What Constitutes Marriage Abandonment in Pennsylvania?

In the state of Pennsylvania, marriage abandonment is one of the grounds that a partner can base an “at fault” divorce upon. This fact is enough to get the attention of many a spouse who wants to leave the marital home to cut down on fighting, or to get away from a partner who is adulterous or abusive but who fears that it will work against them in the courts. The fact that the state has included abandonment as one of its at fault causes does not mean that you have to live in an unhappy situation. Here is the information you need on what does – and does not – constitute marriage abandonment in Pennsylvania.

The law in the state of Pennsylvania is quite clear regarding at-fault divorces. According to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a), an abandonment that qualifies as grounds for a fault divorce occurs when one spouse “has committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years.”  That’s a whole lot of information packed into a relatively short sentence, but what it means is that in order for your departure to qualify as abandonment, it must be a purposeful, malicious act for which you have no justification (i.e. abuse, an affair) and for which there is no conduct that led up to it (affair, abuse, etc.), and which lasts for at least one year. After that original law was passed, a more detailed description of marriage abandonment was added by the state’s Superior Court, which indicated that an individual spouse’s leave-taking could not be considered abandonment unless it was continuous for more than a year and that if notification, intention to leave and contact information was provided to a spouse and appropriate contributions continued to be made to marital financial obligations, then the departing spouse’s legal position would not be in jeopardy.

All that being said, when it comes to divorce, leaving the marital home comes with its fair share of risks, especially if there are children involved. If you want to leave your marital home but are concerned about whether doing so would be considered marriage abandonment, or if you believe that you yourself have been abandoned, contact our office today to speak to one of our compassionate attorneys.