In this series, we’re examining the question: Does alimony differ from spousal maintenance in Arizona?
In our previous post on the history of alimony, we started with ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, then the Code of Justinian, English ecclesiastical courts, and the arrival of alimony to Virginia Colony, becoming part of our earliest U.S. laws. The journey continues…
When we appreciate that marriage was considered by society to be a covenant that only death could terminate, the notion of the husband’s continuing obligation to support his wife after divorce (more accurately described as a kind of legal separation) makes a great deal more sense. He had a duty to support her and his children even when he lived separately from them. Because divorce didn’t absolutely terminate the marriage, that duty of support continued long after she was gone from the marital home (or vice versa).
Economics of Marriage – Division of Labor in the Home.
Looking at the division of labor for most households in early America, alimony makes even more sense. For wives who didn’t work outside the home, divorce meant unemployment. With only modest homemaking skills to offer, a “mature” woman was even less likely to find a paying job sufficient to cover her basic living expenses. Consequently, divorced women either received alimony or landed on the street in poverty. A strong incentive for her to stay married, no matter what.
A good wife sought a divorce only because her husband was at fault for having violated his marriage vows (through adultery, drunkenness, carousing, gambling, or generally having a wicked good time). The courts were very unwilling to let divorce impoverish the wife who stayed true to her marriage vows.
Early Temporary and Permanent Alimony.
While a divorce was pending, the good wife expected alimony pendente lite, or temporary alimony. When the divorce was final, she expected permanent alimony because the husband had a continuing duty to sustain his wife for life. This rule of sustenance meant she was entitled to shelter, food, clothing, and basic necessities “until death do us part” – divorce didn’t change that.
In this fault-based divorce system, the courts were not so kindly to the bad wife, which is where we’ll pick up this discussion in our next post on alimony as the ancestor of spousal maintenance in Arizona.