Page images
PDF
EPUB

Positive legislation to compel a delinquent husband to contribute to his wife's support was finally passed in 1889.195. The act permits any married woman to apply to the circuit court of the county in which she resides for an order upon her husband for the support of herself and their minor children, and she must state in her petition her reasons for believing that her husband is able to contribute to her support. The court “after hearing the parties”, may issue a decree to the husband, equitable in view of the circumstances of both parties. But not until 1907 was a statute penalizing non-support of a family passed.196 This statute has evolved through various emendations until today "it deems guilty of a felony” any person who refuses without sufficient cause to support his wife or minor children, his sons under sixteen and his daughters under eighteen, and decrees that as punishment for such felony he may be confined in the state prison for not more than one year or in the county jail for not less than thirty days nor more than a year. This confinement may take the form of compulsory employment upon the county roads or other public works of the county for which his wife or child will be paid at the rate of one dollar a day for every day except Sundays and holidays of the sentence served. However, he may give bond that he will furnish his family with the necessities of life and so have his sentence suspended. If a convicted man has his sentence enforced, and his wife is dependent, the county court under the act authorizing relief for paupers may pay her one dollar per day and twenty-five cents additional for each child under sixteen years but in no event more than one dollar and seventy-five cents a day, while her husband is in prison, and this sum is not to be considered wages nor in lieu of wages.

Fathers, separated from their children by divorce, or unwilling for other reasons to support them have asked the courts to interpret the statute by declaring what is “just and sufficient cause" for non-support. In a series of decisions,197 the courts have held that “just and sufficient cause” means "legal and lawful cause". For example, that the wife has means of her own is not

а

"sufficient cause”, as the statute of 1878 making the wife jointly responsible for family expenses did not remove the primary obligation” on the part of a father to support his child; nor is remarriage of the mother "just cause".

Another act198 of the kind now termed “Social Legislation" was adopted in 1913 for the relief of dependent mothers whose husbands were dead, inmates of ståte institutions or physically or mentally incapable on account of disease of supporting their families. The act made it incumbent upon the juvenile or country court of each county to pay to such a mother if she were a citizen of the United States and had resided in the state for three years and in the county for one year previous to her application, not to exceed $10.00 a month for one child, and if more than one, not more than $7.50 for each additional child but in no case more than $40.00 a month.

Other conditions necessary before the pension could be assigned and paid were added in succeeding legislative sessions ;

(1) that the mother had not come to the state in an indigent condition;

(2) that no children be granted assistance who were not alive or had not been born within ten months of the time when the father had been committed to an institution or become wholly unable to work (includes death presumably);

(3) that no person over sixteen years be living in the mother's household who is not contributing his share to the household expenses;

(4) no assistance may be given to a child who has property of his own; or

(5) who is not living with his mother;

(6) nor to a mother and child who have other property or sources to draw upon for support, provided that the allowance of a child under sixteen years shall cease as soon as it is eligible for a permit to work;

(7) nor may the pension be given to an applicant who has deprived herself of property or income in order to come under the act;

(8) nor unless monthly accounts are rendered to the court by the applicant, of the efficiency of which the court shall be the judge;

(9) nor to a mother the presence of whose husband in the home is a menace to the physical or moral welfare of the mother or childen;

(10) nor to a mother who, the court finds, is not physically, mentally or morally the proper person to care for the children;

(11) nor to one who has in use a home of an appraised value of more than $500 unless the court finds that further assistance is necessary to save such children from physical or moral neglect;

(12) nor if a mother in the judgment of the court is improvident, careless or negligent in the expenditure of the money, but the money may be paid to some person whom the court shall designate to be used for the support of the mother and children.

Relief is not to be given during any absence of the applicant from the county. All money received for pensions, by mothers shall be exempt from execution. In 1921199 the legislature amended the act and increased the sum for one child to $15.00 a month and for each additional child $10.00 but in no case was the total to exceed $60.00 a month.

7. PERSONAL RIGHTS OF WOMEN.

The two classes of rights of any person are natural and legal. Natural rights have been defined as those which “grow out of the nature of man and depend upon the personality

or they are those which are plainly assured by natural law” 200 Several of the natural rights are grouped in a classification known as personal rights as “distinguished from such as are created by law and depend upon civilized society.” Some personal rights of women differed as did their property rights, under common law according to whether a woman was a married or unmarried person. Statute law in

. Oregon has almost obliterated this distinction, and in the matter of protection of health, it has passed statutes discriminating in favor of women. The personal rights which we shall consider here are legal settlement or domicile, the right to recover for personal injuries, to testimony, to change of name, to guardianship of children and to follow certain professions.

Oregon has no special legislation in the matter of what determines whether a person is a resident of the state. Rules have been laid down by the legislature to determine the qualifications of voters; these declare that the residence of a married man is the place where his family resides, and of an unmarried man, the place where he sleeps; that after registration in Oregon a man who votes in another state shall be considered to have lost his status as a resident of Oregon.201 But such voting

a in another state "is not conclusive of his domicile there as regards jurisdiction of an action for divorce” 202 and though he may not be allowed to vote in Oregon, for the reason given above, he may claim to be a resident of the state and the Court may have jurisdiction over his suit for divorce if he is the plaintiff and has resided in the state for a year prior to commencement of the action. The wife has the same privilege of claiming residency if she has lived in the state a year. But a wife's claim that she was a resident of another state while her husband was a resident of Oregon was denied admittance by the Court in a divorce suit “upon the gen

[ocr errors]

eral rule of law that the domicile of the wife is controlled by that of the husband—that in law she is incapable of acquiring a different domicile from that of her husband but the case is different with a divorced woman" 203

RIGHT TO RECOVER FOR INJURIES.

[ocr errors]

The right of a married woman to recover for injuries to her person or her character was settled in 1876 when the legislature decreed that “when the cause of action is for a wrong committed against her person or her character

she may sue or be sued alone" 204 The old common law which gave a husband the right to chastise his wife, with certain limitations on the thickness of the rod, was completely overturned in this respect in Oregon in 1905,205 by a law punishing wife-beating with the whipping-post, but this was repealed in 1911. Common law doctrine still holds sway over situations in which a husband or a wife is injured indirectly through physical injury to the other spouse. A husband may sue for direct injuries to himself due to the loss of “consortium” through physical injuries to his wife; but opinions differ as to his right to sue for personal injuries due to alienation of her affections. In one case brought as the result of the death of the wife in an automobile accident, the Court said in its decision: “The legislation of modern times has greatly affected the status of married women by the recognition of their rights to a separate existence, thus empowering them to exercise dominion over their separate property, and to contract, and conferring upon them power to sue or be sued; but it has not in any way abridged the common law right of a husband to the companionship, love, and service of his wife which are comprehended in the term "consortium” and his accompanying right to sue therefor in the event of its loss occasioned by some personal injury to her negligently inflicted by a third person (but) we are not in accord with the assertion that a husband is entitled to recover damages for the loss of the services of his wife only in actions for seduction, alienation of affections and the like' 206

« PreviousContinue »