Article was last updated: Sept. 5th, 2023
It’s sad, but abandonment is not uncommon in marriages. Abandoned spouses must deal with the financial, legal, and emotional consequences of spousal abandonment. Those consequences are numerous, but good legal help for abandoned spouses is available here in the Roanoke area.
How does the state of Virginia legally define marital abandonment? If you move out of the marital residence, for example, does that constitute spousal abandonment? What are an abandoned spouse’s rights?
Keep reading, and you’ll learn the basics about abandonment, divorce, and your rights in this state. But if you’ve actually been abandoned, or if you are the spouse who abandoned a marriage, you need the personalized advice that an experienced Roanoke divorce attorney will provide.
DOES MOVING OUT CONSTITUTE SPOUSAL ABANDONMENT?
By itself, moving away from the marital residence – separating, whether temporarily or permanently – does not constitute abandonment. But if a spouse becomes difficult to contact and provides no support, the other spouse has probably been abandoned.
This is not the way divorces usually happen, but spousal abandonment seems to be on the rise.
In Virginia, willful abandonment can have harsh consequences for the spouse who abandoned the marriage. A judge may give the abandoned spouse an advantage when it comes time to determine alimony and (if the partners are parents) to determine child custody.
If you’re planning a separation, you should speak to an experienced Virginia family law attorney about your rights and your legal status if you move away from the marital residence. And if you are thinking about abandoning your spouse, you really must talk to a divorce lawyer first.
HOW CAN YOU PROVE THAT YOUR SPOUSE HAS ABANDONED YOU?
Under Virginia law, abandonment and desertion mean the same thing. When a marriage is failing, spousal abandonment usually means that a divorce is imminent. For a judge in Virginia to declare that you are legally an “abandoned” spouse, you and your criminal defense attorney must prove:
- The abandoning spouse stopped living with the other spouse;
- The abondoning spouse intnded to desert the other spouse;
- The abandoned spouse was not at fault in any way that justified abandonment.
WHAT CONSTITUTES “CONSTRUCTIVE” ABANDONMENT IN VIRGINIA?
Virginia is one of several states that permit “at-fault” divorce based on a spouse’s conduct. The grounds for an at-fault divorce in this state include:
- cruelty, willful desertion, or abandonment;
- a sentence for a felony conviction that includes incarceration;
It is important to remember that not all spousal absences constitute abandonment and that “constructive abandonment” can be legally established even if your spouse has not or will not leave the residence but – for all practical purposes – has already abandoned the marriage.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK WITH A ROANOKE-AREA DIVORCE LAWYER?
If you are convinced that your spouse has abandoned your marriage, or if you are persuaded that you are a victim of constructive abandonment, it is imperative for you to schedule a consultation immediately with an experienced Roanoke divorce attorney.
Under Virginia law, when a spouse’s behavior has been cruel or abusive in a way that forces the other spouse to move out of the home, a court may determine that the cruel spouse is the party guilty of constructive abandonment, even if that spouse stays in the residence.
If your spouse has “constructively” abandoned your marriage, it can justify your own move from the marital residence in the eyes of the court. Discuss the details with a good divorce lawyer so that you fully understand your rights and your legal status if you leave the marital residence.
WHAT’S REQUIRED FOR A DIVORCE BASED ON ABANDONMENT?
In Virginia, the grounds (such as abandonment) for an at-fault divorce must be supported by evidence, so an abandoned spouse who is seeking a divorce will need to save, copy, and securely store any notes, emails, or other correspondence that refers to the abandonment.
How long does it take in Virginia to obtain a divorce based on separation, abandonment, or constructive abandonment?
When the grounds for divorce are abandonment or cruelty, spouses must live separately and apart for at least one year, or six months if they are able to enter into a Post Nuptial Agreeement. For divorces involving minor children, the spouses must live separately and apart for one year .
SHOULD YOU SPEAK WITH A COUNSELOR?
While a reliable divorce lawyer can help with the legal side of abandonment, some abandoned spouses may benefit from speaking to a counselor about the emotional impact of marital abandonment.
For too many people, the genuine emotional pain of spousal abandonment can be shattering and overwhelming.
Don’t let yourself obsess about being abandoned or getting back with your spouse. Good counselors are all over the greater Roanoke area in the public as well as the private sector, and many counselors will work out a payment arrangement based on your ability to pay.
IS NOW THE TIME FOR DIVORCE?
If you abandon a marriage partner or if you have been abandoned, this may be the time to file divorce papers. Especially if both spouses are persuaded that the marriage cannot improve, now is probably the time for a divorce.
Abandonment is a clear signal that the marriage is failing and that the spouses are ready for a different future – apart. You probably have not done anything wrong. Every year, thousands of others in Virginia find themselves in the same circumstances that you are in.
Marital abandonment, separation, and divorce are almost always extremely difficult legal and emotional situations. In any of these circumstances, you must be advised and represented by an attorney who is sensitive to your emotions but aggressive while defending your interests.
DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO HAVE AN ATTORNEY?
While Virginia does not require a divorcing spouse to hire a divorce lawyer, if you act as your own attorney, you must adhere to the court’s rules, standards, and procedures, and you’ll get no special treatment.
Instead of representing yourself, have the sound advice, the guidance and insights, and the range of resources that an experienced Virginia divorce lawyer can bring to your case. You’ll need that help to file divorce papers or as soon as you’re served divorce papers – and earlier if possible.
Every divorcing spouse has the right to a good attorney’s help. Your final divorce settlement will determine a great deal about your future. If your spouse has abandoned you, constructively or literally, arrange to meet at once with a divorce attorney in the Roanoke area. That is your right.