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Blogs from July, 2023


Going through a divorce is never easy, especially when spousal abandonment is involved. Spousal abandonment, often termed 'desertion,' is one of the grounds on which a person can seek a divorce in New Jersey. If you find yourself facing this challenging situation in New Jersey, it's important to understand your rights and the legal processes that can help you navigate this difficult time.

Possessing a clear understanding of what constitutes spousal abandonment, the legal requirements and the potential impacts on divorce proceedings is important to have before pursuing these grounds. In this blog, we'll delve into the intricacies of spousal abandonment as a ground for divorce, providing insights to help you navigate the complex terrain of New Jersey's divorce law.

What is Spousal Abandonment Under New Jersey Law?

In the context of New Jersey law, spousal abandonment is considered when one spouse leaves the marital home without the consent of the other for at least 12 consecutive months, intending to desert the left-behind spouse. This action is also termed 'willful and continued desertion.'

It's important to note that the deserting spouse must have left without any justifiable reason, and there should be no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

The absence of consent from the deserted spouse is critical here - if the spouse has given permission or agrees to live separately, the act does not constitute desertion. As such, spousal abandonment can be a complex legal issue, and seeking professional legal advice is often recommended to navigate the intricacies of such a situation.

Other Forms of Abandonment

In addition to straightforward spousal abandonment or desertion, other forms of abandonment hold weight in New Jersey divorce law. It's important to understand these different types as they each have unique implications on the process and outcome of divorce proceedings.

Constructive Abandonment

Constructive abandonment occurs when one spouse forces the other to leave the marital home, making living conditions intolerable. This could be due to various reasons, such as consistent neglect, abuse, or refusal to provide necessary financial support for children and dependents. Constructive abandonment, despite not involving physical desertion, can still be used as a ground for divorce if it can be proved that one spouse behaved in such a way that made cohabitation unbearable.

Lockout Abandonment

Lockout abandonment happens when one spouse intentionally locks the other out of the marital home. In New Jersey, this form of abandonment is considered illegal. A spouse who is forced out of their home in this manner can seek legal remedies such as an order for the other spouse to leave the marital home.

Each of these types of abandonment has a different set of legal requirements and impacts on a divorce proceeding. If you suspect that you are a victim of any form of spousal abandonment, it is highly recommended to seek professional legal advice to protect your rights and interests.

Impact of Abandonment on Your Divorce Settlement

In New Jersey divorce cases, spousal abandonment is taken very seriously, and pursuing these grounds may significantly impact the resulting divorce settlement. In particular, spousal abandonment or desertion may influence the court's decision regarding property division and spousal maintenance, also known as alimony. It may also affect the outcome of custody and child support orders.

Keep reading to learn more.

Property Division

New Jersey operates under an equitable distribution model in divorce cases. This means that the court will divide marital property between the spouses in a manner that is fair but not necessarily equal. While abandonment does not automatically entitle the deserted spouse to a larger share of the marital property, the court may consider the circumstances surrounding the abandonment when deciding.

For instance, if the deserting spouse left the marital home and did not contribute to mortgage payments or other expenses, the court may factor this into the property division.

Spousal Maintenance

When it comes to spousal maintenance, the court will consider various factors, including the length of the marriage, the financial circumstances of each spouse, and the standard of living established during the marriage. While spousal abandonment may not directly impact the amount or duration of spousal maintenance awarded, it could indirectly influence the court's decision.

For instance, if the abandonment resulted in financial hardship for the deserted spouse, the court may consider this when determining maintenance.

Child Custody

In New Jersey, the court generally believes that it is in the child's best interest to maintain a relationship with both parents. However, if one parent has abandoned the family, this could influence the court's decision on custody arrangements. The deserting parent may find it challenging to secure custody or may be granted limited visitation rights, particularly if the court deems that the abandonment has adversely impacted the child's well-being.

Child Support

As for child support, the responsibility to financially support a child typically extends to both parents, regardless of the circumstances leading to the divorce. However, determining child support can be more complex if a parent has abandoned the family.

The court may view abandonment as neglect, possibly resulting in a higher child support obligation for the deserting spouse. If the deserting spouse left the family without providing financial support, it could similarly lead to increased child support obligations to make up for the neglect.

In the event the deserting parent cannot be located or refuses to pay child support, the deserted spouse may need to seek enforcement measures. This might include wage garnishment, tax refund interception, or other legal avenues to secure due support payments.

Seek Legal Representation As Soon as Possible

Filing for divorce under fault grounds is much more complicated than filing a no-fault divorce, especially when dealing with issues as complex as spousal abandonment or desertion. With this in mind, seeking skilled and experienced legal representation from an established New Jersey-based divorce lawyer is strongly recommended.

At DeTommaso Law Group, we understand the complexities of spousal abandonment and state divorce laws. Our dedicated attorneys are ready to provide you with the support and guidance you are looking for during this difficult time.

Contact us today to discuss your situation and get guidance on how to proceed with your divorce.

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