What Is the Legal Definition of Spouse Abandonment?

Spousal abandonment occurs when one spouse cuts off all ties with his or her family and refuses to provide them with any support, explains Legal Dictionary. There are two types of spousal, or marital, abandonment: constructive and criminal abandonment. In states with fault divorce laws, spousal abandonment is enough to grant a divorce.

Criminal abandonment refers to a spouse who stops providing financial support, care or protection for young children or a sick spouse, according to Legal Dictionary. Constructive abandonment pertains to a spouse being forced to leave the family home as a result of the other person's poor behavior. Physical and emotional abuse, infidelity and withholding sex are sometimes legal grounds for the victim to leave the marriage.

Most states do not consider spousal abandonment when dividing marriage assets, notes Legal Dictionary.

However, it is possible for a spouse to prove that the other person willfully left the family home and made no arrangements to pay the mortgage and other bills. If the abandoned spouse kept paying these financial obligations without any support, a court could deny the abandoning spouse rights to that home.

An abandoned spouse can petition the court for spousal and child support without initiating divorce proceedings, per Legal Dictionary.