Everyone handles the deterioration of their marriage differently. Some couples try for years to work things out through couples therapy and varying levels of effort on the part of each spouse. Other couples end things quickly—ranging from an amicable to explosively contested separation. Another possible scenario involves a spouse abandoning the other spouse.
To become legally divorced in North Carolina, a couple must be separated for a full year before they can obtain a no-fault divorce. However, just because divorces are no-fault does not mean that marital misconduct is irrelevant. It is important to understand that separation and abandonment are not the same things, and that abandonment can actually have a significant impact on spousal support and child custody awards.
Abandonment and Alimony
A spouse can demonstrate that abandonment occurred when the other spouse has moved out of the home without an intent to return. Further, this act must be without justification or the consent of the other spouse. This justification can be proven when the spouse who leaves cannot continue
Where abandonment plays the greatest significance is when courts award spousal support, or alimony. In making this award, a court can consider a number of different factors, including marital misconduct. Abandonment qualifies as marital misconduct and can result in a higher alimony payment if the spouse who abandons the marriage is also the one who is the “supporting spouse” A supporting spouse is the spouse, whether husband or wife, upon whom the other spouse is actually substantially dependent or from whom such other spouse is substantially in need of maintenance and support.
Child custody decisions are determined based on the best interest of the child. Some factors that the court may consider include the parenting ability of each parents, the history of who has primarily cared for the children, any omissions by a parent that reflect poorly on the parent-child relationship, and the emotional needs of the child. The act of abandoning a spouse and child can certainly play a significant role into any temporary and final orders regarding custody and visitation.
Under North Carolina laws designed to protect families, the act of abandoning a dependent spouse or children is actually a crime if committed by the supporting spouse.
New Direction Family Law
If you are considering separating from your spouse, it is wise to contact an attorney. There is a important line between separation and abandonment that you simply do not want to cross. It is in your financial interest and in your interest as a parent to consult with an attorney and to make fully informed decisions. Contact New Direction Family Law today. Our attorneys are intelligent, dedicated, and effective. We serve Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call us today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or reach us online.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law