If you have not been providing your family with the essentials of marriage such as financial and emotional support, then you are a prime candidate for accusations of abandonment. The legal ramifications of abandonment are varied, but they include these four:

It Creates a De facto Custody

When you abandon your family, your spouse automatically assumes sole custody of the kids; this is known as de facto custody. Although courts don't order de facto custody (it arises naturally), they may consider it as an important factor when deliberating on custody issues later. This means the other parent can use the abandonment to convince the court that you don't deserve the kids. After all, you were willing to abandon them in the past, who is to say that you won't do it again?

Your Spouse Can Use It as Grounds for Divorce

In states that allow grounds for divorce, your partner may use your abandonment as grounds to divorce you. This can have far-reaching effects on the financial aspects of your divorce settlement. For example, if your partner had to shoulder the financial responsibilities of taking care of your marital home (such as taxes, maintenance, and mortgage) they can get the court to lock you out of the accrued equity. This is especially likely if the abandonment period was prolonged.

You May Be Penalized

Depending on state laws, your spouse may also bring a civil lawsuit of family neglect against you. Such a lawsuit alleges that you had the means to provide for your family but chose not to do so. In most cases, family neglect cases succeed if the plaintiffs aren't financially stable and they can prove that the defendant had the means to prevent their destitution. If you lose the case, the penalties can range from imprisonment to payment of monetary fines.

Payment of Back Alimony

Lastly, if you end up divorcing, your spouse may seek (and get) both future and back alimony. Again, this is likely to be the case if you earn way more than your spouse and you left them with no means of support during your abandonment. You can imagine how expensive that would be to you in cases of extended abandonment.

As you can see, the consequences of abandoning your family are real and dire. Even if you have no intention of abandoning your family, your actions may be misconstrued as such if you don't take the necessary measures to protect yourself. Fortunately, you may be able to fend off such claims with the help of a separation and divorce attorney.