Depending on your reason for leaving your spouse, your spouse may have grounds to allege abandonment, which is sometimes referred to as desertion. In North Carolina, abandonment is considered an act of marital misconduct.
Abandonment has three distinct elements that must be proven. A spouse is deemed to have abandoned the other when he or she (1) brings their cohabitation to an end without justification; (2) without the consent of the other spouse; and (3) without the intent to renew the cohabitation. Therefore, if you and your spouse do not mutually agree to separate, and you leave your spouse with the intention to end the marital relationship without a lawful excuse, your actions may be considered abandonment.
If you have a lawful excuse to leave your spouse, such as in the event of domestic violence, adultery, alcohol or drug abuse, or other egregious conduct, it is not considered abandonment. The circumstances of each situation are unique. Whether a spouse has justification to separate from the other spouse is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Constructive abandonment may be alleged when a spouse abandons the marital relationship without physically departing from the marital home or ending the parties’ cohabitation, but engages in conduct that provokes or justifies the other spouse to leave the marriage.
North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state so it is not necessary to allege acts of marital misconduct in order to be granted a divorce. Allegations of abandonment or constructive abandonment typically only become an issue if one spouse is asserting claims for post-separation support and/or alimony. A judge may consider acts of marital misconduct on the part of either party in determining whether to award or deny a claim for post-separation support or alimony.
If you have concerns about how abandonment may impact your case, the family law attorneys at Gum, Hillier, and McCroskey, P. A. can help. Our attorneys can provide you with the information you need to understand your options and make informed decisions. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.