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Old 22-03-24, 02:25
CornishCoincidence CornishCoincidence is offline
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Default Removing responsibility for a wife's debts

How do I post this???

I sometimes read notices that appear in newspapers in England in the 1850s.

"I hereby give notice that I will not be answerable for any DEBTS to be incurred by my wife ??? ??? from this date as I have made a separate allowance for her maintenance.’

Can anyone provide information on the circumstances as to why such notices were printed?
When did this start? When did this finish?
Has any author/historian written about this?
Would love to know more.
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Old 22-03-24, 07:26
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At this time period husbands became liable for their wives’ debts and contracts, as well as any breaches of the law committed by them before or during marriage. Also even if they were just living together (what we might call a common law marriage), if they appeared as husband and wife to the outside world, again he would be responsible for her debts. However, if the husband gave notice to those tradesmen (or whoever) that his wife may run up a debt, he would no longer be liable. The simplest way to do this was with a newspaper notice.

Here is an extract from The Complete English Lawyer, first printed in 1820:

Quote:
The Complete English Lawyer, Chapter X - Of Husband and Wife : Pages 380-381 states the following-

"With respect to the husband's liability for his wife's contracts it may be observed in general, that a husband being bound to provide his wife with necessaries, if she contract debts for them, he is answerable, unless he give express notice to the tradesman not to trust her…
…If the wife with consent of her husband, live apart from him, and has separate maintenance, and contract debts for necessaries, it is incumbent on the husband to shew that the tradesman had notice of the separate maintenance.

If a man cohabit with a woman to whom he is not married, and permit her to assume his name, and appear to the world as his wife, and in that character to contract debt for necessaries, he will become liable, although the creditor be acquainted with her real situation."
I'm not certain when the earliest of these newspaper notices were printed. I presume the end came with the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882. This act (amongst other things) allowed married women to enter into a contract and be liable for her own debts in the same way as an unmarried woman.
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Old 22-03-24, 08:04
Olde Crone Olde Crone is offline
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Wot Merry said, but I remember reading such notices in the local newspapers well into the 1960s, although that could just mean spite rather than a legality.

OC
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Old 22-03-24, 08:10
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Yes, I agree!

Also, most notices I've read (but I've never set out to read multiple notices) say nothing about making a separate allowance for the wife's maintenance. They seem to be left to get on with it!
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Old 22-03-24, 10:01
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I'm not entirely sure how legally binding such notices were. I imagine that if the local tradesmen were refusing her credit, a wife might take her business further afield.

Sometimes the woman ended in the workhouse because an exasperated husband had brushed his hands of her. At which point the authorities would demand that he maintain her.
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Old 22-03-24, 13:22
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I agree that these notices were probably not legally binding, but they probably did the trick in most cases. How awful for the wife.
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Old 22-03-24, 20:23
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A relative of mine in Australia put such a notice in the papers when his wife left him (in the 1940s).
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Old 25-03-24, 09:29
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I have one in my tree from the 1840's, hubby had his eyes in leaving for the USA but it seems his wife did not share the dream. There's an interesting little ping pong match of notices starting with a 'no longer liable' by the hubby followed by a 'business for sale' and 'business sold' by the wife. It seems at that point hubby had already gone taking the two surviving children with him and disembarked in the USA with a new wife.
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