Marital Abandonment

I never thought it would happen to me. We were so happy or so I thought. Then, one day, he told me that he was leaving the kids and me. I still can’t believe it. It was the worst moment in my life. I’m still struggling to understand why he left without saying anything to me. I kept hoping that he would come back to us but he never did. I later learned that what happened to me was something called marital abandonment and I’m not the only woman who has experienced it.

The story above is fiction but marital or spousal abandonment is a reality for some married women. What is marital abandonment? It is when spouse has walked away from their financial obligations and has left the marriage without communicating with the other spouse and has no intention of coming back. There are different types of marital abandonment.

Criminal Abandonment

This is when one person stops providing for the care, protection, or support for their spouse who has health problems or children who are minors without “just cause.”

Constructive Abandonment

This is when you have to prove in a court that your spouse makes life unbearable and that your only option was to leave the marriage. You must have “just cause” for leaving the marriage for reasons such like domestic abuse, infidelity, withholding sex, or refusing financial support.

Emotional Abandonment

This is when is when one spouse completely disregards the feelings of the other.

Abandonment or desertion are fault grounds for divorce, so if you live in a pure no-fault state, you can’t use your spouse’s desertion as a reason for the divorce. And since you can can get a divorce with or without your spouse’s permission in no-fault states, filing on the grounds of abandonment wouldn’t get you anywhere. Some states do allow the spouse who is filing for to use a voluntary separation as a reason for a no-fault divorce. If your spouse abandoned or deserted you, you will need to state the specific facts surrounding the abandonment, including how long ago your spouse left. Some states require a period of time to pass after abandonment before you can file. 

It is important to note that the spouse who abandoned the marriage cannot be forced to return but will be held financially responsible for child support, spousal support, and property division through a divorce court order.

Ordinarily, the breakup of a marriage is tough but when a spouse is faced with marital abandonment, it can be harrowing and the person is left wondering where they or the marriage had gone wrong. What did they do or didn’t do to cause their spouse to leave them? These are questions that the abandoned spouse will ask and can’t answer because often with spousal abandonment there isn’t any outward sign that one of the spouses is frustrated or is considering leaving the marriage. Then, one day, out of the blue, one spouse just leaves. That is what happened to this woman who contacted Midlife Divorce Recovery and shared her story. “I went to visit my parents in another state and when I came home, he had taken all of his stuff and left a note saying he wouldn’t be back. I have no idea where he is. I have received no help with the bills. They are going to foreclose on our house. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I am a stay-at-home mom with three kids. I am so scared!

Poor woman. She was completely blindsided. I can just imagine the kids asking her all sorts of questions such as, “Where’s Daddy?” “Why did he leave?” “Is he ever going to come back?” “Did he leave because he doesn’t love us anymore?” Did they wonder if it was their fault why he left? Perhaps, she asked herself these and other questions too. Why did he leave? Was he unhappy? Did he want out of the marriage? Was there another woman? Were there signs but she just didn’t see them? I wonder if she ever found out why he left.

What do you do when your spouse abandons you? The Health Site offers these tips:

Don’t blame yourself. If there is anything you need to do right now, it is to understand your worth. It was not your fault even if they claim so. You have given everything to the relationship and if your spouse has not valued it, it is their loss. So be confident about yourself and don t get in the self-pity mode.

You can write a list of your qualities and why people around you are so fond of you. Put this note as your wallpaper or screen saver to keep motivating yourself. Read: How losing sleep over divorce might kill you.

Don’t let your life stop here. It is easy to drown yourself in the sorrow. Take time and just vent it all out but keep a target. Grief can continue for a lifetime if you want to but you need to compose yourself and start living again. Get practical about what needs to be done after this instead of getting consumed by the sorrow.

Keep calm. You don t need to understand everything or overthink. Your heart is broken and you are completely shattered but your mind needs focus right now. Don t let your mind get caught up in thinking that the relationship failed because of you. Read:  How a breakup or divorce can affect your health.

Focus on yourself. You need to heal and that s why you will need to take extra care of yourself. Indulge in things you wanted to, go places you dreamed of, engage in hobbies, meet friends or pamper yourself. Build your life again with positivity.

Chalk out a plan for yourself. Speak to divorce lawyers and gather information. Think about your interests, your future and your child s future. You need to think of ways to benefit from this abandonment now instead of getting diminished by it. Read: How to prepare your kids to face the reality of your divorce.

Don’t try to chase your spouse or figure out what were the exact problems that led to this situation. It isn’t going to help you. They are too stone hearted at this stage to even understand your grief and pain. Don t demean yourself by going back again. Instead, just forgive and move on. Forgiving won t help them much but it will make healing easy for you.

If marital/spousal abandonment has happened to you or someone you know, click on this link and find out what resources they have which can be helpful.

Sources: Schoenberg; Brides.com; DivorceNet

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