a divorce is final. Divorces may or may not involve a lawyer but will always involve a court procedure to determine financial obligations, custody of children and their support, and the distribution of debt and assets.

While the above are thought-out, planned processes considering the consequences of ending a marriage, abandonment may happen without provocation or planning. If a spouse leaves the relationship without communication or expressing their intent to return, this could be considered abandonment.

Is Marital Abandonment a Crime?

While marital abandonment is already a stressful situation, it can become even more complicated when the possibility of criminal charges becomes involved.

In California, abandonment is considered a crime if a spouse who has sufficient ability to provide for their spouse, or who can earn the means of support, who willfully leaves their spouse destitute, or who neglects to provide their spouse with necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care is guilty of a misdemeanor.

It is not considered a criminal offense if they leave for a justified reason, such as abuse.

If you are sick and your spouse decides to leave the marriage, the abandonment may be considered criminal. Note: Your spouse may still file for a divorce, even if you are sick.

What is the Impact of Marital Abandonment?

Marital abandonment is viewed negatively because of the way it can impact the abandoned spouse and their children. Some of the consequences resulting from marital abandonment may include but are not limited to the following:

Costly Consequences

While abandonment is not used as grounds for divorce in the state of California, the court may consider the abandonment when making decisions for spousal support, child support, and custody.

If a spouse abandoning their marriage results in them not caring for their children, dependant, or sickly spouse, it can also come with a criminal offense, which can mar your record and result in costly court appearances.

Criminal Charges

As mentioned above, marital abandonment can be considered a criminal offense if it is determined that the abandonment of a spouse leads to the detriment of their health, the support of their dependents, or their way of life.

A person’s parental rights can even be terminated if the court decides you have abandoned your children.

Negatively Impact Child Custody

The court’s number one priority is to the children who may have been negatively impacted by marital abandonment. When considering judgment, the judge’s decision will be more concerned with the betterment of the child rather than the parents.

This can affect visitation, custody, child support, and shared parental rights. Marital abandonment may sway a judge’s final consideration when determining what is best for the child.

Long-Term Emotional Damage

While not a legal or financial consequence, the impact of marital abandonment can result in long-term emotional damage, including animosity from a spouse or children. It can destroy trust between two people, and what could have been an amicable separation may now be affected by lingering anger or sadness.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you feel like your spouse has abandoned you, or if your spouse is claiming you have abandoned them, it is imperative you seek legal counsel immediately. The attorneys at Argyris Mah, LLP are eager to help you with your situation. Starting the process of collecting evidence as soon as possible is essential and will help you set up a solid case.

An attorney can help you navigate this situation and ensure you are protected in regard to support, parental rights, and division of assets.

Call the office of Argyris Mah, LLP now at 408-214-6366 to schedule a free consultation. You can also reach us online.

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