Assessment of desertion for WidB

Note: WidB ceased on 20 March 2020. The following information is for historical purposes only.


This topic discusses how desertion was assessed for the purposes of qualification for WidB.


Desertion occurs where 1 party to a marriage withdraws from the matrimonial relationship:

  • with the intention of causing a permanent separation,
  • without the consent or against the will of the other, and
  • without cause or reasonable excuse.

Desertion was NOT the withdrawal from a PLACE but from the STATE of marriage. To support a claim, the evidence had to establish that the claimant's husband had physically left her and withdrawn from the matrimonial relationship.

Explanation: A woman who was living apart and estranged from her husband by mutual consent was not regarded as having been deserted and was, therefore, not eligible for WidB as a deserted wife.

Reconciliation after desertion

If a deserted wife resumed living with her husband, she was no longer qualified to receive WidB from the day of the reconciliation.

There had to be a genuine and complete reconciliation. Casual or intermittent visits with no intention of resuming a normal domestic relationship were NOT sufficient to establish an end to the desertion. Full resumption of co-habitation for a relatively short period would usually be enough to terminate the desertion.

A wife who deserted her husband after choosing to live with him again could not be described as a deserted wife.

Exception: The exception to this rule was where the wife's desertion was constructive desertion.

Constructive desertion

Constructive desertion was where a woman leaves her partner in circumstances that could reasonably justify her withdrawal from the matrimonial relationship.

Examples: Cruelty, habitual drunkenness, misconduct or failure to support.

Although the SSAct specifies desertion by the husband as the ground for qualification, this included cases of constructive desertion by the woman.

If constructive desertion of more than 6 months was proven, it could still be necessary for the claimant to take reasonable action for maintenance.

Last reviewed: 20 March 2020