1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alimony

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ALIMONY (from Lat. alere, to nourish), in law the allowance for maintenance to which a wife is entitled out of her husband’s estate for her support on a decree for judicial separation or for the dissolution of the marriage. Though, as a rule, payable to a wife, it may, if the circumstances of the case warrant it, be payable by the wife to the husband. Alimony is of two kinds, (a) temporary (pendente lite), and (b) permanent. Temporary alimony, or alimony pending suit, is the provision made by the husband for the wife in causes between them to enable her to live during the progress of the suit, and is allowed whether the suit is by or against the husband and whatever the nature of the suit may be. The usual English practice is to allot as temporary alimony about one-fifth of the husband’s net income; where it appears that the husband has no means or is in insolvent circumstances, the court will refuse to allot temporary alimony. So where the wife is supporting herself by her own earnings, this fact will be taken into consideration. And where the wife and husband have lived apart for many years before the institution of the suit, and she has supported herself during the separation, no alimony will be allotted. Nor will the wife be entitled to alimony where she has sufficient means of support independent of her husband. Permanent alimony is that which is allotted to the wife after final decree. By the Matrimonial Causes Act 1907, the court may, if it think fit, on any decree for dissolution or nullity of marriage, order that the husband shall, to the satisfaction of the court, secure to the wife such a gross sum of money or such annual sum of money for any term not exceeding her life, as having regard to her fortune (if any), to the ability of her husband, and to the conduct of the parties, it may deem reasonable. The court may suspend the pronouncing of its decree until a proper deed or instrument has been executed by all necessary parties. The court may also make an order on the husband for payment to the wife during their joint lives of a reasonable monthly or weekly sum for her maintenance; the court may also at any time discharge, modify, suspend or increase the order according to the altered means of the husband; the court has also power to make provision for children. Alimony is paid direct to the wife or to a trustee or trustees on her behalf, but the court may impose any restrictions which seem expedient. We may also describe as a kind of alimony the allowance of a reasonable weekly sum not exceeding £2 which in England, under the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women) Act 1895, may be given to a married woman on applying to a court of summary jurisdiction if she has been forced by cruelty to leave her husband or has been deserted by him.

United States.—Alimony is granted by the courts of the several states on much the same principle as in England, though in many states the courts of equity as such may grant alimony without divorce or separation proceedings independently of any statute, on the ground that it is just that the husband should support his wife when she lives apart from him for his fault, and since the courts of common law provide no remedy the courts of equity will. This is so in Alabama (Brady v. Brady, 1905, 39 So. Rep. 237), Kentucky, North Carolina, Iowa, California, Ohio, Virginia, South Dakota and the District of Columbia. In other states alimony without such proceedings is allowed by statute, and such alimony is now very general throughout the United States. The usual grounds for the allowance of it are desertion and such conduct as would amount to legal cruelty. After divorce a vinculo, alimony or separate maintenance is sometimes granted on good reason. The marriage must be proven as a fact, but a “common law” marriage, i.e. one established by cohabitation and repute, is sufficient. In several states alimony or maintenance is by statute allowed to the husband in certain cases out of the wife’s property. This is so in Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island and Iowa. In Oregon he is entitled to one-third of his wife’s real estate in addition to maintenance on divorce for her fault. The amount of alimony depends upon the circumstances of each case as in England. Permanent alimony is generally more than when pendente lite, and usually one-third the husband’s income. It may generally be changed from time to time as the circumstances of the parties change. Judgment for alimony is considered a judgment in personam and not in rem, and can only be enforced outside the state where rendered in case the husband has been personally served with process within that state. The remarriage of the man is not sufficient ground for reducing the alimony (Smith v. Smith, 1905, 102 N.W. Rep. 631), but on remarriage of a woman to one able to support her, her former husband being in poor circumstances, it will be reduced (Kiralfy v. Kiralfy, 1901, 36 Wisc. N.S. 407).