Desertion as a ground of divorce

As one of the reasons for divorce in the UK desertion is a little used ground. There are good reasons for that.

If one party to a marriage “deserts” the other for a continuous period of two years then it is possible in UK divorce law to seek a divorce on this ground. For instance, a husband or wife might just say, “I’m leaving you”, and walk out. After two years have passed this would be sufficient to found a divorce based on desertion once there has been a continuous period of two years of living apart.

In practice as one of the grounds for divorce it is not much relied upon because it is often difficult to prove. For example, the husband in the above instance might say nothing and just go to work overseas for a period of two years. This may or may not be desertion. If at the moment of leaving the husband had the intention of never returning then it would qualify as a period of desertion from the moment he left. On the other hand, he may not have formed this intention until he had been absent for a year. In this latter case he could only be considered to have been in desertion for a year. After all, spouses can and do work overseas or away from home. It can be seen that enquiries of this nature into someone’s intentions and the absence of corroborating proof of this intention does make relying on this ground quite difficult in practice. More often than not a couple in this situation will either seek a divorce on the grounds of two years’ separation with consent or the spouse who was left at home will petition within six months of the departure on the basis that it was unreasonable behaviour for him to have taken such a job without consulting her. Factors such as these illustrate why this ground for divorce is relatively uncommon.

In divorce in England it is proving the intention to desert which causes the difficulty if you rely upon this ground for divorce in a divorce petition. It is also fair to say that people do not usually realise that a delay of two years is necessary before one can issue a divorce petition on this ground. The desertion must last two years before it can be relied upon as a ground for divorce. This also rules it out as a ground for a quick divorce and contributes to making it an infrequently used choice.

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