In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about some common misconceptions regarding abandonment in North
Carolina. There remains a great deal of confusion surrounding abandonment,
but it does not play as large a role as most people may think. Remember
that the definition of abandonment is: “One spouse abandons the
other where he or she brings their cohabitation to an end without justification,
without the consent of the other spouse and without intent of renewing
it.” In this post, I’ll talk about abandonment in the context
of alimony, property rights, and issues with the abandonment of children.
Abandonment is grounds for alimony in North Carolina.
Fact: If you read the
alimony statute for North Carolina, you’ll find that there are 16 factors listed for the court to consider
in determining the amount and duration of alimony. Under the first factor,
the court can consider “the marital misconduct of either spouse.”
according to its definition, includes “abandonment of the other spouse.” Abandonment is
only one factor out of many that is taken into consideration, but it is
not a stand-alone ground for alimony.
If I separate from my spouse, a judge will think that I’m abandoning
them and I will lose all my property.
Fact: In order for the divorce process to begin, someone has to separate and
move out away from their spouse. Generally, we advise our clients that
if they are the one moving out, they should make sure to take all of their
possessions that belong to them or are important to them. If you leave
something behind during separation, technically you have physically “abandoned”
that property. It’s always much more difficult to try and get back
property of which you are no longer in possession. It’s not impossible,
and can be done either through a
Separation Agreement or an
equitable distribution trial, but there are no guarantees what will happen to your property if
you leave it behind.
On that note, if you are in the process of separating and you want to keep
possession of your house, it’s best if you try and remain in the
house for the same reasons stated above.
If I move out and separate from my spouse, I will lose custody of my children.
Fact: Remember that there’s a big difference between moving out and separating
from your spouse while remaining in your child’s life, and abandoning
your child. Abandonment of a child can have fairly severe criminal and
Criminal child abandonment in North Carolina is defined as “any man
or woman who, without just cause or provocation, willfully abandons his
or her child or children for six months and who willfully fails or refuses
to provide adequate means of support for his or her child or children
during the six months’ period, and who attempts to conceal his or
her whereabouts from his or her child or children with the intent of escaping
his or her lawful obligation for the support of said child or children.”
N.C. Gen. Stat § 14-322.1. Abandonment of a child in North Carolina is a Class I felony. In the civil
context, abandoning your child may lead to you losing custody or visitation
rights with that child in any future child custody dispute.
It’s always best to consult an attorney before taking any steps that
could affect your legal rights, especially regarding issues dealing with children.