A divorce can be an overwhelming life event. You may be particularly focused on making the right moves for yourself and, if you have children, for them. It seems like each step that you take must be calculated and just right – or everything could end tragically. But what should you do if you just want out? In Maryland, a spouse leaving the marital home may be considered abandonment and can affect your rights throughout the divorce.
What is Abandonment?
Abandonment in a marriage is the intentional desertion of one’s spouse by moving out of the marital home. Abandonment is a ground for divorce in Maryland. If a spouse alleges abandonment in their complaint for divorce, they must prove the following to prove their claim:
- The spouse that moves out of the marital home did so with the intent to end the marriage.
- The spouse that deserted the marital home has been out of the marital home for more than twelve months.
- The spouse that left the marital home did so without justification.
- The spouse who remains in the home did not consent to the other spouse leaving the marital home.
- The parties have no hope of reconciliation.
- The parties’ cohabitation has ended.
How Can Abandonment Affect My Divorce Case?
Each state has its own laws on divorce and the division of property. In Maryland, a person seeking a divorce must be careful. There is no clear line where separation becomes an abandonment. A court will weigh the factors stated above to decide if someone abandoned their spouse. Big issues that are affected by a determination of abandonment also include the distribution of marital property and child custody.
Each state has its own laws about how marital property should be divided upon divorce. Maryland is an equitable division state. Equitable division means that the value of all marital property is divided between the parties, and the value that each spouse receives may not be equal. A finding of abandonment will not affect a spouse’s access to their equitable share of the marital property upon divorce in Maryland.
If you and your spouse share children, the court will decide custody of the children. The abandonment of one spouse may influence the court’s decision on primary custody. The court may decide the following after consideration of one spouse’s abandonment of the marriage:
- Parent’s history of abandonment or prior surrender of custody of one or more of the parties’ children.
- How long the parties have been separated.
- Which parent can assist the children in maintaining familial relationships?
- Which parent has acted as the primary caregiver for the children?
Divorce can be complicated and messy. You may want to leave your situation for many reasons like peace of mind or physical safety. Despite the reason, you want to ensure that your rights are protected. If you are considering divorce and are not sure about what your next step should be, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced Maryland divorce attorney.