Law Married Woman s Property 100808

Committal Order

A committal order under the Debtors Act cannot be made against a married woman, even after proof of means, as a judgment against her is not a personal one but only a charge on her separate estate, although she may be carrying on a trade separate from her husband. But she may be committed for non-payment of rates.


A woman married after December 31, 1882, is liable for her ante-nuptial debts, contracts and torts, and the husband's liability is limited to the value of his wife's property which he may have acquired and as to which he can be sued without her, whether she is living or dead, and can be sued with her if the plaintiff seeks to establish his claim in whole or in part against both husband and wife. And as between him and her, the husband is entitled to be indemnified out of her separate property

Remedies for Protection of Property

A woman has the same remedies, civil or criminal, for the protection of her separate property as if she were a single woman, in enforcing which husband and wife are competent witnesses against each other. But no criminal proceedings can be taken by husband or wife against the other except when living apart. If, however, either of them deserts the other, taking with them property belonging to the person so deserted, the absconding party may be charged with theft.


To the extent of her separate property a married woman is, together with her husband, liable for the maintenance of her pauper husband, children, and grandchildren.


A policy of life assurance may be effected by a married woman upon her own life or the life of her husband for her separate use. And a wife or a husband may effect a policy on her or his own life by way of settlement for the benefit of the husband or wife or children of the insured, or of any of them, in which case the insurance moneys will not be subject to her or his debts.


Paraphernalia has always been regarded as the wife's property, but only in a limited sense, for the husband can always sell or give them away in his lifetime although the wife cannot so dispose of them The husband cannot, however, dispose of paraphernalia by will, and if his wife survives him they become her absolute property, unless his other assets are insufficient to meet his debts, in which case his creditors may lay claim to them. Paraphernalia consists of wearing apparel, jewellery and ornaments suitable to the wife's condition in life, and given to her for her personal adornment. Whether jewels given to a wife are to be regarded as paraphernalia, or whether they are part of her separate estate, having been presented to her as an absolute gift, is a question of fact; but unless it can be shown that the husband intended them for paraphernalia by forbidding his wife to part with them, they will be regarded as part of her separate estate. The Married Women's Property Act has not altered the character of paraphernalia, and things so given continue to remain paraphernalia, in spite of the Act.


These must not be confused with paraphernalia; heirlooms are family plate, pictures, or furniture vested in trustees to accompany the ownership and possession for the time being of the house. Strictly speaking, "heirlooms" are movable things which by special custom are owned by virtue of the ownership of certain land, and on the death of one owner passes to his successor. Of such are monuments, and tombstones in churches, boxes containing title-deeds, etc.


This is another species of property which has always been considered as the separate property of married women, and is nothing more nor less in fact than a dress allowance secured to the wife on the understanding that she will spend it in the decoration and adornment of her person. Pin-money should be paid regularly, and married ladies should make a note of the fact that only one year's arrears of pin-money are recoverable from their husbands.

Marriage Settlements

Marriage settlements may be either antenuptial or post-nuptial, but generally the former, and are settlements of property in which the husband or wife is interested and made in consideration of the marriage; the property which is the subject of the settlement being settled on trustees for the benefit of either.

Glossary Of Legal Terms Used In This Section

lunatic: A person suffering from mental incapacity, with lucid intervals.

Idiot: An insane person from birth. ' Lunatic found so by inquisition ": A person declared mentally incapable after examination and inquiry by the Com missioners of Lunacy. Dum Casta: A dum casta clause implies chastity on the part of the woman during the separation.