Dear John letter? Abandonment in a Michigan divorce case.

By the time you read this line, I’ll be gone. . .” originates from a popular 1980’s sit-com by the name Dear John starring Judd Hirsch, premised the abandonment of his wife, who simply got up and left his relationship. Abandonment may be relevant in a Michigan divorce but is not an independent cause of action for divorce in Michigan. You cannot sue your spouse for abandoning you in Michigan.


Abandonment is not always wrong.

Leaving a spouse without warning is not always wrong. Take for example a spouse fleeing domestic violence or leaving because the other spouse makes it impossible to stay. However, when abandoning your spouse is the cause of the divorce, that person may be considered “at-fault” for the breakup of the marriage and being at fault can have legal consequences in a Michigan divorce case.

Many people wrongfully think that because Michigan has been a no-fault divorce state since January 1, 1972, that abandonment (or other fault grounds) are irrelevant.  This is not true, abandonment and other fault grounds can be considered in Michigan because Michigan is both a no-fault divorce and a fault divorce state. Simply put, if the abandonment of a spouse is considered the cause (fault) for the divorce, a court can take abandonment into account in dividing property, awarding spousal support (alimony) and in determining child custody in a Michigan divorce action.

Abandonment in a divorce case is different than child  abandonment in a probate case, which involves termination of parental rights or criminal charges against a parent. Leaving a spouse is not criminal in nature. However, if abandonment is considered the cause of the divorce (fault), there it may result in the innocent spouse getting more property, more (or less) spousal support and impact a child custody and parenting time determination, if the abandonment includes cutting ties with a child.

Respectfully leaving a relationship is not only morally ethical, it may have legal implications as well. When a relationship ends, someone does not have to be at fault. However, when one spouse unjustifiably leaves the relationship, abandonment may be considered at-fault for the divorce and change the outcome.

About Findling Law

Findling Law, PLC – 414 W. 5th St. Royal Oak, Michigan 48067

Phone:+1 (248) 399-3300
After hours emergency?+1 (707) 968-7347


I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We are compassionatecreative and always prepared. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling


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