These days, you don’t hear as much about marital abandonment as you used to back when most wives were financially dependent on their husbands. However, it can still occur. Marital abandonment is when spouse leaves their husband or wife (and sometimes children), severing all ties and financial obligations to their family. In some cases, they work to ensure that they can’t be located.
To be considered potentially criminal, this abandonment is done without “just cause.” On the other hand, if a wife leaves and doesn’t tell her husband where she’s going because she’s the victim of domestic violence or if a husband leaves because his wife’s drinking has made being in the home intolerable, that’s known as “constructive abandonment.”
Note that neither type of abandonment is the same as moving out as part of a trial separation or as you go through a divorce. You can use your spouse’s abandonment as grounds for divorce. However, since divorce doesn’t have to be fault-based, you need to determine whether it’s advantageous to do that. If you do, here in Texas, your spouse must have abandoned you for at least a year.
Is it worth doing that? That’s an important question. If you have children, it may be easier to get primary or sole custody of them if your spouse abandoned the family (assuming that they want any custody rights). However, it might be more beneficial to file for divorce on a no-fault basis and take steps to locate your spouse to get some of the financial help you need.
It’s not as easy to seemingly disappear off the face of the earth as it once was before the internet, GPS and a wide range of technological advancements. However, it can happen.
Whether your spouse has disappeared and you can’t locate them or you know where they are, but they’re refusing to handle financial obligations like supporting the children or paying part of the mortgage, it’s wise to talk with a family law attorney to determine what legal options you have.