Are You an Abandoned Spouse?

Texas wife being abandoned by husband.

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Texas issues fault-based divorces, and while they’re not especially common, they can help spouses who’ve been wronged obtain divorce terms that better address their rights – in light of their spouse’s wrongdoing.

One ground for a fault-based divorce is abandonment, and if you think your spouse may have abandoned you, an experienced Round Rock divorce attorney can help.

Fault-Based Divorce in Texas

Most divorces in Texas – by a wide margin – are no fault, which means they are based on what Texas calls insuuportability. In these divorces, neither spouse accuses the other of causing the dissolution of the marriage. In a fault-based divorce, however, that is exactly what one spouse alleges, and they accept the burden of proof.

If you can convince the court that your spouse’s abandonment reached the level that it caused your marriage to be unsupportable, you can obtain a fault-based divorce, and it can translate to more favorable terms for you.

There are a range of grounds for divorce in Texas, but some are employed more frequently than others, including the following:

  • Adultery

  • Cruelty

  • Abandonment

It’s important to note that if you’ve been abandoned by your spouse, you can seek a no-fault divorce, which will still need to be resolved in court if your spouse doesn’t come forward to participate. In a no-fault divorce, however, your spouse’s wrongdoing will likely have less impact on the outcome of your case, which means your rights may not be as well protected.

While the court will consider the direct effects of your spouse’s abandonment—in relation to your children, child support, and household bills—they can’t consider the wrongdoing itself as a primary factor. For example, if your spouse is going deeper and deeper into debt, it could negatively affect your divorce terms.

In a fault-based divorce, the court can consider your spouse’s abandonment and, as such, can hand down divorce terms that favor you.

Abandonment

Divorce is a challenge in the best of times, but if you’re left completely to your own devices to pursue a divorce entirely on your own, the emotional and logistical challenges you face can be difficult to overstate. The grounds of abandonment relate to a spouse who leaves with the intention of abandoning their partner and who stays away for at least a year without returning.

If your spouse returns for a brief stay with you to pick up their belongings, that’s one thing, but if they return to spend a holiday with the family, it can affect the court’s finding of abandonment.

If your spouse continues to help support your household throughout their abandonment, it can also play a role in whether or not the court identifies their actions as abandonment.

It is not abandonment when a spouse leaves at the request of the other, but if your spouse leaves you of their own free will, if they have no intention of coming back if they’ve stayed away for at least a year, and if their abandonment caused your marriage to fail, you very likely have an abandonment case.

Factors that Can Affect Whether It’s Considered Abandonment

When abandonment is full and total, it isn’t difficult to identify. If your spouse intentionally left you and never looked back, and if you haven’t heard from them in at least a year, the court will almost certainly qualify it as abandonment. Factors like the following, however, can muddy the water:

  • Although your spouse left you, they continued to speak with you or with your children on the phone.

  • Although your spouse left you, they continued to send you money.

  • Although your spouse left you, they attempted to reconcile with you during their absence.

  • Although your spouse left you, they briefly returned to your home before heading out again.

If You Can’t Locate Your Spouse

When spouses abandon, they tend to run away – with no desire of being found. If you can’t locate your spouse, you may be inclined to bide your time and wait for them to return or to get in touch with you. If they don’t, however, you could be waiting a long time, and meanwhile, you’re still married to them – with all the legal implications that go along with that.

If this is the tough position you find yourself in, it’s time to consult with a seasoned divorce attorney. The sooner you do, the better protected your rights will be.

If your spouse abandoned your family and doesn’t want to be found, they may manage to stay hidden for a while, but in today’s very connected world, it’s more difficult to do so for extended periods. Tactics that tend to help locate spouses who’ve abandoned include all the following:

  • Search social media sights for any mention of your spouse or chatter that may relate to them

  • Contact your spouse’s friends, family members, and acquaintances for information

  • Check with your spouse’s last known employer – they may still be working for the same company unbeknownst to you

  • Check in at any locations where your spouse has been known to stay in the past, such as with specific friends or in any specific areas

Locating a spouse who doesn’t want to be found can be dangerous, and the stress of divorce can amp things up several notches. It’s always in your best interest to follow your knowledgeable divorce attorney’s advice and to let them do the contacting if you do locate your spouse.

Beginning the Legal Process

To pursue a fault-based divorce on the grounds of abandonment, you’ll need to move through several important steps.

Getting the Paperwork Started

If you can’t locate your spouse, you can still pursue a divorce, but you will need to initiate the legal paperwork required. This includes ensuring that you meet the residency requirements in the State of Texas.

To begin, you must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filling. Also, you’ll need to have lived in the county in which you file for at least three months. If you know where your spouse is living and it’s in Texas, you can file in the state even if you don’t live there – as long as they meet that six-month requirement.

You can also file in the Texas county where your spouse lives – as long as they meet that three-month requirement. If you both live in Texas, you can file in the county where either you or they live – whichever is more convenient for you.

Serving Your Spouse

After filing for divorce, you’ll need to serve your spouse with the papers. A sheriff, a constable, or a private process server can do the delivering. If, however, you don’t know where your spouse has gone, you can proceed with the service process by consulting with the court.

This will require you to either post the information online, in a local publication—such as a newspaper—or in the courthouse. A waiting period will also be assigned to allow your spouse time to respond.

You will need to convince the court that you employed the necessary due diligence to locate your spouse, which makes proceeding with care important. If your spouse never responds to your efforts, the court can proceed with a default judgment that takes your case at face value – since your spouse had no information to share with the court.

Your Financial Rights

In Texas, you are married until you’re divorced, and there is no legal separation that stops the clock, so to speak. Any assets that either of you acquires over the course of your marriage and any debts you accumulate during that time are considered marital, and upon divorce, they must be distributed between you fairly – in relation to a wide range of factors.

This means that if you’re busy making money and your spouse is busy racking up debt during their abandonment of you, they stand to gain from your efforts, and you stand to take a financial hit as a result of theirs. In other words, this is not something you want to sit on, and it’s not something you should risk.

If you’ve been abandoned, seeking a divorce that’s based on the grounds of abandonment is likely the best means of protecting your rights and mitigating any risk involved. Under such circumstances, you’ll have the right to protect yourself from your spouse’s debt or from the financial unknown since you may have no idea where they are or what they’re up to.

There is also the matter of covering the household bills for your marital home and supporting your shared children to consider. If you do share children and your spouse has abandoned your family, their failure to share the financial weight of running the household and supporting your shared children is a serious financial concern.

However, if your spouse regularly sends you money, it could—depending on the circumstances involved—affect your ability to prove abandonment. Work closely with your experienced divorce attorney from the start.

Your Parental Rights

Your spouse’s abandonment can seriously affect your child custody arrangements in a fault-based divorce. If your spouse abandoned your home, they abandoned you and your shared children, and this flies in the face of what is in children’s best interests.

Texas courts are always motivated by the children’s best interests in divorces that involve them, and a factor as significant as abandonment is likely to carry a considerable amount of weight.

Texas courts are interested in providing children with stable home lives and in ensuring continuity. A parent who abandons turns their back on these pillars of effective parenting and their parental rights – if they maintain any – will reflect this fact.

In the face of abandonment, Texas courts tend to award the parent seeking the fault-based divorce sole legal custody, which means they are awarded sole decision-making authority on primary parenting concerns like the following:

  • Where the children go to school or daycare

  • The health care the children receive

  • The religious education the children receive

  • The extracurriculars and travel the children participate in

  • Where the children make their primary home

Further, they generally make the parent seeking the fault-based divorce the primary custodial parent, which means they receive considerably more parenting time than the parent who abandoned. The idea is to safeguard the overall health and well-being of the children, which Texas courts prioritize.

If your spouse can’t be found and does not come forward, they may not be awarded any parenting time at all—and, in extreme cases, they could lose all parental rights.

The Termination of Parental Rights

The termination of parental rights is a highly complex legal matter that includes a series of challenging steps, including:

  • You will file the petition for termination, which must clearly state the grounds, which in your case is abandonment.

  • You will need to specify a legal basis to proceed, and abandonment is considered a valid legal basis in Texas.

  • You will need to notify your spouse. Proper notification and service is paramount to the process

  • The court will likely order an investigation and home study, and if your spouse can’t be located, this will likely amount to interviews with you and your shared children.

  • The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of each child – as applicable

  • The court will conduct a termination hearing.

  • The court will issue a termination order if it’s warranted.

Seek the Legal Guidance of an Experienced Round Rock Divorce Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a savvy Round Rock divorce attorney who will leave no stone unturned in his focused efforts to secure terms that favor you and your children’s brightest future.

Learn more by contacting or calling us at 254-781-4222 and scheduling your free consultation today.

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