Desertion is defined in English divorce law as one party in a marriage “deserts” the other for a continuous period exceeding two years.
You will need to show that your husband or wife has left you:
- without your agreement
- without a good reason
- to end your relationship
- for more than 2 years in the past 2.5 years
You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months in this period.
Desertion is rarely used as grounds for divorce, as it requires the mental intent to divorce throughout the 2 year period. This can be difficult to prove.
How to prove desertion
Desertion is hard to prove as it relies on proving the intent was there. You must prove that the mental intent to divorce was there throughout the two years. This is hard to do. This is why more people tend to use five years separation or unreasonable behaviour as the fact to rely on.
For example, one party 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, that party had the intention of never returning, it would qualify as a period of desertion from the moment they left. However, they may not have formed this intention until they had been absent for a year. In this latter case, it would be considered to have been desertion for just a year.
For a party in this situation, it would be worth considering unreasonable behaviour of the other party to have taken such a job without consulting you etc. Factors such as these illustrate why this ground for divorce is relatively uncommon.
It is proving the intention to desert which causes the difficulty if you rely upon this ground for divorce. Also, most people do not usually realise that a delay of two years is necessary before you can petition for divorce on this ground. This also rules it out as a ground for a quick divorce making it an infrequently used choice.
We had our first case in 8 years this year. We did prove it but it took 9 months and cost the client £1700. This included costs relating to trying to find the spouse. Extra applications to the court which all cost extra money. At one point the Judge wrote saying the wife had not proved she had no knowledge. We returned showing, when one goes out to buy a packet of cigarettes and kisses you before they go out, how can knowledge been proved or doubted. We argued on paper with the Judge and eventually, our client got the dissolution.
I don’t know where my Ex lives
If you don’t have an address for your ex you can still start proceedings. However, the courts will want to see that you have attempted to get in contact with them. Try to find an address for a spouse or a close relative, or try their place of work. The divorce papers can be served at their place of work.
If you have no contact with any of your spouse’s relatives, then it will be difficult. But, not impossible.
If your spouse was a foreign national or uncontactable, you can apply to the court to dispense with service of the divorce petition. This will cost an extra £50 every time you make an application to the court, in addition to the £550 for the divorce petition issue fee.
Call Divorce Negotiator for advice to which reason to divorce will suit you best.