Abandonment in marriage is more than the simple act of leaving a spouse. When it comes to spousal abandonment, there are other financial and legal implications that make it different from a regular break up. Divorce is the severing of a relationship, and puts an end to any rights partners had because of their relationship. Spousal abandonment is different because it doesn’t have that legal finality, where each of the parties in the marriage knows the outcome.
What is abandonment in a marriage? Simply put, it is the act of one partner abandoning the other with no intention of going back. With spousal abandonment, the party who leaves cuts off all financial assistance and other support with no good reason. There may be a complete lack of communication and the abandoning spouse may withdraw necessary funds for daily expenses without warning.
You are never allowed to walk away from your family and obligations without a good reason, and there are few reasons compelling enough to be recognized by law. However, a case of spousal abandonment can be defended successfully in some situations. If you have just cause, you are allowed to separate yourself from your partner without warning.
No one is required to stay in a marriage where there is physical or emotional abuse, or where the other spouse is deliberately not fulfilling marital duties, such as conjugal duties or financial support. However, the spouse who leaves will have to prove that the other spouse did in fact do those things, and even just cause for walking away from a bad situation doesn’t excuse the nonoffending spouse from financial or childcare responsibilities. You will still be responsible for any debts you incurred during the marriage and for supporting your children in common.
Emotional Effects of Spousal Abandonment
Spousal Abandonment can take a greater emotional toll than dealing with a death in some ways. You are going along in your life thinking everything is fine and suddenly your spouse is gone. There may have been no signs that anything was wrong, and your life situation is suddenly completely different. Unlike with other situations like a death or a mutual separation, you won’t even know what your first step should be. If your spouse is missing, you may be frightened while you try to work out your options.
With spousal abandonment, you may never get a real sense of closure. Most people go through the stages of grief at the end of a relationship, and your first reaction will probably be disbelief. When your spouse dies, your friends and family will comfort and support you, but they may not know how to help if you are the victim of spousal abandonment.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Your initial grief can turn to depression if untreated, and you may have difficulty making your way back. Talk to a counselor or trusted religious advisor if you need to. Being in a marriage becomes part of your identity and having that identity torn away without explanation is naturally traumatic.
Abandoned Spouse Rights, Including Property Rights
Every state has different rules on how property is divided between married couples, and Arizona is a community property state. Each partner in a marriage is entitled to half of what is owned, including any assets accumulated during the marriage, such as through work. Your rights don’t end if you are abandoned, and the person who walked away will still be legally bound by the community property laws.
Not only will you still be entitled to half the marital estate if your partner abandons you, but you still might also be eligible to receive spousal maintenance or alimony. Abandonment harms the relationship and can cause problems for everyone involved, but it doesn’t significantly change anything about the rights of either party. Unfortunately, having a partner leave without warning could cause someone to be destitute while seeking to straighten out the legal mess.
Criminal Abandonment of Spouse
One of the unique statutes in Arizona makes it possible to charge an abandoning spouse with a crime. If a married person who is able to provide support for his or her spouse deliberately abandons the spouse, leaving that person in a destitute condition, that person can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. A Class A Misdemeanor is the most serious kind and is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, 3 years of probation, and $2,500 in fines. Anyone who considers abandoning a spouse in Arizona will receive punishment through the criminal system.
Abandonment and Child Custody
Most of the time the person abandoning the marriage abandons the children too. All parents have rights to see their children and make important decisions regarding their care, but they often fail to exercise those rights after abandoning the spouse.
There are many cases of parents who are not a big part of their children’s lives, even when there isn’t a case of spousal abandonment. Courts may hesitate to declare a parent an absent parent, partly because children have a right to continue the legal relationship with both parents when possible. The responsibility to continue to financially support the children will continue unless the abandoning spouse’s rights are actually terminated, which is very rare.
Consequences of Marriage Abandonment
Of course, spousal abandonment causes other kinds of harm to all parties involved. By breaking off the relationship in such a way, neither party really finds closure. Even if it seemed like a good idea at the time, you could regret it if you make such a drastic decision. The effect on any children involved will be even worse, as they will have to deal with their own issues of abandonment and self-blame.
Financial Abandonment In Marriage
There are, of course, financial repercussions for anyone abandoning a spouse. You cannot walk away from your obligations, so abandoning your spouse could cause your finances to become entangled with the abandoned spouse. The abandoned spouse may have problems because of the sudden withdrawal of support, and may end up selling a home both parties own in order to make ends meet.
How Spousal Abandonment Affects Divorce
Arizona is like most states in that is has a no-fault state when it comes to divorce, meaning that you don’t have to prove that your spouse did something wrong in order to get a divorce. However, Arizona divorce laws have a strong form of marriage called covenant marriage where there does need to be a reason for terminating the marriage.
Infidelity, a partner committing a felony, and abandonment are some of the reasons you can be granted a divorce if you have a covenant marriage. The only problem is that the separation must be a year long before being officially declared abandonment, so many abandoned spouses still find it easier to file for a no-fault divorce.
What Is Most Important To Keep In Mind?
Sometimes even the strongest marriages fall apart when circumstances change or parties grow apart. Emotions can run high when your relationship ends, and it may seem easier to simply walk away and cut off communication instead of dealing with the fallout.
Spousal abandonment only makes a bad situation worse. There are other options you can take advantage of that will either allow you to finalize your separation or even legally separate to give yourself extra time and space. Before taking drastic action, it is always wise to consult with an experienced attorney.