The words “abandonment” and “desertion” have negative connotations. In the context of marriage and divorce, they can sound like dramatic words that belong in a Victorian novel. In fact, desertion, abandonment, or “refusal to cohabit” were once used as a fault constituting grounds for divorce.
Like every other state, South Carolina allows people to end their marriages through “no-fault” divorce. In SC, desertion (abandonment) is defined as not living together for a period of one year, without consent of the other spouse, and without justification. It is one of the five grounds for a no-fault divorce (S.C. Code § 20-3-10.), along with adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness (alcohol or narcotic drugs) and desertion.
Some spouses may want to leave a marriage that is breaking down, but may be concerned, thinking that moving out of the shared home constitutes abandonment or desertion that will serve them badly in the following divorce. Since one year’s separation is the no-fault ground, and the length of time living apart is now the same for a desertion, desertion is rarely if ever used as grounds for divorce.
In some cases, such as adultery, some spouses may seek a fault divorce as “a moral vindication because they can say, ‘He or she left, he or she does not pay, and I didn’t do anything wrong to make it happen.’”
Those who choose to divorce on a fault ground usually seek an unequal division of marital property, where the “innocent” party may be entitled to a larger share. According to legalzoom.com, South Carolina law allows state courts to look at each spouse’s marital misconduct or fault when determining the issues of alimony and property division. “Accordingly, an abandoned spouse may likely receive a more advantageous court order for alimony or for the division of property than the spouse who abandoned the household. An abandoned spouse might also be able to use marital fault as a reason for the court to order the payment of legal fees by the other party.
The seasoned family law and divorce lawyers at the McGrath Law Firm, founded by attorney Peter McGrath, will walk you through every step of the challenging divorce process to address your concerns and achieve your goals as efficiently as possible. From spousal support, child support, fault, and equitable division of property and debt to valuations, pre-nuptial agreements, and restraining orders, the experienced attorneys at McGrath Law Firm have a successful track record in all aspects of divorce law. Call us to schedule your consultation at (800) 283-1380.