In 1969, California signed its no-fault divorce law, becoming the first state to allow no-fault divorces. Here, you do not prove that the other spouse did anything wrong to get a divorce. Instead, you petition the court for divorce, informing it that your marriage has been irretrievably broken due to irreconcilable differences. 

While you don’t have to prove your spouse did anything wrong to warrant the divorce, marriage abandonment can have an impact on the proceedings. 

What Is Marriage Abandonment?

Marriage abandonment (also called marital or spousal abandonment) occurs when one spouse leaves the marriage without obtaining the consent of the other spouse, intending to end the marriage. The spouse must have no intention of returning and must remain absent from the marital home for a prolonged period. 

During their absence, they ignore all of the financial obligations and contractual duties that come along with marriage. 

How Does Marriage Abandonment Affect a Divorce in California?

While abandonment does not provide a ground for divorce in California, it may affect other areas of the divorce process.

Serving Divorce Papers

If your spouse has abandoned the marriage, they may have left for another state, which can make serving them with divorce papers more difficult. California has special rules for serving your spouse in these circumstances. Typically, you have your spouse personally served with divorce paperwork, but you may be able to serve your spouse by mail with a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt or by certified mail with return receipt requested.

If you don’t know where your spouse is, you might be able to request the court allow you to serve divorce papers by publication. This involves publishing the summons in a local newspaper at least once a week for four consecutive weeks. 

If your spouse does not respond to your petition for divorce within 60 days from when you published the summons, you can ask the court to enter a default judgment and award you the relief you requested, such as marital property, spousal support, child support, and child custody.

Property Division 

California is a community property state, so when a spouse divorces, community property is divided equally between the spouses. All property acquired during the marriage is generally subject to division upon divorce. 

If a spouse abandons the marriage, they may have abandoned the property and the financial obligations associated with it. A spouse who abandons the marriage does not give up rights to the property they left behind. Instead, this property is subject to division during the divorce. 

However, the court may try to balance out the situation if one spouse suddenly stopped paying the bills or paying off debt by assigning them a larger portion of the debt or awarding more marital property to the spouse who honored their contractual obligations. 

Spousal Support 

Courts generally do not consider fault when awarding spousal support. However, one of the factors the court considers is “the balance of the hardships to each party.” If the abandonment left the other spouse in a dire financial position, the court could consider this among the other relevant factors when awarding spousal support.

Child Custody

Abandonment can potentially affect child custody determinations, depending on the circumstances. Just because the spouse decides to leave the marriage does not mean they have abandoned their children. If they maintain a relationship with their children and see the children frequently, they can preserve their rights to child custody. 

However, if the spouse also abandons their child and makes no meaningful attempt to see them during their absence from the marital home, the court can consider this. Courts consider what is in the child’s best interests when determining which parent(s) should have custody. The spouse who stayed in the home may be awarded sole legal and physical custody. 

Additionally, under California law, a spouse’s parental rights can be terminated if they leave the child in the care and custody of the other parent for one year or more or fail to provide financial support, fail to communicate, and show an intent to abandon the child. 

Child Support 

Child support is based on the Child Support Guidelines. Courts must calculate child support based on a statewide uniform guideline calculation. Because the child custody determination can affect the amount of child support, abandonment could also affect child support determinations. Even if a spouse abandons the marriage, they are still financially responsible for supporting their children. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Family Lawyer

If your spouse has abandoned your marriage, an experienced family attorney can advise you on how best to proceed.

Contact our experienced San Diego family law lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108