Is moving out sufficient enough for an abandonment charge?

Question: My wife recently cheated on me and we were both so upset with each other that I moved out of my home at her insistence. Can they get me with abandonment?

I also had an affair about 7 years ago that she knew about, but we decided to stay together and work it out, so what sort of wrinkle will that throw in the case? We have no children.



Merely moving out of your home, absent more, is insufficient in most states for an “abandonment” charge. Moving out and leaving your spouse financially strained and unable to support herself, however, may constitute abandonment. In Michigan, for example where I practice, the deserting spouse must also fail to support the left-behind spouse for two years while having the ability to pay, coupled with intent to abandon the spouse.

It is rare to see charges for abandonment or even abandonment used as a ground for obtaining a divorce in fault-based divorce states, however. More common is a claim that one spouse committed adultery. How much of a “wrinkle,” to use your term, that has in your case depends on all of the other facts in your case. The presumption is that marital property is to be equitably divided, as near equal as possible, and spousal support should not be awarded unless the spouse needs it, without regard to fault. Property awards and support awards are not bases for punishment.

The bigger wrinkle will likely be how much your wife wants to litigate the adultery in court – does she want a trial with fact witnesses to testify to every sordid detail? Does she want a psychological evaluation? Does she want to argue a motion that your affair had some effect on your marital estate (e.g., you incurred debt for a trip to the Bahamas with a lover)? All of these could add financial and emotional “wrinkles” to the divorce process. A mere move, however, is probably insignificant.

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Tennessee. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area for additional information or representation. Cordell & Cordell has attorneys located in Tennessee.


Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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2 comments on “Is moving out sufficient enough for an abandonment charge?

    Wife left said wants divorce i worked 23 yrs over the road trucking left trucking and worked for 10yrs at University of Michigan-Dearborn to help raise our son. Son is now almost 30 and i haven’t worked in over 5 yrs she has supported the household for those yrs we had plans to move to Florida she went ahead to help her mother & stepdad who has dementia after 6 days not hearing from her i called her and was told to sell everything and she was Not coming back nor wants me there she is leaving me with no support which will make me homeless I’m 60 yrs old not in great health and live in flint where there are no job for senior. She said i have till December to find a way to live here it cost 900.00 a month for All the essential bills. Is it correct that she must pay these bills until I find employment at least 2 years whichever comes first? Any help will be greatly appreciated as all this was a surprise to me

    Hi Jennifer, My husband is a U.S citizen and left to India in May 2011 while I was still living in Wisconsin and haven’t come back to U.S. I have moved to Michigan in 2012 and been living here since then and bought a home in 2015. Since we do not have any relationship at all, in this circumstance can I file a divorce in Michigan and summon to his current address in India? What if he doesn’t come back to U.S in response or doesn’t sign the divorce papers?

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