Can my spouse hold me captive in the house?

We were married abroad over 20 years ago. I want to separate and rented an apartment. My wife is not willing to sign anything. She says “You want to leave? Leave! I’m not signing anything”. So now I’m captive, since I don’t want to render myself as the abandoning spouse. She is currently dependent on me.

What can I do? I want to leave the house.

If your wife is not willing to sign anything, then you may need to file an action in court for equitable distribution, child custody and child support if there are minor children, and possibly divorce from bed and board if your wife has committed any acts of marital misconduct. You can try presenting her with a separation agreement prior to you leaving the house, if you have not already, to see if she would be more willing to negotiate the terms of a separation once she sees what you would be offering for property division, alimony, etc.

To be considered abandoning your spouse, you must have left without justification, without the consent of the other spouse, and without the intent of renewing the cohabitation. If you cannot continue the marital relationship without safety, health, and self-respect, then you would be justified in leaving and would therefore not be abandoning your wife.