What is Spousal Abandonment?

4-2What is Spousal Abandonment?

Every state in the country now has no-fault divorce in place. No-fault divorce means that neither party needs to blame the other for the end of their marriage. In North Carolina, spouses may decide to seek a no-fault divorce, but what happens when one spouse abandons the other? If a spouse leaves the marital home and does not intend to return, one partner may have abandoned the other. The partner who is left behind may need to take steps to end the union by seeking a divorce. An experienced North Carolina divorce attorney will assist you through the process from start to finish.


What is Abandonment?

In North Carolina, abandonment is considered an act of marital misconduct. The law defines abandonment as “when one spouse willfully ends cohabitation without the intent to resume living together, without consent of the other spouse, and without justification or provocation.” Simply put, abandonment happens when a spouse leaves the marital home without intending to return. It is important to note that if a spouse leaves the home to serve in the military or to take care of a sick family member, it is not considered abandonment, even if the spouse did not consent to their partner leaving.


Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “Do I need an attorney to get a Divorce in North Carolina?”


Constructive Abandonment

Constructive abandonment occurs when one spouse leaves because of physical or verbal abuse by their partner. A spouse who leaves because of fear of harm would be justifiable abandonment. The court would take the situation into account when reviewing the divorce. Other actions may also be considered constructive abandonment. Some of these include adultery, substance abuse, being emotionally absent from the marriage, and withholding affection from a spouse. The specific circumstances would determine whether constructive abandonment applies.



Consequences of Abandonment

Because abandonment is one form of marital misconduct, it can be used against a spouse for issues regarding alimony. In addition, when children are involved, abandonment may come into play with regard to child custody and visitation. If a parent abandons a spouse and does not have contact with the children, the other parent may seek sole custody. A family law judge would review the matter and make a determination. The courts always make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. Some considerations when deciding child custody include the relationship the child has with each parent and the ability of the parent to provide care, among other factors.


Seeking Divorce

If a spouse abandons the marriage, the spouse who is left behind may want to take steps to move forward with a divorce. Generally, North Carolina requires married couples to live apart for a period of at least a year before they can get divorced. If you do not know the whereabouts of your spouse, it can make filing for divorce more complicated, but not impossible. You will need to try to locate your spouse to serve divorce papers or take additional steps before you can move forward with a divorce.


Our experienced legal team can help with your divorce case. To learn more, call us today at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 to schedule a consultation or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes four Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.



marital misconduct | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)

Article 40 (ncleg.net)


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