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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

So I messed Up -- What do you do when you are the bad actor in a divorce?

From a recent discussion on the family law forum:
Question to Hanover Law:

My husband was cheating on me for fifteen years before I found out. Then I left the home after he became abusive to me in front of our children. I was gone for a while, so when I returned he had divorce papers served on me. Only for the divorce and no money was involved; the papers said that they were for divorce only and no settlement was involved.

So I Left....


Generally, leaving the home without securing a separation agreement, protective order, court order, or some form of agreement opens you up to a claim of desertion. This is made worse by leaving the kids with the alleged "abusive" spouse. Would you leave your kids with someone that hurt you? That does not make a lot of sense.

Usually, the Court will find that when one parent left, absent extenuating circumstances, the person abandoned the family.

This results in grounds (at least in VA and DC) for a "for cause" divorce. This type of divorce grants a more favorable status to the complaining spouse in terms of property settlement, pendente lite support (that's support and benefits given to one spouse during the course of the legal proceedings).

What happens if you did this?
  • First, you need to get all your information together. In this case example above, the person left because of infidelity and mental document it. If you can show that the other actor was also bad, it will go a long way in mitigating the impact of walking out on the family.
  • Secondly, you need to get a divorce attorney that is experienced in tough, possibly negative situation divorce. You can overcome an accusation of desertion, but it takes careful planning and work.
  • Thirdly, track the money -- who was using the credit cards and the bank accounts. This is important is any allegation of wrong doing.
  • Finally, be very clear on why you came back and that the absence was of a short, fixed duration.

Do you need help dealing with a difficult divorce? Are you the bad actor? You need to get good, honest, candid legal advice. When you're ready to talk about fighting for your rights, and overcoming challenging circumstances -- call us. 703-402-2723.

Sean Hanover, Esq.
Hanover Law
Offices in Fairfax and DC
888 16th St. NW
Washington, DC 20006

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