What Is Abandonment in a Marriage in Mississippi?

Marriage can be a blissful dream or a living nightmare, but it’s important to remember it’s also a legal contract. Marriage is a contract that you make with another person that is approved and processed by the state. If you both want to end the contract, you put in for a “no fault” divorce, which means both sides have decided to end the marriage.

Fault Grounds

But if one person wants to leave the marriage and the other doesn’t, it can get complicated. The state of Mississippi recognizes 12 official reasons why one member can sue the other in order to end the marriage contract. These 12 “fault grounds” are as follows:

  • Natural and incurable impotence
  • Adultery
  • A stay in a penitentiary for any duration of time
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Habitual and excessive use of opium, morphine, or other drugs
  • Continual cruel and inhuman treatment, including domestic spousal abuse
  • Hidden mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities at the time of marriage
  • Bigamy
  • Husband is unaware of the wife being pregnant by another person at the time of the marriage
  • Degree of kindred that is prohibited by law
  • Incurable mental illness.
  • Willful, continued, and obstinate desertion for one year


Desertion or abandonment in a marriage is when one spouse leaves the other without warning and offers no communication for at least one year. If that person also has children who depend on them financially, they can be charged by the state of Mississippi for criminal abandonment. If the first spouse leaves because the second spouse made it difficult to remain in the marriage, the court may view that as constructive desertion. For instance, if a woman takes her small children and deserts her husband because he is abusive to the family, the court is less likely to find the woman guilty of abandonment.

Constructive Desertion

Constructive abandonment can be evoked any time one spouse’s conduct would reasonably warrant separation and render the continuance of the marriage unendurable. Therefore if the husband is abusing his family and the wife abandons him, not only can he not claim desertion, but the wife actually can. Even if she’s the one who leaves, the husband is guilty of refusing to change his abusive behavior for a year; therefore, the wife can sue for divorce. It is also considered constructive desertion if one spouse refuses to have sex with the other. Obviously, this is difficult to prove in court, but it can be grounds for divorce if one spouse refused sex for such a time that it became “inexcusable.”


If you are a victim of desertion or any other fault grounds for divorce, call the Law Offices of Rusty Willard today at (601) 824-9797 and let us help.