Legal Guide

Abandonment, Desertion, and Separation in Divorce

When a married couple experiences irreconcilable differences, they often don’t find the need to live together. A permanent solution for such couples is getting a divorce. But before a couple reaches the divorce stage, they often live separately. 

Separation, abandonment, and desertion are sometimes used interchangeably to mean a couple no longer lives in one home. But the terms mean different things. 

Abandonment, Desertion, And Separation

Abandonment and desertion occur when one party in a relationship chooses to walk away from their home without telling their spouse their whereabouts. This walking away is also accompanied by a neglect of the person’s responsibilities to their family. 

Abandonment can start with one spouse failing to come home for a day or two and progresses until it becomes full-blown desertion. Sometimes, it can happen out of the blue to catch the other party unaware. If the couple is undergoing a divorce and lives in a state with provisions for a fault divorce, the deserted party can use the dissertation as a reason for filing their divorce.

“All cases of a person living away from their spouse and family do not amount to dissertation or abandonment,” says lawyer Matt Towson of the Towson Law Firm. Sometimes, a couple will decide to live separately to see if the idea of living apart from each other will work for them. This kind of arrangement is referred to as separation. It differs from abandonment in that it results from a mutual agreement between the couple.

Exemptions To Dissertation

For a case of leaving to be ruled as abandonment or dissertation, the deserting partner must have left their spouse or family for no less than one year. You cannot file dissertation charges if a spouse has only been away for six months. 

Cases where a spouse leaves and cannot be viewed as a deserter are when they continue playing their role in providing for their family’s upkeep. A person can not be said to have deserted if their reason for leaving was due to advice from their lawyer as the feuding parties await the completion of a legal separation. 

Another circumstance where a person may not face desertion charges would be where the deserting party may have been a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of their spouse. Abandonment may be worth considering if you are in a situation where you feel threatened because you do not want to tell a person who could harm you where you live. 

Abandonment And Child Custody

Before filing an abandonment charge, it’s important to consider its impact on child custody. If the custody of a child is contested, the spouse guilty of desertion will have slim chances of getting legal custody. Often, the court will look at the act of desertion as a display of irresponsibility on the part of the guilty party, creating grounds for denying custody. 

However, not all cases of spousal abandonment amount to child abandonment, although they co-occur most of the time. If the party that left is not guilty of child abandonment, the court may consider them for child custody. 

Once the court makes a ruling on child custody, the other party will be required to pay child support to the spouse who gets custody until the child reaches 18 or graduates high school. 

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