Legal Remedy for an Abandoned Spouse

By Cindy Chung

Abandonment by a spouse can be a stressful experience, especially if the abandonment causes financial strain or legal problems. If the abandonment lasts for a long period of time, the abandoned husband or wife might need to learn more about legal remedies. The legal options available often depend on each state's laws regarding marriage and divorce. An abandoned spouse may benefit from discussing the relevant remedies with an attorney who practices law in the state.


Abandonment might serve as the grounds for a divorce if an abandoned spouse decides to end the marriage. Each state determines its own divorce grounds. In general, a husband or wife must use at least one of the state's divorce grounds when filing for divorce. All states allow no-fault divorce based on the ground of irreconcilable differences. Most states also offer fault divorce based on a variety of grounds. If abandonment or desertion qualifies as a fault ground for divorce in your state, there may be a minimum length of time that must pass before a spouse can use the other spouse's absence as reason for the divorce. Thus, filing on no-fault grounds might be advantageous if the filing spouse wants the quickest divorce possible.

Support, Alimony and Maintenance

An abandoned spouse may need financial help, especially if the other spouse formerly provided most of the couple's income. The legal remedies that could result in financial support depend on each state's marriage and divorce laws. Some states' laws establish a duty of support even if the spouses remain married and do not divorce. Other states permit an abandoned spouse to request spousal maintenance or alimony on a temporary basis through a pending divorce case or on a long-term basis as part of a finalized divorce. Although financial support might not compensate for the emotional effects of abandonment, spousal support can help as the abandoned spouse moves forward.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Desertion Complaint

Some states allow an abandoned spouse to file a complaint for desertion or family neglect. If allowed by state law, a civil complaint for desertion penalizes an individual who allows a spouse or child to become destitute or need public assistance. In general, a state will pursue a desertion case only if the spouse had the financial means to prevent destitution but chose to do otherwise. State law might establish a penalty such as a term of imprisonment or a fine for desertion.

Alienation of Affection Lawsuit

In an alienation of affection lawsuit, an abandoned spouse sues a third party who allegedly caused the end of the spouses' marriage. This type of lawsuit might be appropriate if one spouse abandoned the other spouse to engage in adultery with the third party. The availability of a lawsuit for alienation of affection depends on each state's laws — although states historically recognized alienation of affection as a legal action, most states no longer accept alienation of affection as the basis of a lawsuit. In some states, an abandoned spouse might be able to pursue a tort remedy based on the third party's "intentional infliction of emotional distress" when breaking up the spouses' marriage.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
The Annulment of Marriage Due to Abandonment



Related articles

South Carolina Divorce Laws Dealing With Abandonment

Some states use the terms "abandonment" and "desertion" interchangeably to describe the act of one spouse leaving the other. However, South Carolina mentions only desertion in the state's divorce laws. Abandonment does not meet the state's legal requirements to serve as fault grounds for divorce unless the abandonment qualifies as desertion. In a fault-based divorce, South Carolina divorce laws allow desertion to affect each spouse's rights regarding property, alimony and child custody.

Rights as an Abandoned Spouse in New York City

Spousal abandonment can be an emotionally difficult and stressful event, and some marriages may not recover after one spouse leaves the other. State laws, rather than city laws, determine spousal rights. An abandoned spouse in New York City has rights given by the marriage and divorce laws of New York State. To assert those rights, the abandoned spouse may need to seek a court order.

How to Get Divorced From Someone in Prison in Georgia

To divorce a spouse who is currently in prison, a husband or wife must follow the divorce laws and civil procedure laws of Georgia. The general requirements to divorce an incarcerated spouse are the same as the requirements to divorce a spouse who is not in prison. However, incarceration may affect court location and the process of serving divorce papers on the other spouse. In addition, incarceration can impact custody rights decided during a divorce.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Separation Rights and Abandonment in Vermont

When a husband or wife chooses to leave the marital home, the abandoned spouse often faces financial worries or legal ...

Can a Third Party in Virginia Be Held in a Divorce Case in an Extramarital Affair?

If an extramarital affair leads to divorce, the jilted spouse might want to know whether Virginia laws provide a way to ...

How to Divorce if Your Spouse Abandons the Relationship in Washington

Spousal abandonment can be a difficult experience for the husband or wife left behind. An abandoned spouse might choose ...

Desertion Penalty in a Maryland Divorce

When a relationship goes through a difficult time or reaches an end, a husband or wife may decide to leave the marital ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED