What is Considered Abandonment in a Marriage in Virginia?

What is Considered Abandonment in a Marriage in Virginia?

Virginia is one of the states that still allow at-fault divorces. This means that a spouse can file for divorce based on certain grounds caused by the other spouse’s misconduct. One of these grounds is abandonment. 

The state defines marital abandonment or willful desertion as the act of knowingly breaking off the marriage by leaving the marital home. The act itself of leaving the marital residence doesn’t constitute abandonment. At the same time, a spouse may commit abandonment even without moving away from the marital home.

Virginia citizens are going through a divorce should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer to protect themselves and their family. 

What Constitutes Abandonment in a Marriage Virginia?

As mentioned above, the act of leaving the marital home doesn’t necessarily constitute abandonment. Not all absences are considered abandonment. It’s also not synonymous with a separation, permanent or otherwise. 

For the act to be considered abandonment, the following elements must hold true:

  • The spouse left without the consent of the other party
  • The spouse was not justified in abandoning the other spouse
  • The spouse intended to end the marriage

When the spouse provides no support or is hard to contact, the court may also consider this as abandonment. In such cases, the spouse is considered to have abandoned his marital duties to an extent where continuing the marriage is no longer possible. 

Physical or mental cruelty also constitutes constructive abandonment. This means that due to the spouse’s misconduct, the other party is forced to leave the marital home and unable to stay in the marriage.

How Do You Prove Spousal Abandonment in Virginia?

Before a divorce based on abandonment can be granted, the petitioner-spouse must provide ample evidence to support their claims. Some examples of evidence that may be presented in court are the following:

  • Emails, text messages, letters, or other forms of correspondence referring to the abandonment
  • Proof that the spouses lived separately for at least 1 year, or 6 months if they have a postnuptial agreement. If they have minor children, the required separation term must be 1 year.
  • Proof that the deserting spouse did not meet their financial obligations during the specified period
  • Proof that the petitioner, or the deserted spouse, was not responsible for the deserting spouse’s abandonment, as cases involving abuse or adultery

What Qualifies Spousal Abandonment in Virginia?

Here are some of the different types of spousal abandonment:

  • Willful Desertion or Abandonment: The spouse breaks off marital cohabitation with the intent of deserting the marriage.
  • Criminal Abandonment: This happens when the spouse stops providing support for their minor children or the petitioner who’s suffering from health problems without a just or reasonable cause
  • Constructive Abandonment: As previously explained, constructive abandonment happens when the spouse has made the conditions inside the marital home intolerable. Examples of this include domestic abuse, chronic substance addiction, or adultery. Essentially, constructive abandonment happens when the petitioner was forced to leave the home because of their spouse’s misconduct.

Find an Experienced Divorce Attorney

If you’re convinced that your spouse has deserted your marriage, talk to a qualified and experienced divorce attorney immediately. The choices you make now can significantly impact your future.

Our team of experienced lawyers will help you. We’ll help you understand your options and protect your rights and interests. Give us a call at (757) 656-1000 or email us to schedule a fully confidential consultation.