Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff married Defendant knowing that he was extremely frugal. Defendant provided Plaintiff with only meager amounts of money and Plaintiff was often forced to work individually to pay for needs. Plaintiff brought a suit to recover maintenance and support money.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A spouse cannot maintain a suit in equity to secure support or alimony when the parties are not separated or living apart. For the courts to inquire into the living standards of a family would be contrary to public policy.
Issue. Was the trial court correct in its finding that when a wife is abandoned by her husband, without means of support, a bill in equity will lie to compel the husband to support the wife without asking for a divorce decree?
Held. To maintain such an action the parties must be separated or living apart from one another, therefore the trial court erred.
The trial court found that it was well-established law that it is the duty of the husband to provide for his family with support and means of living such as fit his means, position, and station of life. Previous case law had held that a wife may bring a suit in equity to secure support and alimony regardless of if the action is for divorce.
In the present case the marital relationship continued for over 33 years with no complaint from the Plaintiff regarding her support. The parties were not separated or living apart at any time. Public policy requires that the standards of a family are a matter of concern to the household, and not for the courts to determine. As long as the home is maintained and the parties are living as husband and wife the husband is legally supporting the wife.
Discussion. Without a showing of a termination of the marriage the Court found that it would be contrary to public policy to force the husband to make specified payments to the wife.