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What Is Marriage Abandonment and What Are the Consequences?

Young woman calms a crying daughter near a country house, a father carries boxes to his car

It’s a common phrase to hear that somebody “abandoned the marriage.” But what does this term really mean? Does it have any particular legal significance, or is it just an expression people use? As it turns out, marriage abandonment is “a thing,” and it can have significant legal consequences in a divorce or custody dispute. Read on to learn more about marriage abandonment in California, and contact Blasser Law in Claremont for help with divorce and other family law matters in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

Defining Marriage Abandonment in California

Marriage abandonment, also known as spousal abandonment, refers to the act of one spouse intentionally leaving the marital home without the consent of the other spouse, with the intent to end the marriage. According to California family law, for abandonment to be considered, the leaving spouse must have no intention of returning and must remain absent for a prolonged period. This period typically extends for more than one year, but the specifics can vary.

How Does Marriage Abandonment Impact Divorce Proceedings?

As the first state in the nation to embrace the concept of no-fault divorce, abandonment has not been a ground for divorce in California for many years. In a no-fault divorce, either party can file for divorce without having to establish wrongdoing by the other spouse, such as abandonment. However, abandonment can still influence many critical issues in the divorce, including child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), and the division of marital property.

Child Custody

A spouse who abandons the marriage, and therefore the children and the family home, might be seen as a less responsible parent. This fact could therefore influence the court’s decision when it comes to child custody arrangements. However, every case is unique, and abandonment would be only one of several factors to consider in deciding what form of custody would be in the child’s best interests.

Child Support

It’s important to know that both parents are legally obligated to support their children financially, and California’s Penal Code makes it a crime for a parent to abandon a child and willfully omit to furnish their basic necessities. This provision applies to parents regardless if they are married, divorced or were never married to begin with.


If the abandonment has led to financial hardship for the spouse who was left behind, the court may consider this when determining alimony. Although California law primarily focuses on the earning capacities and needs of both parties when deciding on spousal support, if one spouse abandons the other, leaving them in dire economic straits, the court is likely to order the abandoning spouse to provide support.

Property Division

Since California is a community property state, each spouse is said to have an equal, undivided interest in all marital property (and debt). The aim of the court in a divorce, then, is to divide marital property 50/50 between the spouses. However, in the case of abandonment, a spouse might be said to have sacrificed their share of the marital property; the court could award some or all of their share of the marital property to the other spouse, or saddle them with a larger portion of marital debt.

Legal Remedies for Marriage Abandonment

If you find yourself facing marriage abandonment, it is essential to consult an experienced divorce and family law attorney to explore your options. Legal remedies may include:

  1. Petition for Divorce: You could initiate a divorce proceeding, which, when finalized, will divide marital assets and set child custody, if applicable.
  2. Spousal Support: If abandonment has caused financial hardship, you may petition the court for temporary spousal support during the divorce proceedings.
  3. Child Support: If you are the custodial parent, you may seek child support from the abandoning spouse.
  4. Restitution of Conjugal Rights: This is a less common approach where the court orders the abandoning spouse to return, but it is rarely enforced due to its controversial nature.

Call Blasser Law for Help With Divorce and Family Law Matters in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley

Understanding marriage abandonment and its consequences in the context of California family law is crucial for anyone considering or going through a divorce. While abandonment might not impact the granting of a divorce, it could greatly impact vital issues like child custody and support, alimony, and the division of marital property. For personalized guidance through the complexities of divorce and family law issues in California, call Blasser Law in Claremont at 877-927-2181.

Blasser Law

445 West Foothill Blvd., Suite 108
Claremont, CA 91711




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