A Quick Guide to Marital Abandonment and No-Fault Divorce Laws

Woman sitting on stair way, man descending lower level
Graeme Montgomery/Stone/Getty Images

The legal definition of abandonment is, “The act by which a person abandons and forsakes, without justification, a condition of public, social, or family life, renouncing its responsibilities and evading its duties.”

Quit is not a word you will find in a legal dictionary but it properly describes what happens in the case of marital abandonment. When one spouse “quits” doing what is expected of him/her to the detriment of the other spouse there is marital abandonment.

There are two types of marital abandonment. 

Criminal Abandonment

Criminal Abandonment occurs when one spouse stops providing for the care, protection or support of the other spouse who has health problems or minor children without “just cause.”

If you have a spouse who suffers from cancer and you’ve become tired of being a caretaker the court will not recognize your desire to leave someone who is dependent upon you as grounds for a divorce. You will be granted a divorce. No-fault divorce laws are in place to make sure anyone who wants a divorce is able to get a divorce.

You will, however, pay for your desire to no longer be your sick spouse’s caretaker. You are free to walk away from a sick spouse but the courts will view that spouse financially dependent upon you and will hold you financially responsible for helping maintain the care needed via a court order.

Also, if you have a wife and children, you are not free to walk away and discontinue helping your wife support your children.

According to the law, you have a legal, financial responsibility to care for and provide for your children.

This is another case in which the court will step in and order the children be supported. 

Constructive Abandonment

If your spouse makes life unbearable and you can prove to the court that your only option was to leave the marriage this is constructive abandonment.

A spouse would have “just cause” to leave the marriage for any of the following reasons as long as they are able to prove it in court.

Domestic Abuse

Infidelity

Withholding Sex

Refusing Financial Support

We live in a time when divorce is easy to get. Marital Abandonment can be hard to prove and the courts, except in severe cases are going to view abandonment as legally immaterial. In other words, since you can get a divorce with or without your spouse's permission filing on the grounds of abandonment doesn't hold much legal water these days. 

In other words, the courts will not force a man or woman to stay in a marriage. The one who abandons the marriage will not be forced to return but he/she will be held financially responsible for things such as child support, spousal support, and property division via a divorce court order.