desertion, n. The willful and unjustified abandonment of a person’s duties or obligations, esp. to military service or to a spouse or family. • In family law, the five elements of spousal desertion are (1) a cessation of cohabitation, (2) the lapse of a statutory period, (3) an intention to abandon, (4) a lack of consent from the abandoned spouse, and (5) a lack of spousal misconduct that might justify the abandonment.

— Also termed gross neglect of duty. Cf. ABANDONMENT. [Cases: Armed Services 38; Divorce 37; Military Justice 661. C.J.S. Armed Services § 156; Divorce §§ 20, 41; Military Justice § 55.] — desert, vb.

constructive desertion. One spouse’s misconduct that forces the other spouse to leave the marital abode. • The actions of the offending spouse must be serious enough that the spouse who is forced from the home finds the continuation of the marriage to be unendurable or dangerous to his or her safety and well-being, and finds it necessary to seek safety outside the marital domicile.

— Also termed constructive abandonment. [Cases: Divorce 37(22). C.J.S. Divorce §§ 41, 44, 78.]

criminal desertion. One spouse’s willful failure without just cause to provide for the care, protection, or support of the other spouse who is in ill health or needy circumstances. [Cases: Husband and Wife 302, 304.]

obstinate desertion. Desertion by a spouse who persistently refuses to return to the marital home, so that the other spouse has grounds for divorce. • Before the advent of no-fault divorce, this term was commonly used in divorce statutes. The term was often part of the longer phrase willful, continued, and obstinate desertion. [Cases: Divorce 37(15). C.J.S. Divorce §§ 41, 78.]

willful, continued, and obstinate desertion. See obstinate desertion.

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