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How Does Marital Abandonment Affect Divorce Issues?

Your marriage has been breaking down for months and your spouse packs a bag and leaves. Later, he or she contacts you to let you know that the departure is permanent.

You have no idea where your spouse is and you begin to understand that he or she is never coming back. You have essentially been abandoned.

What next? How do you deal with this situation and how will affect the issues involved in your California divorce?

What does marital abandonment mean in a no-fault divorce state?

Constructive abandonment generally refers to your spouse having willfully abandoned you and failing to fulfill the agreements of marriage. That abandonment can be a physical departure or an emotional or mental departure from the marriage that basically leaves you on your own.

While this may work as a grounds for divorce in other states, it doesn’t work at all in California. Our state is strictly a no-fault divorce state that includes no other grounds except proving that your spouse is mentally insane.

However, this does not mean that spousal abandonment won’t affect certain issues of your divorce.


Abandonment & child custody in a California divorce

While marital abandonment is not a legal ground for divorce in California, it can have an effect on the issue of child custody when there are minor children in the picture.

California Courts Self-Help Glossary page defines abandonment in the following way: “When a parent leaves a child without enough care, supervision, support, or parental contact for an excessive period of time.”

Thus, constructive abandonment as an issue can affect disputes over child custody and visitation that commonly arise in divorce proceedings. A parent who has abandoned a child for an “excessive period of time” is likely to be viewed in a very negative light by a family court judge.

This boils down to the fact that, if you have minor children when your spouse leaves you, a family court judge may wind up awarding you sole custody. Your spouse will also be required to pay child support; that support can be enforced through the courts.

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How to proceed with a divorce as an abandoned spouse

You can proceed with your divorce filing after your spouse has abandoned the family. You will, however, need to try to locate him or her so that the divorce paperwork can be served in person or by mail.

Locating your spouse may be done by contacting his or her co-workers, friends, or relatives. It can also be accomplished with the help of a private investigator who can conduct a professional search, such as through the tracking of banking transactions or through other databases.

If your absent spouse cannot be found so as to be served the paperwork, there is another method for moving forward. The court can order the divorce summons be published in a local or state newspaper. It will need to be published every week for four consecutive weeks.

Once that is accomplished, service of the paperwork will be considered to have been done by the court and the divorce process can go on to the next step.

Cage & Miles Offers You Trusted Legal Representation

If you are facing the prospect of divorce or some other disputed family law issue, Cage & Miles offers outstanding legal help and support at this difficult time. At our firm, we bring years of exclusive family law experience to your case; we are well-versed in California law, how it may relate to your unique situation, and how family court judges view the issues that come before them.

We highly recommend that, due to the huge impact that divorce and its issues can have on your life, you bring your case to a law firm that has proven results.

Contact us at (858) 943-2060 to arrange to discuss your case today.



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