What Is Considered Abandonment in Divorce?

October 23, 2023
West Chester Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Spouses Through Divorce Proceedings

Pennsylvania recognized both no-fault and fault-based divorces.  No-fault divorces are generally based on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”  Fault-based divorces, however, must have legally recognized grounds such as adultery or cruel treatment.  Abandonment is also considered grounds for a fault divorce.  However, the concept of abandonment can be complex.

In Pennsylvania, abandonment must be “willful and malicious,” defined as the voluntary and intentional separation of one spouse from the other without the other’s consent and with the intent to end the marriage. Willful and malicious abandonment is when one spouse leaves the marital home to terminate the marriage without reason or justifiable cause and without the other spouse’s consent. 

The abandonment must have continued for at least one year.  If the spouse returns within that year and lives in the marital home but leaves, the required period restarts again. 

Proving Marital Abandonment

Proving abandonment in a divorce case can be challenging, as it requires providing evidence to the court that demonstrates the spouse’s intent to end the marriage. While each case is unique, evidence commonly considered includes:

  • Documentation of the separation, such as moving out of the marital home.
  • Evidence of refusal to provide financial support for at least one year.
  • Communication records or statements indicating the intent to abandon the marriage.
  • Witness testimony from individuals who can attest to the spouse’s abandonment.
  • Any other relevant information or documentation that supports the claim of abandonment.

Impact of Abandonment on Divorce Proceedings

When abandonment is proven in a divorce case, it can have significant implications for various aspects of the divorce proceedings, including:

  • Division of property: In Pennsylvania, the court divides marital property under “equitable distribution.” If one spouse has abandoned the other without just cause, the court may consider this when determining how to divide the marital assets and debts. The abandoned spouse may receive a more favorable share of the property as compensation.
  • Spousal support and alimony: The court may also consider abandonment when determining spousal support or alimony payments. The spouse who abandoned the marriage may be ordered to pay more in financial support to the abandoned spouse.
  • Child support and custody: Abandonment can influence child custody decisions, as the court must consider the child’s best interests. If the abandoning spouse’s actions are detrimental to the child’s well-being, it may affect custody arrangements. Additionally, the court may factor abandonment into child support calculations.

West Chester Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Spouses Through Divorce Proceedings

Our West Chester divorce lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. are here to help if you are seeking a divorce.  Call us at 610-565-3701 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation.  Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.