There are many reasons a couple may choose to end a marriage, and abandonment divorce is among them. When a spouse goes missing and leaves the marriage without any communication and becomes impossible to contact, that can constitute marital abandonment. The abandoned spouse often faces confusion about why their spouse left them, but they may also face financial hardship from the desertion.
If your spouse has left your marital home, you may have grounds for divorce in Virginia. This guide will help you understand how spousal abandonment cases are handled in VA, including what happens next and when it’s time to reach out to a lawyer for help.
What Is Willful Abandonment?
Willful abandonment happens when one spouse deserts a marriage without notice and without any communication for a significant period of time. This often happens alongside depletion of bank accounts and packing of personal items, but may not always mean the abandoning spouse has left the marital home.
Here’s what you need to know:
- You may have grounds for divorce if your spouse has decided to leave you and possibly your minor children.
- Someone who deliberately removes themselves from the marriage and becomes hard to contact has committed willful desertion.
- Such desertion is a fault ground in Virginia.
- You must prove that the abandoning spouse has left the relationship for a specific length of time, usually one year.
Marital abandonment generally involves one spouse having the intention to end the marriage by simply ceasing communication. The abandoned spouse is then often left with anger, frustration, and distress, and may have concerns over how they will cover their mortgage and other bills.
Grounds for Fault-Based Divorce in Virginia
Virginia is a hybrid divorce state, which means you can file for a fault or no-fault divorce. There are important factors to keep in mind, especially if you are considering finalizing the process following a marital abandonment:
- A no-fault divorce means no one person is responsible for the failure of the marriage.
- A fault-based divorce allows you to allege that your spouse is at fault for the failure, however, and that includes constructive abandonment.
- When you have grounds for a fault-based separation, you can proceed with a dissolution of marriage action even if your spouse does not want to do so.
- You may not know where your spouse is if they leave the marital home, so a fault-based divorce can help you escape the situation.
Working with a law firm that specializes in divorce or in Virginia can help you show the court that the issues you’re facing with bills and other costs result from your partner leaving the marriage. Partnering with a family law expert will also allow you a better chance of getting temporary or permanent financial support, full child custody, and retaining some semblance of your regular life after abandonment.
What Happens After an Abandonment?
Once you have decided to file for a fault divorce or divorce by publication you may have uncertainty about what comes next. Your first step should be to hire a Virginia-based lawyer to guide you through the divorce process and help you terminate your relationship with your spouse. The following components will be much easier to navigate with the support and guidance of a divorce attorney:
Couples who have minors from the relationship may experience a divorce case that is naturally more emotional. Kids may not understand what is happening, and may not want to leave the family home. While you may be upset with your spouse, your children may miss their other parent and not fully appreciate the abandonment. This can make it difficult for a person who is working hard to make sure their children are cared for in a difficult situation.
As the sole caretaker, the remaining parent is often faced with financial and other challenges that they may need help to overcome. You have grounds to petition for child support and sole custody of your children to establish a new sense of stability after an abandoning spouse has left, for example.
2. Marital Property
Property is split up between spouses during divorce proceedings, and the process typically involves each agreeing to the distribution of certain items or the court intervening to establish equitable distribution. In a spousal abandonment case, one person may not be able to discuss with the other party about the proper distribution of property and assets.
If your spouse took property when they deserted the marriage, your lawyer can use that evidence to show the court that you deserve more in this situation. Items your spouse may have taken include:
- A car
- Family heirlooms
- Cash or credit cards
- High-value items
You may be able to retain the marital house, remaining assets, and other property to help overcome the financial burden caused by the desertion. This can cover the losses you experience from the items your spouse took with them, and your divorce lawyer can help you determine the value of those items. The court will look at this evidence and use it to determine the marital property you keep.
3. Legal Charges
Courts look poorly on the action when your spouse abandons the marriage, and there are thus consequences for the abandoning spouse. Divorce lawyers can use the charge of willful abandonment to increase your spousal support, argue for your child custody rights, and even terminate parental rights for the other party. Remember:
- By charging willful desertion or abandonment as a ground for divorce, you give yourself more support in your spousal abandonment case.
- You can make the case that your spouse has harmed your family by their actions, which can help you keep certain assets like the marital home.
- This can give your children a sense of consistency, even though their parents are no longer married. That is extremely important for them during this emotional time.
No one wants to experience an unhappy separation, let alone marital abandonment. Knowing the consequences and your rights in a desertion divorce case will support your claim. It’s important to consult with a lawyer to receive the best outcome for you in this situation, including considering a divorce by publication.
Speak with a Trusted Divorce Lawyer Today
An experienced Virginia divorce lawyer can help you prove that your partner committed spousal abandonment, which may mean you can retain more of your marital assets. This could create more security for you and your finances, plus give your children a sense of normalcy at a very difficult time.
Going through a divorce can be one of the most challenging events of your life. It’s important to remember that you do not have to battle the legal proceedings on your own. Contact us today to speak with a trusted and compassionate Virginia divorce lawyer about your willful abandonment-related divorce or any other family law questions you might have.