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Spousal Abandonment Laws

Concept of divorce and family disintegration. Man with wedding ring sitting in a marital bedroom, close up, cropped image, toned

When someone is unhappy in a marriage, the rational, mature step is to file for divorce. Some people decide, instead, to abdicate their marital responsibilities and simply leave the home with no plans to return. If your spouse has abandoned you, what are your options? What are the legal consequences of their abandonment? Read on to find out. If you have questions about a pending divorce or another family law matter in Southern California, call a dedicated Claremont family law attorney at Blasser Law.

What Is Spousal Abandonment?

Spousal abandonment traditionally refers to when one spouse walks away from a marriage, abandoning their marital duties and responsibilities. Abandonment may involve a spouse simply leaving home and vanishing, ceasing all contact with their spouse and children. In the modern era, vanishing entirely is more challenging, but it can still constitute abandonment when a spouse moves far away with no intention of returning, providing assets or financial support to the family, or otherwise performing their marital or parental duties.

Spousal Abandonment as a Ground for Divorce in California

Abandonment was, historically, a ground for divorce. California now employs a strict no-fault divorce scheme. The only grounds for divorce in California are “irreconcilable differences,” which is the standard ground for no-fault divorce, and permanent legal incapacity to make decisions due to injury, illness, or psychological disorder. Neither ground for divorce requires proving either spouse did anything “wrong.”

Proving abandonment is not necessary for seeking a divorce. In fact, a party cannot cite abandonment as a ground for divorce in California. A spouse seeking divorce must rely on either of the current grounds described above.

Divorcing After Abandonment

If you are seeking divorce after abandonment, you do not need to cite the abandonment as grounds for your petition (nor should you). You can simply file based on irreconcilable differences. You must still go through the normal procedures, including a good-faith attempt to serve your spouse with the divorce papers.

If you cannot locate your spouse in order to serve them with the divorce papers, you might need to go through additional steps to effect legal service, such as publishing a notice of the divorce in a newspaper. Make sure to work with a seasoned divorce attorney to ensure you get the relief you need and avoid any legal pitfalls that could delay or prevent your divorce.

If your spouse cannot be located, or if they are served with the divorce papers and fail to respond, you can obtain a “default judgment.” A default judgment is essentially an automatic win; you’ll get everything you ask for in the divorce petition, so long as nothing you seek violates the law or public policy.

If your spouse does return to contest the divorce, you’ll proceed as normal through a contested divorce. Their abandonment may serve as an argument in your favor with regard to issues such as spousal support, child support, or child custody. If they were wasting marital assets while away, you might even be able to use that fact to justify receiving a greater share of the marital estate. Discuss your case and your best strategies with your attorney to ensure you protect your interests, your assets, and your family.

Abandonment and Child Custody

Although spousal abandonment cannot serve as grounds for divorce, parental abandonment is a very significant issue. If a parent leaves their child without apparent intention to return or otherwise abdicates their parental duties, the child’s other parent or the state can use that abandonment as grounds to strip the abandoner of their parental rights. The custodial parent can seek sole custody of their child or children, or other interested parties can step in to seek guardianship or custody.

Call a savvy California family law attorney at Blasser Law for assistance with a pending divorce or other family law matters including abandonment, child custody, property division, child support, or alimony. The thorough Claremont divorce legal team at Blasser Law is ready to assist clients with any family law concerns in the San Gabriel Valley or Los Angeles County. Contact our family law office at 877-927-2181.

Blasser Law

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




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