What Is Spousal Abandonment?

Patricia TichenorLegal

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Spousal abandonment occurs when a spouse severs ties with their family and fails to fulfill their financial responsibilities and other spousal duties. Historically, in Virginia divorce cases, the term abandonment is used to specifically describe the financial neglect of a partner.

Here’s an overview of what spousal abandonment is from a legal perspective, how abandonment can be used as grounds for divorce, and how a professional legal coach can help you navigate a divorce based on spousal abandonment in Virginia.

What does Virginia consider ‘spousal abandonment’?

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if one spouse willfully cuts off financial support or contact with the other and, in essence, financially “abandons” the marital home, the court considers it as spousal abandonment.

In order to prove your spouse has abandoned you, you must provide viable evidence to the court. Evidence of spousal abandonment include email correspondence, bank statements, instant messages/text messages, or letters that demonstrate financial desertion during a specific time period. Additionally, you’ll need to show proof that you, as the abandoned spouse, did not provide cause for your spouse to leave through acts like abuse or adultery.

Is spousal abandonment grounds for a divorce?

A “fault-based” divorce is one that is requested on the grounds that one spouse has committed wrongdoing or harm within the existing marriage. Abandonment is accepted in the courts as an acceptable fault-based reason to end a couple’s marriage.

The requirements for a fault-based divorce on the grounds of financial abandonment are to present the evidence of abandonment or financial neglect including but not limited to any written proof of not paying bills, copies of household or medical dues, child expenses, and any other financial responsibilities to the other spouse.

How does spousal abandonment affect children and alimony?

When it comes to child custody in cases of abandonment, the courts typically favor the spouse who was abandoned or left to take care of the children alone. Most of the time, couples who are going through a divorce are able to attend court hearings in order to come to a settlement agreement regarding child custody.

However, in the unique circumstances of abandonment, these kinds of negotiations are often difficult, especially if the spouse who abandoned the marital home has cut off contact. Especially in cases involving children under the age of 18, the courts will choose the circumstance that suits the best interest of the minors affected.

In terms of dividing up property or distributing alimony between two divorcing parties, the court will make a final decision on a case-by-case basis by thoroughly investigating the circumstances of both spouses before coming to a designated decision.

For instance, a judge might scope the behaviors and prior relationships of each spouse and aim to achieve what they deem most fair in the end. This means if one partner has financially abandoned the other, the court may find it equitable to afford them rights to the majority of the property once owned by the two of them. When dictating alimony, judges may look at both spouses’ past conduct to determine what is sensible. If one spouse, for example, spent money gambling or feeding an addiction, the courts will take that into consideration.

If you’re a Virginia resident who needs assistance navigating spousal abandonment, turn to My Legal Case Coach for legal case form packets and 1:1 virtual coaching services. We can help educate and prepare you to take your next step in representing yourself in a divorce case. Schedule a free consultation at mylegalcasecoach.com/15.