What is Abandonment?
Here at Divorce.com we get a lot of mail, mostly questions and many of those questions concern abandonment as it relates to divorce. It seems that abandonment is often misunderstood and frequently thought to be something it is not. Abandonment is a term that refers to a spouse who has moved out of the marital home with no intention of coming back. It can be used as grounds for a divorce and it is one of the rare instances where you can be granted a divorce without any input from your spouse.
In states that allow fault-based divorce actions, abandonment is one of the traditional grounds for seeking a divorce. In most states, the abandoned spouse needs to wait a certain amount of time before they can file for a divorce. The time periods will vary but the most common waiting period is one year. That time period cannot be interrupted by short reconciliations where the spouses temporarily get back together or it will reset the start date. Spouses pursuing fault-based divorces must prove their case if they are the abandoned spouse who is alleging the fault. The abandoned spouse must prove to the court that the other party left without a legitimate reason and abandoned all marital obligations in the process. Abandonment can be a ground for divorce but it is not evidence or proof that a couple is legally divorced. The abandoned spouse will still have to file for a court ordered divorce decree so that the dissolution of marriage is officially recognized and they are free to get married again to someone else.
Abandonment in a marriage is not the same thing as separation though. Separation as relates to divorce comes in four flavors: trial, permanent, legal, and living apart. A trial separation is informal and is a temporary period of time when two spouses live apart to determine if they actually do want a permanent divorce. A trial separation is usually not a legally recognized status. Permanent separation is when a couple has decided that getting back together is not possible at all. Permanent separation often leads to divorce, although some couples may choose to remain legally married for religious or personal reasons. Legal separation is formally recognized by the court, but it is not a divorce in itself as spouses that are legally separated still remain married in the eyes of the law until they obtain a true divorce. The last type of separation is living apart and it is simply an informal situation where two spouses no longer live in the same residence together.
If you are forced to move out of your house for safety or emotional reasons it does not constitute abandonment. If you leave the home to escape an abusive situation it is not the same thing as abandoning your marriage. If you are the one who has been abandoned by your spouse, you have the right to file for a divorce just like anyone else. Being abandoned does not compromise your legal rights or put you in a bad light in court. In most cases, abandonment is simply one step forward toward regaining your independence through a formal divorce.