Divorce is a challenging and emotionally difficult process, and it can become even more complicated when abandonment issues come into play. In New Jersey, abandonment is one of the grounds for divorce, meaning that it can be cited as a reason for the dissolution of a marriage.
However, proving abandonment in a New Jersey divorce case can be complex, necessitating a thorough understanding of relevant legal requirements and guidelines. In this article, we will explore the concept of abandonment in New Jersey divorce law, examining how it is defined, what constitutes abandonment, and the implications it can have for individuals seeking a divorce.
What Is Abandonment?
Abandonment, also known as “desertion,” is a legal term that refers to one spouse leaving the marital home and refusing to return without any viable justification. In New Jersey, abandonment is considered a fault-based ground for divorce. This means that an abandoning spouse can be considered “at fault” for the marriage breakdown, often creating a disadvantage for them during legal proceedings. Usually, when an abandoned spouse can prove that their partner unreasonably deserted them, they will be entitled to receive alimony, child support, and other benefits.
3 Types of Abandonment
In many cases, circumstances and contributing factors in a divorce are not so straightforward. While abandonment most often refers to desertion, wherein a willful, unjustified exit of one spouse from the marital home occurs, several other types of abandonment are acknowledged by New Jersey divorce law.
- Constructive abandonment.
This is a type of abandonment where there is a justifiable reason for a spouse to leave the marital home. If one spouse creates intolerable conditions inside the home, their partner may leave out of a sense of self-preservation. This can be regarding physical safety, as in cases of domestic abuse, or emotional well-being, as in cases of emotional and psychological abuse. If a spouse can prove in a divorce case that their departure had a justifiable reason, the other party may be considered fault based for causing the marriage breakdown.
In divorce cases, lockout abandonment occurs when one spouse changes the locks on the marital home, preventing the other spouse from entering and living there. In these cases, a spouse locked out can be justified for leaving, as they are given no choice. This type of abandonment can be cited by the spouse being forced to abandon the home, but they must wait 12 months before filing for divorce.
- Criminal abandonment.
Sometimes, a case of abandonment can be considered a criminal act. This usually happens when abandoned people are physically or financially dependent upon the deserter. Individuals who leave home and stop providing financial support for their children, or abandon a spouse or other family member that relies upon the deserter as a caregiver, may be charged with criminal abandonment. If criminal abandonment can be proven in a divorce, this can also significantly impact settlements and outcomes of the case.
Requirements for Abandonment In A New Jersey Divorce Case
Cases of abandonment in New Jersey divorce law can be complex and multi-faceted. Determining who is at fault in an abandonment divorce case will depend on each side’s ability to prove how and why an abandonment occurred. To establish fault-based abandonment in New Jersey, the following conditions must be demonstrated:
- Spouses must have lived apart for one year.
Firstly, it must be proven that the abandonment has lasted a minimum of twelve months. This timeframe must cover an unbroken period, meaning that if, at any point, the spouses resume living together again, the clock is reset.
- The separation was non-consensual.
Secondly, it must be proven that the abandoned spouse did not consent to the separation. If both parties agree to live apart, the arrangement is two-sided and cannot be considered abandonment.
- The abandoned spouse did not initiate the separation.
Thirdly, it must be proven that the spouse claiming abandonment did not in any way coerce, threaten, or pressure their partner to leave. On the other hand, if a spouse leaves of their own free will without justification, this can be considered at-fault abandonment.
- The deserting spouse did not provide support.
Lastly, abandonment can only be established if the deserting partner did not offer their spouse or children any financial support during their absence. If any support was provided during this time, an absence could not be considered true abandonment.
Request A Consultation With An Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney
Being abandoned in a marriage can be a traumatic experience. Whether you’ve been physically deserted or felt forced to leave for one reason or another, you deserve experienced, compassionate representation in your divorce case. New Jersey Family Law Group is a divorce and family law firm proudly serving all of New Jersey. Founding partners Abigale M. Stolfe and Sonya K. Zeigler have the experience and dedication necessary to help clients navigate the complexities of New Jersey divorce and family law. To set up a case evaluation, call 732-240-9555 today to get started.