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Report No. 66

2.8. Statutory provision as to contracts.-

Acts of 1857, 1870 and 1874.-On the principle of the common law relating to contracts mentioned above,1 the first statutory inroad in England was made by the Matrimonial Clauses Act, 1857, section 26, which provided that so long as a decree of judicial separation was in force, a married woman could be considered as a feme sole for various purposes, including the making and enforcement of contracts. The Married Women's Property Act, 1870 enacted (by sections 1 to 11), that a married woman's wages and earnings should be regarded as her separate property, and gave her a power to maintain an action to recover them in her own name (by section 12).

The Act of 1870 also abolished the common law rule that a husband should be liable for his wife's pre-marriage contracts; but this led to certain anomalies. Subsequently, by the Married Women's property Act, (1870), Amendment Act, 1874, this part of the Act of 1870 was replaced by a provision limiting the husband's liability for his wife's pre-marriage contracts to the extent of the value of the wife's property which vested in the husband by virtue of the marriage under the law as it then stood.

1. Para. 2.7, supra.

2.8A. Act of 1882-provision as to contracts.-

The Married Women's Property Act, 1882, made certain important provisions regarding a married women's separate property, which have already been mentioned.1 That Act (as amended by the Married Women's Property Act, 1892), also gave the married woman full contractual capacity, but even these Acts did not make her personally liable. Lastly, the Act of 1882, in section 14, enacted that a husband should be liable for his wife's ante-nuptial debts and contracts only to the extent of property belonging to her which he acquired or to which be became entitled. This was a retention of the principle of the English Act2 of 1874.

1. Para. 2.4, supra.

2. Para. 2.8, supra.

Married Womens Property Act, 1874 Back

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