Abandonment and Desertion in Divorce

Man sitting in house with boxes packedAbandonment and desertion are terms that are used interchangeably and have the same meaning. Abandonment is a legal term for the word desertion, referring to one spouse leaving the marital residence and refusing to return without any justification for doing so accompanied with a failure to provide any financial support or contribution to the marital expenses. 

Is abandonment grounds for divorce?

Abandonment is one of the grounds for divorce. Although it is not as frequently used as some of the other grounds, it does still exist as a basis for filing a Complaint for Divorce. Abandonment, or desertion in marriage, is considered an at fault basis for divorce, which means that you have to establish that the other person did something wrong in order to proceed on this ground. If successful, the person who left can be determined to be at fault for the dissolution of the marriage, creating difficulties for the other spouse. When successful in establishing that one party deserted or abandoned the other party, it could result in certain financial benefits during the divorce proceeding. 

Filing for abandonment divorce

There are certain requirements to establish abandonment divorce in New Jersey: the parties must have lived apart for one year, meaning that the period of abandonment has lasted a minimum of 12 months. If at some point during that time, the parties do live together, perhaps in an effort to reconcile, the time period ends, and would need to be restarted.

The separation must be non-consensual. Otherwise, the circumstances will not be considered abandonment

The person seeking to establish abandonment must not have initiated the separation between the parties. The other person must have left on their own. A party can not seek abandonment if they asked the other party to leave the house.

Lastly, the person who left also must not provide support during the time period. In order to establish abandonment, there also has to be a failure by that person to provide any financial support either to their spouse or children. 

How do you prove spousal abandonment?

There are additional types of abandonment that the court recognizes in addition to one spouse deserting the other spouse.  They include constructive abandonment, where one person makes the circumstances so difficult to endure that it forces the other party to leave the home. Sometimes that exists in situations where domestic violence is taking place, forcing one person to leave the home out of fear for their safety, health and or well-being. 

Lockout is another situation that the courts have recognized when when one spouse changes the locks on the home, preventing the other spouse from entering the home.  Another type of abandonment recognized by the court is criminal abandonment where one person is so financially dependent on the other person that they are not able to live without support from the other person. In those circumstances, the court may recognize the person’s actions as criminal.

Here at DeTorres & DeGeorge we provide compassionate legal representation for our clients. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We are experienced in handling claims for desertion in marriage and abandonment divorce. Our clients are prepared to make the choices that are best for them as they move forward to the next phase of their lives.


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