Every year in Virginia, many people experience the devastation of spousal abandonment. Even if a marriage was on rocky ground for some time, a person is never prepared for the emotional fallout of feeling abandoned—or for the legal path ahead.
Understanding more about spousal abandonment in Virginia and your legal responsibilities can help you prepare for divorce and a new chapter in your life.
What Constitutes Spousal Abandonment?
Virginia law allows for at-fault divorces, meaning that one spouse can file for divorce citing the other spouse’s misconduct. Spousal abandonment also called willful desertion or marital abandonment is grounds for an at-fault divorce.
Under Virginia law, a person commits spousal abandonment by leaving the marital home as an act of knowingly ending the marriage. A spouse who leaves the home because both spouses have decided to separate does not commit abandonment.
Spousal abandonment must meet these specific conditions:
● They stopped living with the other spouse and without the other spouse’s consent
● They intended to desert the other spouse
● The other spouse did nothing to justify their abandonment.
Types of Spousal Abandonment in Virginia
In addition to willful desertion or abandonment, Virginia law has other categories of spousal abandonment.
● Criminal abandonment: The courts also recognize that a person has committed criminal abandonment if they’ve left their spouse without any financial support or a means to contact them. This can apply if the abandoned spouse has health issues or the couple has minor children. In this scenario, the person who left has abandoned their marital duties.
● Constructive abandonment: “Constructive” spousal abandonment occurs when one spouse makes living inside the marital home intolerable due to physical or mental cruelty, adultery, or substance abuse. Under these circumstances, the spouse who moved out of the marital home would not be at fault. Rather, the misconduct of the other spouse forced them to leave.
What Does Virginia Require to File for Divorce Based on Spousal Abandonment?
To file for divorce based on spousal abandonment, the abandoned spouse must provide supporting evidence. This can include:
● Emails, texts, letters, notes, or other correspondence
● Bank statements and financial statements proving that the deserting spouse has not met their financial obligations
● Police reports, medical records, and other information documenting abuse
How Long Does a Divorce in Virginia Based on Spousal Abandonment Take?
If the couple has minor children, spouses seeking a divorce under the grounds of spousal abandonment must live apart and separately for at least one year.
If the couple has no children, they must live separately and apart for at least six months, provided they can enter into a postnuptial agreement.
Questions About Spousal Abandonment? Speak with the DiPietro Law Group Today
If you think that your spouse has abandoned your marriage, or if your spouse’s behavior forced you to leave your marital home, the DiPietro Law Group can help. Their experienced divorce and family law attorneys can help you navigate this difficult time, protect your rights and interests, and answer your questions so that you can move forward. Please contact the DiPietro Law Group today.