Several states in the U.S. have laws that give a spouse the right to obtain a divorce if the spouse's husband or wife has abandoned them. Abandonment is when one spouse stops living with the other spouse with no intention of returning to the home. Abandonment is not a basis for obtaining a divorce in the state of Washington, but it is a factor in the property division and child custody disputes during the divorce.
Washington is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the only basis for divorce in Washington is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. A marriage is irretrievably broken when it can no longer be saved, or when both parties in the marriage agree that the marriage is over. If one spouse denies that the marriage is beyond saving, the divorce court must decide whether the marriage is irretrievably broken. At this point, the court will look at all the relevant factors, including whether one spouse has abandoned the other and the prospects for reconciliation. At this point, proof of abandonment can show that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Division of Property
Abandonment can also be used as a basis for determining how property should be divided during divorce proceedings in Washington. In general, all property acquired during the marriage is community property and must be divided equally. This includes real estate. However, if one parent abandons his spouse and his children in their home, this can be a factor in determining who will receive the home during property division. The spouse that currently resides in a home with the children will most likely be awarded the home in the divorce decree. Therefore, abandonment can make a big difference in property division.
Child Custody and Support
Abandonment might also be a consideration when the divorce court is deciding which parent will have custody of the children. If one parent abandons the children or stops providing support to the home before a divorce, the court will consider that as a custody factor. The court will consider the spouse who stayed with the children to be the primary caregiver. Since the primary caregiver usually gets child custody, abandonment of the home can have a deleterious effect on a spouse's chances of receiving child custody. Abandonment can also play a role in the amount of child support a parent has to pay. If the parent does not provide financial support in the months leading up to a divorce, that parent might have to pay back child support.