Imagine coming home after a long day at work one day to an empty house. You call out for your loved one, but there is no response. You head into your room, and you realise that your spouse’s belongings are no longer there. The racks that held their clothes are now empty, leaving behind the scent that you first fell in love with.
You wait for them to return. A day turns into a week and before you know it, months have passed. You can no longer take the loneliness anymore. You knew that your marriage had been rocky, but you never thought that it would come to this. The realisation sets in finally, your spouse has deserted you.
What is Desertion
In legal terms, desertion can be defined as being abandoned against your wishes by your spouse. If you ever find yourself in this situation, you can choose to divorce your deserting partner.
Under section 95 of the Women’s Charter, to file for a divorce, you will need to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down due to the desertion. Filing for a divorce can be done by showing that you have been deserted by your spouse for at least two (2) years (prior to the commencement of divorce proceedings) and that you have not resumed living with your spouse for a period or periods of not more than six (6) months in total. If either of these criteria is not proven, desertion cannot be justified and the desertion period must be renewed again.
However, before you can file for any divorce, there are some requirements that you must first meet before filing for a divorce in Singapore:
One of the parties:
- Must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident
- Resided in Singapore for at least three (3) years immediately before the commencement of the divorce proceedings
You must also have been married for a minimum of three years before you can apply for a divorce. If you wish to divorce your spouse even though you have been married for less than three years, you may want to consider filing for an annulment.
Criteria for Desertion
To prove Desertion as a grounds for divorce, it is necessary for you to trace and state the exact date for which your spouse deserted you as the Courts will have to consider all the circumstances involving you and your spouse. This includes the conduct of both parties during the period of desertion or reasons behind the desertion. The Courts will utilise all these information before it can come to a definitive conclusion as to the exact date that you and your spouse commenced living separately.
Desertion can be proven if you can show the Court that you and your spouse have been physically living separately and that there is an intention of your spouse to desert you. It is worth noting that this intention cannot be an agreement between you and your spouse to live separately.
Furthermore, a couple who are merely living apart due to one of the spouse’s studies or work obligations in a foreign country cannot be considered to have committed desertion. The period of physical separation cannot be considered as having lived separately to justify a divorce as there were no intentions of desertion at the commencement of physical separation.
Difference Between Separation and Desertion
There is a difference between a legal separation and desertion when filing for a divorce. In a separation, there is a mutual agreement between both you and your spouse to live apart. Desertion, on the other hand, is an active choice by one party to leave the marriage with no intention of returning. The one factor that can turn separation into desertion is the deserting spouse’s state of mind. It must be shown that the deserting party had an intention to walk out of the marriage. As such, an agreed separation cannot give rise to desertion on the part of the spouse that left.
If you are the party that left but wishes to bring up a case of desertion with the intention to divorce, you may prove constructive desertion instead of actual desertion. The difference between actual desertion and constructive desertion can be seen in the differences of circumstances.
To prove constructive desertion, you must show that your spouse must be guilty of conduct that ‘drove you away’ due to unbearable conditions at home. That said, your desertion cannot be from a minor incident (e.g., spouse continuously leaving the toilet’s seat up or snoring loudly that you can’t sleep) but it must be of such severity that it necessitates your leaving of the household. Some examples of this include continuous physical or mental abuse towards you, adultery or an unjustified refusal to have sexual intercourse for an extended period. If you think you are in any of these situations, you can file for a divorce based on constructive desertion.
How Can We Help You
In cases of desertion, a Statement of Particulars (SOP) is required to show the circumstances of desertion, taking into account the applicable law. Divorce proceedings and the paperwork involved are delicate issues and may be too technical and complex for you to fully understand. Worry not, at I.R.B. Law; we have experienced lawyers who are well versed in Singapore divorce proceedings. We will be able to guide you through and explain to you throughout each and every stage of your case. We understand that going through such an event in your life is difficult and emotional.
So contact us to receive advice on how case proceedings can be best handled so that you can focus on getting back up on your feet. Our first consultation is usually free as we wish to focus on you and not on your wallet. So don’t hesitate and reach us at [email protected] or call us at +65 6298 2537 and schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.