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Desertion of a Spouse in Maryland

by | Sep 22, 2022 | Divorce, Family Law

What does desertion mean in a marriage?

Desertion may also be referred to as abandonment in the state of Maryland. It occurs when one partner leaves their spouse, usually without warning.

Why do partners desert their spouses?

There are many reasons why a spouse chooses to leave the marital home. The couple may be fighting constantly or experiencing irreconcilable differences. The person who left may be in love with another or could just want a fresh start somewhere else. Except for visiting their children or retrieving any personal belongings that they may have left behind; the deserter rarely intends to return to their former residence for an extended amount of time.

What kinds of marital desertion exist?

Maryland recognizes two types of desertion in a marriage: actual desertion and constructive desertion. They may be used as grounds for requesting a divorce. The type of desertion that is listed must be proven during divorce proceedings.

What is actual desertion?

Actual desertion happens when a spouse voluntarily packs up their possessions and moves to another place. They could rent an apartment, purchase another property or live with friends or family members. That person has chosen to leave of their own accord. They were not forced or coerced into leaving the marital home, and they usually have no plans of going back to that residence to live there.

What is constructive desertion?

Constructive desertion occurs when a partner leaves the relationship. They don’t necessarily need to vacate their house. A few examples of constructive desertion are as follows:

  1. The partner in question refuses to move if their spouse has accepted a new job or a job transfer in a different city, state or country. Exceptions to this rule are if the person who acquired a new job has selected a residence that may be considered unsuitable or potentially hazardous to the couple or any children that they have together.
  2. Nonperformance of marital duties. This may include sexual intercourse. The person who refuses to participate or cooperate must cease participating in the generally expected functions that both partners perform to the point that their conduct is detrimental to the home life of the couple.
  3. Violent behavior, assault or other acts toward a partner that are vicious or cruel. The victim’s self-respect, confidence, health and/or safety could be damaged. They may fear for their life and the life of any children who are living in the home.

Can I use desertion as a reason to seek a divorce?

If your partner has constructively or actively deserted you, you can use desertion as a reason for asking for a divorce. It could be the only reason or one of multiple grounds that are given. Grounds will be listed on the initial petition that is filed with the clerk in the respective county that you live in.

How can I prove that my spouse deserted me?

Actual desertion must have been for at least twelve months or longer. This time cannot be interrupted, and couples are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse with one another during the desertion. Partners cannot mutually consent to have one person vacate the marital home if desertion is to be used as a reason for divorce. The deserter’s actions and behaviors must have been intentional and could have been hurtful toward you or your children. Desertion is often provided as a divorce ground in situations where there is no realistic hope that the couple will ever get back together or resolve their differences.

Photographs or videos of bruises, wounds or assaults committed by your partner may be used as evidence. You can also include hospital records and testimony from people who witnessed such acts. They can be brought to court to testify on your behalf. In court proceedings, you will be known as the plaintiff. The person who was served with divorce papers will be known as the defendant.

What can I do if I’ve been accused of deserting my partner?

Good faith can be a determining factor in divorce cases that involve claims of desertion. If you leave the marital home for six months or longer before returning, and your spouse refuses to hear what you have to say or let you in, you could sue them for desertion if you want. This would restart the waiting period from the date that you were refused by your former partner.

If you decided to return to the marital home because your living arrangements were temporary, it can be difficult to prove that you were acting in good faith. Good faith claims may be disproven if your partner can confirm that you only wanted to return because you didn’t want to undergo the financial and legal hassles involved in getting divorced.

Desertion can be devastating. The person who was abandoned may feel guilty for their partner leaving the house without warning. They could think that their partner doesn’t love them anymore or that their decision to leave was all their fault, even if that’s not necessarily the case. Children may also feel the same way, especially if the parent who left fails to stay in contact with them.

No matter what happens, it’s important to keep an open mind. Desertion can be reasonable, but there’s usually some type of reasoning behind that action. It’s usually not a spur of the moment decision. You are still important and have value to others, even if your spouse may not feel that way about you.

If you’ve been deserted by your partner or have been accused of desertion, give us a call today. You can set up a free consultation with one of our veteran attorneys. They will take the time to listen to your concerns and suggest possible actions that you can take. Our lawyers are ready to represent you during divorce proceedings if you want.

Divorce can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing your rights can make things easier. It will take time for the divorce to be finalized. You may not have your situation resolved for a few days, weeks or months. Once the marriage has been terminated, you can finally move on to the better things that life has in store for you.