Abandonment – An Introduction
Abandonment is also known as desertion. It happens when a husband or a wife decides to leave the marriage home. That person also leaves his or her spouse, to live elsewhere. The spouse that is left behind is abandoned.
And that’s a ground for divorce.
When John (not his real name) got home, he noticed that his bedroom was in a state of disarray. The wardrobe doors were thrown wide open, and many of the pieces of clothing had been removed. John panicked, thinking that intruders had entered his home.
John picked up a stick, and proceeded cautiously around his house, in case the intruders were still around. Then he came to the kitchen, and he saw the goodbye note that his wife had left him. “Dear John,” the letter said, “our lives aren’t going anywhere. I love you, but I can’t live with you anymore. So, this is goodbye.”
John had just become the latest abandoned spouse. Cases of spousal abandonment are more common than you might think. In the USA, they even have a name for it: Spousal Abandonment Syndrome. But it’s not confined to the USA, because it happens in Malaysia as well.
The law on divorce due to abandonment
In Malaysia, the word “abandonment” doesn’t really appear in the Act. (Which Act? The Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976. That Act.)
Instead, the word used is “deserted”, as in desertion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “desert” to mean “Abandon (a person, cause, or organization) in a way considered disloyal or treacherous.”
In Malaysia, abandoned spouses (or deserted spouses) can rely on their being abandoned by their husband or wife as a grounds for a divorce.
But there’s a catch. The abandonment (or desertion) must have happened at least two years before the abandoned spouse seeks a divorce.
If the abandonment happened recently, it doesn’t fall within the ambit of the section. (Section 54(1)(c), LRA 1976).
In such cases, the abandoned party — the one being left behind — can either wait for two years to pass, or try to seek divorce under some other provision.
Can the spouse who abandons his/her spouse, seek divorce?
This is a rather tricky situation. On the one hand, there’s abandonment, but on the other hand, the one seeking divorce may not be the one who was abandoned. Instead, the spouse seeking divorce may have been the one who abandoned his or her spouse.
In such a case, perhaps that spouse can cite another provision of the law, to say, “We have lived apart for two years.”
The law allows a husband or a wife to seek divorce, if he or she has been living apart from his or her spouse for two years.
Just ask section 54(1)(d) of the LRA 1976. The wording is clear.
Bear in mind, however, that the provision also requires two years of staying apart.
This article has been a part of our series on divorce.
Thanks for reading.
This article has been written for general information only, and your case might be different. Please consult with a lawyer before making any decision. In case you need to speak with a lawyer, please contact us.