What Role Does Spousal Abandonment Play in Texas Divorce?

Marriage can become complex, and when it does, some spouses choose to walk away. The other spouse may not know what to do.

Texas is a no-fault divorce state, so they should not find it hard to get a divorce if they determine that to be the best option. If your spouse walked out on you, consult an experienced divorce lawyer in Houston for legal counsel on the steps to take.

Abandonment as Grounds for Divorce in Texas

While you can file a no-fault divorce in Texas, you also have the option to file for a fault-based divorce. Abandonment is one of the four fault grounds for divorce in Texas if it meets the following conditions:

Your Spouse Had the Intention to Abandon You

Your spouse must have walked away from you and your marital home, never to return. However, if you permitted them to leave upon their request, it’s unlikely that their actions will be classified as abandonment in the eyes of the law.

The Duration of Absence

The time your spouse stays away after walking out of your marriage can be crucial in determining whether their actions amount to abandonment. They must have stayed away for at least one year. For example, if you and your spouse are ever in conflict and they take off for a long weekend, that would not satisfy the legal definition of abandonment.

Financial Contributions

Logistically, abandonment can be a problem for the spouse left at home because they must continue caring for the bills and the children independently. However, if your spouse continues to support you financially and contribute to the family’s financial needs, it can weaken your case for abandonment.

These three elements can be tricky to prove, but a skilled family law lawyer in Houston can help you show that your spouse left, intending never to come back. Just going away isn’t enough, as the intent to leave permanently must be demonstrated.

Additionally, you must show that you lived separately for one year or more continuously and your spouse didn’t contribute financially during that time. Collecting sufficient evidence and preparing a solid case is crucial when filing a divorce based on abandonment. A skilled Houston family law lawyer can help you.

How Does Abandonment Differ from Separation?

Texas doesn’t recognize a legal separation between spouses. You’re either married or not and if your spouse attempts a trial separation, their actions will likely lack the permanence necessary to prove abandonment. A judge might consider the absence of separation if your spouse claims they were on a trial separation and they did the following to attempt to save your marriage:

  • Made frequent calls or talks
  • Tried to persuade you to agree to couple counseling
  • Attempted to reconcile

If these conditions are present, you may not have a strong case for divorce based on abandonment. Consult an experienced divorce lawyer in Houston to determine if you can file a no-fault divorce in that case.

Are There Advantages of Seeking a Divorce on Abandonment Grounds?

Texas is a community property state, meaning a couple’s marital property is divided equally in a divorce. One of the benefits of seeking divorce on the grounds of abandonment is that you may receive more marital property that way. That’s especially true if you prove your spouse deprived you of certain spousal financial benefits by abandoning you.

However, a judge may not use this rule if they determine marital misconduct. Abandonment is one such misconduct, which could put you in a position to get more property if you can prove that your spouse abandoned you. The decision is up to the judge to make, not a requirement.

If your spouse never shows up during the divorce proceedings, the court may award you all your marital property. On the downside, you may be assigned all marital debt, making it your sole responsibility to repay your spouse’s creditors. Consult a skilled family law lawyer in Texas to determine if a divorce on the grounds of abandonment is right for you.

What is the Effect of Abandonment on Child Custody?

Divorce cases become more complicated if there are children involved. Texas courts frown heavily upon individuals who abandon their families and are likely to award the abandoned parent a majority of legal and physical custody rights.

While a divorce decree can be issued in your spouse’s absence if they abandoned you, the court will still consider the children’s best interests. Family courts in Texas take the position that a child should have a relationship with both parents regardless of the differences between the parents. Nonetheless, judges may negate this presumption where abandonment is concerned.

Overall, you can ask for and receive the right to choose where your children stay and receive support. The judge will consider the parent better suited to care for the children, who in this case may not be the parent who abandoned them.

Learn Your Legal Options When Abandoned by Your Spouse

Abandonment is a legal ground for divorce in Texas but in limited circumstances. Without proper legal representation, proving the elements of abandonment in your divorce case can be challenging. A skilled Houston family law attorney can help you collect the necessary evidence and create a solid case to file a divorce based on abandonment.

Our divorce attorney takes great pride in helping clients with divorce and other family law issues. If your spouse abandoned you and you don’t know what to do, we can help you understand the divorce process and stand up for your rights for a favorable outcome. Call the Von Dohlen Law Firm at 713-844-8396 to book a meeting with one of our lawyers and discuss your situation.