What Is Willful Abandonment?

23 January 2020
 Categories: Law, Blog


In states that recognize fault divorce, willful abandonment can be a ground for divorce. Even in states that don't recognize fault divorce, willful abandonment can still influence the divorce process in other ways. Below are some factors that must be present for the charges of willful abandonment to stick.

Physical Relocation

Abandonment only applies when one person physically vacates the marital home. The court will not consider it willful abandonment if your spouse is around, but they are not just giving you the treatment you deserve. For example, it is not willful abandonment if your partner is sleeping on the couch. However, the claim is valid if your partner has moved out of the house into a separate apartment.


For you to prove abandonment, you also need to prove that you did not agree with your partner's actions. For example, it is not abandonment if you have a major row with your partner and you throw them out of the house. It is also not abandonment if you both decide that your marriage is over and decide to go your separate ways.


Willful abandonment is an intentional act. The person who leaves must do so with the intention of abandoning the marriage. Therefore, it is not abandonment if your partner develops Alzheimer's, wanders out of the house, and disappears for a while.

Lack of Involvement

In most cases, the court will only consider your partner to have abandoned you if the partner is no longer involved in your family or marital affairs. This may mean, for example, that your partner does not contribute to the financial needs of the house. It may also mean that your partner does not give you the companionship you desire and deserve. The abandonment won't be so clear-cut if your partner is not around, but visits you from time to time and provides monetary upkeep.


One or two weeks away from home does not mean that your partner has abandoned you, at least as far as the law is concerned. A prolonged withdrawal from the home is necessary to trigger abandonment charges. State laws determine how long your partner has to be away from your home for them to be guilty of willful abandonment. For example, some states will only consider your partner's actions as abandonment if your partner leaves and stays away for at least one year.

Willful abandonment can affect various aspects of a divorce, such as child custody issues. If your partner has abandoned you, consult a divorce lawyer to help you figure out how to handle the abandonment during the divorce.