What qualifies as marital abandonment in North Carolina?

As you live through the disintegration of your marriage, you may eventually feel trapped in your own home. Living under the same roof with your spouse, constantly crossing swords, must be its own kind of torture.

While separation, or an entire year of continuously living separately, is a requirement for either of you to file for divorce, abandonment is quite different. It gets tricky because you must establish how to separate without abandonment becoming an issue.

A form of marital misconduct

Under North Carolina law, abandonment is marital misconduct constituted by the following elements:

  • If you willfully ended cohabitation without proper justification
  • If you left your marital home without your spouse’s consent
  • If you left your marital home without the intention of moving back in

Sometimes, constructive abandonment applies. This kind of abandonment doesn’t necessarily require you to physically leave your marital home. This happens, for example, when you intentionally fail to provide adequate support to your spouse. But it may also occur if your spouse treats you with physical or mental cruelty, or there’s drug and alcohol abuse involvement, forcing you to flee your marital home.

Once you’re determined to leave and already found another residence somewhere else, you must ensure you have no intent on returning. Your spouse may also freely change locks preventing you from gaining access. You may just work out a system with your spouse if you need to retrieve your belongings from your marital residence. Further, it is crucial you’re aware that eventually returning to your marital home can result in criminal charges of domestic criminal trespass.

Since North Carolina is a no-fault state, abandonment may not directly hold weight to your divorce. However, it may have a profound impact on child support and custody issues. Depending on your family’s unique circumstances, leaving means you may also leave your family with nothing, which the court may eventually consider during divorce proceedings.

A professional who stays

If you’re incredibly torn about whether to keep fighting for or leave your broken home, coupled with overwhelming emotional distress, know that whatever your current situation may be, a legal team can help you in protecting your parental rights, family and future.

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