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THE LAW AND THE WOMAN

LONDON, Feb. U ''The law's a hass." Mr Bujnple's fajgous dictum comes to one's lips on read/; ing the decision of the English Court »f Appeal on an important point of divor„ law raised in an appeal brought '''hi, forma pauperis" by Mrs Harriiasß, against an order made by a judge of tSI Divorce Court, refusing to grant Mft decree nisi tor a divorce.

The facts were shortly these. The petitioner married in 1898, William Hmriman. They lived happily enough ti> gether as man and wife down to July , 1905, and children of the marriage were - born. In July 1906, Harrimftll leftM | usual for work, and did not return, nor was the reason why he left ever communicated by him to his wife. In Marek 1 1900, some eight months after Hnrrimsn | had left his wife, she applied at tlie ,'? Lambeth Police Court for a maintenance "\ order against her husband on the sole ';' ground that he had deserted, her and her children, and so brought her to pcs- -;. ury, and the Magistrate made an ord«f\ 1 in her favour, granting her 26s a week, As a matter of fact nothing wa» avef' | paid her under this order, and when !» j October 1907, more than two yeerl j after her husband had left Uer, she.petl- i tioned for a divorce on the ground of her Husband's misconduct with another : , woman, coupled with more than twe ;| years' desertion, her petition was dismissed on the ground that, although tie evidence satisfied the judge that the husband had been guilty of misconduct .witt another woman, yet" in law he had Bet deserted her for two years and upward*", as, in bis Lordship's opinion, "desertion*" stopped when the Magistrate's order \f»! ' made, and from that'time the husbe.ad was under no legal liability to return te \ his wife and therefore . ceased to "de- j serf" her. The case was unde/efld«f, .''.; -nd the Judge, in view of its-import- j ance, asked the King's Prootor to tn> j struct the Crown Officers to appe»ri|l i respondents to the appeal in order tW | the points of law should be fully argued. ';'

The case was argued before a ftS Court, a matter of three weeks ago, hut \ judgment was only delivered last Tues- j day, when six Lord Justices, all learned [ and experienced jurists agreed in der i ciding that if a wife obtains a sepftt&t? order she cannot afterwards plead da6ertion as part of her case for 4'voKV ; Such a decision may be sound law. Wl \ to the lay mind it is utterly illogical 9R<! grossly unjust. Here is Mrs Harriman, n poor woman with children dependent -j upon her, tied for life to a man who Wl'B i not contribute a penny piece towards . his wife's support, and ignores the lay*! command that he shall do so with ia)' I punitj-. She is deserted, yet cannoi j plead desertion. She is -without t?" I sources and without hope of relief, That J is the law according to the Court ot 4p- 'j peal. There is a higher court, to wit, 5 the House of Lords, but what seems to | be wanted in the Old Country is h Court j of Common Sense which would deal wits > such a case as Mrs Harriman's on tjieu -1 merits. .';-,'.]

Police Court separation orders are the resort of unhappy wives—when they are | poor. The orders are granted on'fJjfsf| ground of cruelty, one of tbe condition of divorce, A Court of Common Sense would undoubtedly act upon Lord J-** tiee Moulton's opinion that a poor woman should be able to rely on the Maß'istrate's decision, and that it S-bnld only bo subsequently necessary for her ' to prove misconduct in order to.QotWT ■ a divorae. §1 ,

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THE LAW AND THE WOMAN Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 74, 27 March 1909

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