North Carolina Divorce Law and Abandonment

By Rob Jennings J.D.

Far more that simply saying "I do," marriage consists of a bundle of rights and responsibilities. One important responsibility of a married couple is the duty of cohabitation, which means living together as husband and wife. When a party willfully quits cohabiting without cause, he commits abandonment. Although North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, abandonment still carries a host of far-reaching implications.

In General

Abandonment in a North Carolina divorce isn't just moving out; the act of going to live somewhere else has to be accompanied by the intent to end the marital relationship. Leaving home for military service, for work purposes or to care for a sick relative won't qualify as abandonment unless you plan to never come back. If you leave with a valid purpose and decide to end the relationship while you're away, abandonment can occur when you form the intent to cease cohabitation. This is something the other side can show by your words and actions.

Spousal Support

One of the components of that marital bundle of rights and responsibility is the duty of mutual support. In practical terms, a spouse who commits abandonment runs the risk of destroying her spousal support claims. If she's the supporting spouse and therefore has an potential support obligation instead of a claim of her own, abandonment is marital misconduct that the other side can use against her. This extends to both temporary alimony--"post-separation support" in North Carolina--and permanent alimony. Because of this, North Carolina divorce lawyers usually advise their clients to remain in the marital residence until they can resolve the case.

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

Home and Children

Abandonment mostly affects spousal support claims, but it bears on other parts of the case as well. Leaving the children with your ex will devastate any claim that they need to live primarily with you; not only did you abandon the children, the reasoning goes, but you've basically admitted that the other side is fit to take care of them. While you may be able to justify leaving your spouse, you probably won't be able to do the same with leaving the kids. Also, if you vacate the marital residence, expect to lose possession on at least a temporary basis. Since North Carolina divorce cases can drag on for months or even years, this could be a long time.


Sometimes leaving your spouse isn't so much a choice as a necessity. In North Carolina, a party can do things to make the other's life so miserable that she essentially forces him out--this is called "constructive abandonment." Drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and repeatedly humiliating your spouse in front of others are all "indignities" that can create constructive abandonment. A judge won't hold it against you if you can show that you left for a good reason. Also, your leaving isn't always voluntary. "Malicious turning out-of-doors" occurs when you force your spouse out of the home for no good reason.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce & Abandonment Laws in Georgia


Related articles

Alienation of Affection Divorce Laws

Alienation-of-affection laws reflect the outdated concept that if a spouse strays, a third party must have lured her into it and a court can therefore hold that person accountable. Most states have abolished alienation-of-affection laws. Only South Dakota, New Mexico, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Illinois allowed such lawsuits as of the 2011.

Abandonment Divorce Laws in Texas

The divorce laws in Texas can make it hard to justify filing on a fault ground, especially if it requires a waiting period. The state's legislative code includes several, however, and one of them is abandonment. Courts can consider marital fault when deciding issues of property, custody and spousal support, but they’re not always required to. There’s no guarantee that you’ll receive anything for your trouble, even if you can prove that your spouse walked out on you.

Is There a Desertion Divorce Law in Mississippi?

Mississippi law permits spouses to obtain a divorce based on desertion, but only under certain circumstances. If your spouse leaves you without your consent, you may feel deserted, but to obtain a divorce based on his desertion, you must be able to prove your spouse’s behavior was "willful, continued and obstinate."

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Ohio Divorce and Abandonment Laws

Ohio law allows you to end your marriage by either divorce or dissolution. Dissolution generally involves an amicable ...

Divorce Abandonment Law

On the surface, the concept of abandonment seems relatively simple. One spouse leaves the home and the marriage and ...

Abandonment Laws in a Florida Divorce

Florida law provides that a court may grant a divorce request if the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Whether the ...

Leaving a Matrimonial Home Before a Divorce

A divorce is often a highly emotional event; continuing to live in the same residence can cause the stress to ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED