Written by Jonathan Breeden
North Carolina takes abandonment seriously. If you abandon your family, as defined by state law, it can impact your divorce or child custody. Abandonment can also mean your former spouse getting a larger portion of the marital estate or more in alimony. So if you are considering a separation or divorce in North Carolina, it is important to consider if your actions could be considered abandonment.
Beofre you move out of the family home, contact the Breeden Law Office. As an experienced and skilled North Carolina divorce lawyer Jonathan Breeden will explain abandonment in North Carolina, guide how you should move out, and discuss what to do if you are accused of abandonment.
In North Carolina, abandonment takes place when one spouse ends co-habitation without:
To be accused of abandonment in NC, you have to move out of your shared residence without a valid reason, without your spouse agreeing, and without ever planning on living with your spouse again. All three factors must be met for you to be guilty of abandonment and for your spouse to use this fact against you in a divorce.
In practical terms, if you move out, but do not cut your spouse off financially, and at least initially continuing to help pay your marital bills, most courts will find that you did not abandon your spouse.
A court will not deem you to have abandoned your marriage if you and your spouse agreed that you would leave the family home. This is a common step people take when they separate.
You can establish your spouse’s implicit consent to your moving out if they agreed to a separation and divorce, even if you did not discuss the specifics of how the separation would take place.
In addition, it is not abandonment if you left with a valid justification. This could include your spouse’s adultery, substance abuse, emotional abuse, or domestic violence. As you may suspect, there are several legitimate reasons why someone leaves their family home without a spouse’s consent or intent to return.
If your moving out of the family home was meant to be temporary, and neither you nor your spouse had settled on divorce, then your spouse may not be able to prove you did not have the intent to renew co-habitation later. For instance, leaving the home for the military, a work assignment, an educational program, or to take care of an ailing relative is not abandonment.
Whether or not moving out of the house you shared with your spouse was abandonment depends on the specific facts. If you had a good reason to leave, you can move out without your spouse’s agreement.
However, what is a good reason may be up for debate in court? Also, if your spouse asked you to leave, forced you out, or agreed that moving out was best, then it is not abandonment. Therefore, your leaving cannot be used against you.
North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. This means that your spouse does not need to claim abandonment to obtain a divorce.
However, your spouse may argue you abandoned them to obtain more property or alimony. They may also argue that you abandoned certain real estate and personal property with the intention of not getting it back. They may argue that they should be able to maintain possession of the property you abandoned.
Abandonment in NC does not automatically mean your spouse will get alimony. It is only one of many factors a court will consider. The court will review marital misconduct when considering alimony, and abandonment constitutes marital misconduct.
If your spouse accused you of abandonment, it could lead to an unfair result. The best way to defend yourself and exit the marriage on the best possible terms is to work with skilled and knowledgable divorce attorney in your area. At Breeden Law Office, we represent people throughout Johnston, Harnett, and Wake County in all types of divorces. We are happy to meet with you regarding how you should leave your family home and what it takes to disprove abandonment claims.