Can he just up and leave like this?

I’ll try to answer some of these questions as I can. Maybe some of the others can add their input also, but at least you will have a start.
I don’t know whether or not this would be abadonment because he is continuing to pay the bills and you have had contact with him…
NC law is that separation begins the day that you begin to live separate and apart from one another. Realistically, he should have had a separation agreement prior to leaving the residence but since he has continued to be financially responsible it’s very doubtful that it would be seen as abandonment.

No, you do not have to wait for him to make the first move, or even decide what HE wants. If you have decided that you do not want to allow him to come back to the marriage should he choose to, then that is your right. Since he has left the home, you do not have to allow him to come back. You should let him know, in writing, that he is not to come to the home unless you invite him or he has your permission.
If he has left the marital home, you can consult with an attorney and get a separation agreement drawn up, change the locks, and open a separate banking account. You are entitled to 1/2 the marital assets up to the date of separation. Since you have been a dependant spouse, you are entitled to alimony, which in the end may or may not be enough to cover the mortgage and living expenses that you currently have. You may need to begin looking for work so that you are not dependent on him completely for your wellfare. That is not to say that you will not get alimony but it’s a percentage based on several factors. If you begin working, you may be able to make up for the amount that you do not get from him.
You will need to consult an attorney and begin to familiarize yourself with your financial situation. Yes, he could just stop paying all the bills but it would not be in his best interest to do this since it would be his credit ruined.
Possibly contact the utility companies and find out if your name is on the accounts. If not then you need to find out what to do to add it so that you can make adjustments. Then when you begin work, you could contact the utility companies and have his name removed from the account. Then request that he pay the money directly to you and you pay the utility bills.

Please begin keeping records of conversations or any interactions.

Consultations for attorneys are normally reasonable and you should consult an attorney before you do anything.

I understand that you have had the rug pulled out from under you. You are still trying to catch your breath, but you are doing the right thing. Contact the bank and get a copy of the current bank statement, or find the most recent one mailed to you. Find out if there are other statements from retirement accounts, 401K, savings accounts…
By letting him know that you are not going to just sit back and wait for him to decide your fate, it may jolt him into action. Regardless of whether you work things out or do indeed separate, your life is changing. If you take control of it now and realize that you do have some options, it will be easier to handle 3 months or a year from now. Please consult with an attorney. Take care of and protect yourself and your children financially first. Hang in there…

I am sorry you are going through this. What stepmother says is true. She gives good advice.

My opinion (not worth much I will agree) is that the leaving spouse is at a disadvantage. All things being equal.

Based on you post he will be paying you alimony and child support. If you were married 20 years then you have teenagers probably. Right?

I know you don’t want to hear this, but he probably left you for another woman. Do you have any indication of that? Lots of signs if you look for them. Very difficult to believe that he just woke up one day and said “I am tired of being married” and walked out.

One of the most important things you need to do is decide in your own mind, what you want to do. I know that sounds self evident, but the sooner you decide what you want to do the better edge you will have. Once you make your decision stay on track. Be steadfast. I am not saying to go down the divorce trail nor am I saying go down the reconciliation trail. I am saying it will be to your advantage to decide what to do sooner rather than later.

From your post you sound very intelligent. You can get through this.

To answer your points below:

  1. Can’t tell at this time. If it walks away from household bills and support then yes.
  2. I was in your situation. My statement above about deciding in your own mind is the answer to this question. Don’t forget, you can’t make him do anything, least of all come back. He has to want to.
  3. Not if you don’t want him to. You can change the locks and tell him not to return. Again you have to decide.
  4. No, but there maybe and probably will be financial impacts to the both of you. It is too soon to say about your house. Lots of factors there. Unfortunately only time will tell.
  5. He can, but that would trigger the abandonment charge. It is to your advantage to get a separation agreement and let him sign it. I have seen this time and time again. There is a window of opportunity when one spouse wants to leave or is caught in an affair. They will sign anything, sometimes. Get a good separation agreement drawn up that has everything in it that you want to protect yourself and your kids and ask him to sign it. Maybe he won’t, but maybe he will. To answer you question: Yesterday was the best time to sign a separation agreement (one that your attorney drew up).
  6. No, No and you are correct. Don’t take him back for the wrong reasons.

Good luck.

  1. Abandonment is technically leaving the marital residence without adequate provocation, generally it is not much of an issue as long as he continues to provide financial support to you.

  2. Even though he was the one who left the residence, you can certainly move forward with the division of your property and the settlement of your support issues.

  3. If he has been gone for three weeks and is residing somewhere else, then you can change the locks and tell him not to return to the residence.

  4. No, you are not going to be left homeless with no money. It can take a while to get the support issues resolved. You should start dealing with these issues as soon as possible before your finances get tight.

  5. He can stop paying the bills, however you can get a court order or an agreement in place to prevent this from happening. That is why it is important for you to see an attorney as soon as possible.

  6. No, you do not have to allow him to come home and if you refuse to do so it will not affect your rights to support or an equitable division of the marital property.

Hang in there, it all seems overwhelming right now, but it will get easier. I wish you the best of luck.

P.S. Please feel free to bring up this or any other topic on our live call-in show every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. EST. Visit for details

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.787.6361 main fax

Charlotte Office
301 McCullough Drive
Suite 510
Charlotte, NC 28262
Main Phone: (704)307.4600
Main Fax: (704) 9343.0044

Sutton Station
5826 Fayetteville Rd. Suite 205
Durham, NC 27713
Phone: (919) 321-0780

The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service only, a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action. The information posted on this forum is available for public viewing and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship with any individual. These answers are provided for informational purposes only, a person should consult with their own individual legal counsel before taking any action that could affect their legal rights or obligations.

I’m new to this so please excuse my long winded questions. My husband of over 20 years recently left me. He has not said he wants a divorce but it doesn’t look like he’s coming back.

I’ve been pleading with him to come to counseling with me so we can work through this and he says he doesn’t think that will work. He’s made it very clear to me that he’s unhappy and he’s given me no hope that this might work out.

He’s been living in motels and sometimes staying at a friend’s house. He handles all the bills and finances. I’ve been a homemaker our entire life together. We have two children. Unfortunately I do not know all the details about our financial state since he handles everything.

He has physically been out of the house for 3 weeks now but has not changed permanent residence (mail still being delivered to the house - all of it as far as I know).

So my questions are:

  1. Is this abandonment?

  2. He won’t tell me he wants a divorce yet he’s not willing to try to work it out - I’m in limbo not knowing what’s going on - is there anything I can do about that or I have to live in limbo for the next year? This is not mutual, he left me, I want him back - does that mean he has to make the first move and I just have to sit around and wait even though he’s made it very clear he’s not coming back?

  3. He can still come and go in our house yet I have no idea where he’s staying, that doesn’t seem fair to me but I can’t change the locks since he hasn’t said he’s gone for good?

  4. Am I going to be left homeless with no money? Can he just pick up and leave his family like that? I’ve given up my life and any possible career for 20 years to take care of him and our family. If he leaves like this I will have nothing and have no qualifications to get a job that can pay for the house so I will lose that too?

  5. Can he decide to just stop paying our bills? He makes all the money and I have no control over what gets paid and what doesn’t. How and when is the time to bring up a separation agreement? Does he have to initiate that since he’s the one who left?

  6. I’ve been trying to read up on the laws but it’s very confusing to me, mostly because of my mental state at the moment. Since he’s been gone for three weeks and if I decide that I don’t want him back because of what he’s put our family through - does that mean I’ve given up my rights to alimony, child support and the house? If he decides after 3 months of this that he wants to come home do I have to accept that and take him back? My fear is that he will seek council and be told that he will have to pay me alimony and child support, decide he doesn’t want to then want to come back for the wrong reasons.

Thank you to anyone reading this. I’m sorry my questions and thoughts are all over the place. I do have a consultation appointment next week but would greatly appreciate any insight or comments you may have regarding my situation.

Thank you for your time.