Where Alimony Started
children Today’s alimony laws are different, but derived from the ones that began in the ecclesiastical court in England. Alimony rights were granted to women when the husband, as the property owner in the relationship, wanted a divorce. In England, unlike the United States, an absolute divorce was not recognized. Even if the husband and wife were granted the right to live apart, they were still recognized as married. Under alimony rights, a woman was entitled to an allowance for the rest of her life.
A woman had the alimony rights, since her husband was supposed to be the sole provider in a marriage. While a single woman had some rights, a married woman was not allowed to sign a contract or own property. A woman receiving alimony did not have her single rights restored to her, so alimony laws made it possible for her to survive. In England, laws allowed a woman to be dependent on her husband forever. A divorce was legally more of a permanent separation. A man was still bound to support his wife.
In America, divorce is recognized as a legal separation that has made both the husband and wife officially single again. However, the United States adapted England’s tradition of sometimes granting lifelong alimony payments. While alimony laws had previously existed, each state had different laws. For instance, the first alimony suit ever to be officially recorded in Nevada took place in 1868.
The woman who sued for alimony was denied, due to the short notice she gave the court. However, in that case the term alimony was used to describe the legal fees that accrued from the divorce. Today’s alimony rights are different. Under alimony laws, some spouses are entitled to financial help from their ex-spouse, usually for a fixed period of time.
There have been many changes in the alimony laws from centuries ago, such that either spouse may be entitled to alimony payments depending on their financial situation.