Abandonment In North Carolina

One of the most common questions I get asked about when meeting with potential clients is related to “abandonment”.  Clients want to know if they can “get” the other party with “abandonment” or if their spouse can “get” them for “abandonment” if they move out.

In a civil matter such as a divorce proceeding, there is no cause of action for abandonment in North Carolina. This means that a person cannot be sued for “abandonment” in a civil case. This is because North Carolina is a no-fault state, meaning that the reason for a separation is not material to the divorce proceedings. Abandonment has no effect on property division or divorce itself.

However, a person may argue that an abandonment has occurred as a factor for a court to consider when deciding the amount and duration of alimony in a case where alimony is appropriate.  In such a case the party claiming abandonment must prove that the other party 1) ended the cohabitation (living together); 2) without justification or provocation; and 3) without the intent to renew the cohabitation.  In other words, they must prove that the other party left the home for no legitimate reason and with no intention of returning. As a practical matter, it is rare that a separation is without justification sufficient to rise to the level of abandonment because most parties experience marital difficulties well before separation that justify the separation.

Even if a case for abandonment as an alimony factor can be established, it is only ONE factor for the court to consider and by itself does not serve as grounds for a court to order OR deny alimony.

There is a criminal charge of abandonment in North Carolina, but that requires a party to willfully fail to provide adequate financial support to a dependent spouse or child. Simply leaving the home as part of a separation is not criminal abandonment.

In summary, a person cannot be sued for abandonment in North Carolina. Abandonment only applies in alimony cases, and moving out or otherwise leaving a spouse is not abandonment unless it is done without justification and that is rarely the case.

Social Media And Family Law

It’s true that everything you do online is recorded somewhere.  Because of this, you should always be careful about what you say and post online.

Everything you say and do online AND by text message is subject to discovery in a family law case. More and more, Facebook postings and other social media and text communications are being introduced as evidence in family law cases.

Deleting posts will not prevent the opposing party from issuing a subpoena to Facebook or any other social media or communications company for production of your file. Just because you deleted it does not mean that the record no longer exists.

Further, if you are involved in litigation already, attempting to remove information that may be relevant to the case whether it favors you or not may be considered spoliation of evidence. Spoliation of evidence can be very harmful to your case and could result in sanctions.

The best advice is to be careful what you post because you never know how it can come back to haunt you. Also, if you are in the middle of a case or expect to be involved in a case, getting offline by suspending or cancelling your account is the smart choice.

Brought to you by The Spagnola Law Firm, a family law and bankruptcy firm in Greensboro, NC. Serving Guilford County and surrounding counties.