Justice Darrell Gavrin, of Queens County, New York, in the divorce of Pritchett v. Pritchett, found that where a husband abandoned his wife for a significant period of time, he forfeited some of his property rights to her.
The parties were married in 1971 and there were three children of the marriage. The last was born in 1992. The husband left the martial home in 1996, without providing any contact informationÂ
The wife sought exclusive possession of the marital home. It was purchased n 1984, and was located in Rosedale, Queens. Although purchased for $85,000, they refinanced it in 1994 for $107,000.00. The wife claimed that $30,000 of the refinanced sum was taken by the husband without her permission or authority to pay his personal debts.
At the time he abandoned the marital home, he took an additional $20,000 in marital assets. And although employed with the New York City transit authority, he ceased making any child support payments or contributing to the mortgage. The wife was forced to solely support and provide for her household.
Ten years later he reappeared at the marital home. The wife testified that she received a telephone call from one of the children saying “Ma, there is someone at the door, I think it is our father.” The wife rushed home and found that the husband had dropped off a list of some addresses.
The court awarded the house to the wife. The noted that the husband had not contributed any money toward child support in ten years. “[T]he husband’s lack of contribution of any monies for maintenance or child support from March 1996 to the present time, is factor which warrants consideration by this court in determining equitable distribution of the marital residence.”
Additionally, the court considered the other expenses the wife incurred to care for the child and pay the mortgage. After considering these factors, the court found the husband’s share of the expenses that the wife shouldered exceeded any interest he would have from the house. As a result, Justice Garvin, awarded the house to the wife.