Montgomery Gentry wrote a song about it. “I’ll Keep the Kids” tells of the whole package: separation, divorce, child custody. But what happens outside of a Nashville recording studio, out here in the real world, when your wife up and leaves, and you have the house, the dog, and the kids to care for?
This Little Thing We Like to Call Desertion
The Code of Virginia is hardly melodic, but for some Virginia men, its lyrics could be music to their ears. Take this little ditty, from Code of Virginia § 20-61:
- Any spouse who without cause deserts or willfully neglects or refuses or fails to provide for the support and maintenance of his or her spouse, and any parent who deserts or willfully neglects or refuses or fails to provide for the support and maintenance of his or her child under the age of eighteen years of age, or child of whatever age who is crippled or otherwise incapacitated from earning a living, the spouse, child or children being then and there in necessitous circumstances, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not exceeding $500, or confinement in jail not exceeding twelve months, or both, or on work release employment as provided in § 53.1-131 for a period of not less than ninety days nor more than twelve months; or in lieu of the fine or confinement being imposed upon conviction by the court or by verdict of a jury he or she may be required by the court to suffer a forfeiture of an amount not exceeding the sum of $1,000 …
Desertion is not just a morally shameful thing to do to a Virginia father and the children; it’s also illegal. That law is bit long-winded, so allow us to excise the punishments:
- $500 fine, or
- Confinement in jail for up to a year, or
- Both the fine and jail, or
- Work release for between 90 days and a year, or
- Forfeiture of up to $1,000
Pull Yourself Up by the Bootstraps
Your wife left you. You are barely holding onto your job. You are trying to take care of 11 kids, 9 cats, 7 dogs, 5 goldfish, 3 hamsters, and a rough-running Ford.
We get it.
But you have to keep going. You have to reach out to your support system, starting with a family law attorney.
You can get plenty of help to get through the challenge:
- Close family
- Extended family
- Religious leaders
- Social service organizations
- Government agencies
Your very first stop really needs to be your family law attorney, because even though desertion is illegal, it is unenforceable if you don’t file charges against your wife.
You and your family law attorney can start action against your wife for desertion; you two can also prepare to protect your own kids. You will have to demonstrate that you are a fit parent or you risk having Virginia take your children through Child Protective Services (CPS). Some people view CPS as an evil incarnate, but that is not their role; the agency exists to protect Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens, its kids. The stress you feel from having to keep down a job, run a household, and care for the kids could unintentionally be endangering them. You may need to ask relatives for help with the children in the coming months.
That is why the first move, to your attorney, avoids the risky business of trying to go it alone. You expose your whole family to risks when you do not have a good family law attorney working for you, to preserve your household and safeguard your children.
Get Your Tines Ready
Sure, you may want to run after your wife with a pitchfork and get even. But those tines are really a symbol for the multi-prong approach you need to get through this unfair crisis:
- Get legal action going against your wife for desertion
- Get your support network going to help your kids
- Get professional help for yourself to deal with the stress and strain
- Get legal help to file for fault-grounds divorce under § 20-91
Two of the four prongs of the pitchfork are legal moves you should make. If you try a patchwork approach (or pretend she didn’t leave), you risk losing your children, your financial security, and your home.
Call The Only Law Firm in Virginia Representing Men Exclusively in Divorce
You need a family law attorney to move on divorce based on fault; desertion is one of the four fault grounds that can speed up your divorce.
Confused by Virginia’s family laws? Contact us today at The Firm For Men and get clarity and confidence. You may also telephone us at (757) 383-9184 to speak to a caring, experienced Virginia attorney today.