Abandonment & Divorce – Legally Speaking

I have been a divorce lawyer in Oakland County Michigan for many years and over the years I have often been asked at the initial meeting “Will I face abandonment issues in my divorce because I moved out of the home or if I move out of the home?”

Fortunately, unlike many issues in divorce, there is a simple answer to this Question.  No, you will not.  This is true in Michigan and it should be true in any “No-fault” divorce state if you do not live in Michigan.

 The explanation is a little more complicated and involves a little history in Michigan Family or Divorce Law.  Until the 1970’s, Michigan law required a person that had to get divorced to state a specific reason for the divorce, such as abuse or abandonment on the record.  If the person did not state a sufficient reason, the judge could deny the person a divorce.  This caused unnecessary embarrassment, humiliation and other more serious issues to innocent people that needed to get divorced. 

Abandonment or desertion, as it was technically called in Michigan, was repealed as a basis for divorce when Michigan instated the “No-Fault” rules for Divorce.  The statute repealing Abandonment or Desertion as a grounds for divorce in Michigan is MCL §552.9d, you may review this statute at http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-552-9d

Michigan no longer requires a person to state specific grounds for divorce.  Typically a person recites the phrase “there has been a breakdown of the marital relationship to the extent that the bonds of matrimony have been destroyed” and this is sufficient.  Desertion of a minor child is still a felony in Michigan however this really has no relation to the question as posed in relation to a divorce, where one party has moved or plans to move out of the house.  The felony non-support statute in Michigan is MCL §750.164, you may review this statute at http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-750-161.    

I do offer the following advice as an experienced litigator, attorney, divorce lawyer and compassionate human being to those who ask me the Abandonment question.

You should continue to pay the bills and support your children as you did during the marriage after you or your spouse move out of the home.  For example, if you each paid certain bills, you should continue to pay the bills for which you have been responsible.  Let your spouse know that you are paying those bills and you anticipate that they will continue to pay the other bills they have paid.  If each of you puts money into an account and the bills are paid out of that account, you should continue to do that absent another agreement however if you are not the party that has been in “control of the checkbook” then I highly suggest that you speak to your spouse about dividing up the bills and opening separate accounts, to allow yourself the ability to open your own bank account and have some control over your own finances.  There are many reasons that you should follow this strategy before you or spouse file for divorce if you can.

If you cannot pay your bills, that is an issue that you should discuss with a financial advisor, credit advisor or bankruptcy attorney, depending on the extent of the issue.  Who knows, getting your financial issues in order may help your marital issues and should certainly reduce the horrible stress and anxiety that you must be facing.

About the Author:
Cameron Goulding is a North Oakland County Michigan Divorce Lawyer and has been providing the highest level of service to clients in Rochester, Rochester Hills, Bloomfield, Troy, Lake Orion, Oxford, Waterford and the surrounding communities in Genesee and Macomb Counties for over 14 years.  Mr. Goulding graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Economics and Wayne State University Law School with a J.D.  He was one of the first attorneys awarded the Family Law Certificate by the Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education.  Visit http://www.camerongoulding.com for more information.
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