Legal and Financial Implications of Marital Abandonment in Divorce in NJ

Find Out with Our Experienced Divorce Lawyers the Possible Aftermath of Abandonment in Monmouth and Ocean County, New Jersey

Myths and Truths About Abandonment and Divorce in Middletown NJYou arrive home to find your spouse and most of their belongings gone.  There was no warning, no explanation, nothing.  They have blocked you on social media and aren’t answering their phone calls.  All that is left is a post-it note on the bedding that reads, ” It’s over.”  You won’t know it for a few months, but your spouse abandoned you with no intentions of returning.

In New Jersey, abandonment and desertion of marriage are synonymous and refer to one spouse leaving the home, refusing to return without any logical reason.  Abandonment is one of the grounds for divorce, which means the spouse who is abandoning the relationship can be considered “at fault” and may be in a less advantageous spot during the divorce settlement.  If the other spouse can prove abandonment, they can receive alimony, child support, and other benefits.

Examples to Illustrate What Abandonment Means in NJ

After 12 years and 5 children, Kenneth and Krista have hit a rough patch.  They work too many hours in the emergency room where they met in 2011 and simply aren’t connecting anymore.  Krista is miserable at home and wants to escape, so she packs up what she can while Kenneth and the kids are at the movies and leaves without saying goodbye.  She returns 6 months later to process the divorce settlement and child support issues, all of which she does through her attorney to avoid talking with her husband.

Rita and Richard have been married for four tumultuous years.  It seems like just as soon as they have smoothed things over, another fight bubbles to the surface.  Rita has had it, and after their latest row, she throws Richard’s things on the lawn and has the locks changed.  Richard cannot enter the house, and Rita abandons the relationship.

Actions That Constitute Abandonment or Desertion

There are several components for a relationship to be qualified as abandoned.  The first is when the spouse has not resided in the family home for 12 continuous months without justification.  If the relationship is reconciled, for however brief a time, the clock starts again when the spouse leaves.  If you didn’t consent to the abandonment and your behavior or actions didn’t contribute to it, your claim of abandonment is valid.  If you or your children don’t receive any financial assistance from the spouse who left the home, you can claim abandonment. Also, if there is no intent of reconciliation, that can be considered abandonment.

Clearing Up Misconceptions About Abandonment

Many people believe that abandonment and separation are the same thing.  The spouses agree upon separation, but abandonment is one-sided.  If a spouse gets a promotion and must move to a different city, but their husband or wife refuses to go with them, the spouse who got the promotion isn’t abandoning the other; they are relocating to change jobs.

Others believe that a spouse who abandons the relationship is not required to pay spousal or child support.  The abandoned spouse is by no means necessary to take on all of the economic responsibilities of the home due to abandonment.  Leaving the family high and dry doesn’t absolve you from having to pay support.

By moving out, I am abandoning my spouse and children. Nothing could be further from the truth.  As long as the household is still supported economically, your spouse cannot claim abandonment.

Breaking Down the Different Types of Abandonment

Other than an unjustified exit from the marital home, there are different types of abandonment.  The first is constructive abandonment which gives the spouse a justifiable reason to separate from their spouse.  Making the living environment too stressful to share may cause the affected partner to move out precipitously.  Examples include playing loud music throughout the night, letting the air out of the spouse’s car tires, hiding or breaking their cell phone, etc.  If these behaviors can be proven, the harassing spouse may be considered at fault for the marriage’s destruction.  A lockout is another type of abandonment, and it occurs when one spouse locks the other out of the home by having the locks changed without the other’s consent.  Lastly, criminal abandonment occurs when the abandoned person relies on the deserter for physical or financial help.  Those who stop paying child support or act as a caregiver to a spouse or other family member can be charged with criminal abandonment.

Are there Financial Consequences For a Spouse Accused of Abandonment or Desertion?

Judges usually don’t give all of the assets to the abandoned spouse.  A spouse does not lose property rights when leaving the family home.  They have to go through a procedure asking questions about the abandoned spouse’s future earnings potential and education to analyze their ability to support themselves.  However, judges frequently give the abandoned spouse a more significant portion of the marital assets.

Detrimental Effects of Abandonment on Child Custody in NJ

Contrary to property division, child custody can be significantly affected by abandonment.  As always, the judge’s decisions about the legal and physical custody of the children will be made by keeping their best interests at the forefront of the process. Custody decisions aren’t used as a punishment. Still, if one parent comes and goes with little communication with the court or the co-parent, it doesn’t instill much confidence in their responsibility and willingness to parent. The court usually seeks flexibility when attempting to create a parenting plan allowing the children to have a healthy relationship with both parents.

Circumstantial Exceptions in Some Abandonment Cases

Learn the Different Implications of Abandonment in a NJ DivorceSometimes some instances cause a couple to get a divorce that is not because of abandonment, even though separation is physical.  Threats of violence, domestic abuse, neglect, or unsafe living conditions that lead a spouse and children to leave the marital home would not be a case of abandonment.  Situations involving protective orders, restraining orders, or emergency child custody are not considered abandonment.

What Are Some Potential Defenses for Cases Involving Marital Abandonment in NJ?

If your spouse willfully withholds physical contact and endangers your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, moving out is not abandonment but self-preservation, also known as constructive desertion.  If you and your spouse reconciled temporarily after a 6-month separation but packed and left again without saying anything, another 12 months must pass before they can file for divorce based on abandonment.

If You are Facing Divorce Issues Due to Abandonment in Brick NJ, Our Family Lawyers are Here to Help

Divorce is painful and complex, even under the best of circumstances.  Abandonment, child custody and support, alimony, and equitable distribution of your family’s assets can seem insurmountable.  But you needn’t do it alone.  The attorneys at Bronzino Law work zealously to protect our client’s rights.  We know the decisions you must make aren’t easy, so we will be with you every step of the way.

The divorce process needn’t be litigious and venomous.  As a matter of fact, we do everything in our power to resolve matters through negotiation, but we will skillfully litigate your case if and when necessary.  Our goal is to give you the divorce you need to move on to an exciting future in Holmdel, Stafford, Middletown, Tinton Falls, Woodbridge, Eatontown, Wall, Rumson, and other Monmouth and Ocean County communities.

If you are ready to take a step forward, please call us at (732) 812-3102 or contact us online for your confidential consultation.