What is Marital Abandonment in Alabama?
Alabama, like every other state, now offers a form of “no-fault” divorce. Parties can file for divorce without alleging or proving any of the traditional grounds for divorce such as cruelty or adultery. Alabama still allows parties to file for divorce based on fault grounds, however, if they so choose. Marital abandonment remains one of the grounds for a fault-based divorce. Below, our experienced family law legal team explains marital abandonment and how it factors into Alabama divorces. If you are considering separation or divorce, or if you have other family law concerns, reach out to an experienced and professional Alabama divorce and family law attorney.
Defining “Abandonment” in AL
Abandonment is not a separate law in Alabama. Instead, abandonment is one of the fault-based grounds for seeking a divorce. The official term is “voluntary abandonment of bed and board.” Abandonment means that one party to a marriage has abandoned their spouse and their marital duties, both by moving out of the marital home and generally abandoning the relationship.
To properly allege abandonment, a party seeking divorce must allege that their spouse has been absent from the marital home and the relationship for at least a year before initiation of the divorce. If one spouse moves out of the home but continues to carry on the relationship, then divorce based on abandonment is inappropriate. Examples of abandonment include when one spouse physically leaves the marital home and refuses to financially support the other spouse, or when a party moves out and refuses to have intercourse with their spouse without justifiable reason.
Parties seeking divorce based on abandonment may use both direct and indirect evidence to prove abandonment, but they must show more than simply that one spouse moved out. They must show that the other party deliberately intended to abandon and/or end the marriage. Fleeing an abusive relationship is not abandonment, for example, nor is refusing to relocate due to the other spouse’s new job.
How Does Abandonment Affect the Divorce?
Abandonment is a form of fault. There are several ways in which abandonment can hurt the at-fault spouse’s legal rights during the divorce. Courts may protect certain rights of the abandoned spouse. For example, if a spouse abandons the marriage and refuses to offer financial support, the court can award additional spousal support or property rights to the “innocent” spouse. If the spouse who left refuses to support shared children, the court might award sole custody to the innocent spouse. Abandonment may also make the divorce process more complicated if it becomes difficult to serve the at-fault spouse with the divorce papers. An experienced Alabama family law attorney can help ensure the divorce proceeds smoothly, regardless of the circumstances.