Legal Terms in Old Divorce Records

By Sunny Jane Morton and Judy G. Russell Premium

alimony: court-ordered spousal support for maintaining separate residences
collusion: connivance by husband and wife in concocting grounds for a divorce, which could be reason for a divorce to be denied
condonation: forgiveness of a matrimonial offense, grounds for rejecting a divorce suit when one party lived with the other after knowing of acts that would justify a divorce
co-respondent: the person named in a divorce suit as a party to a spouse’s adultery
decree nisi: an order for divorce that takes effect only after the passage of a certain amount of time
divorce a mensa et thoro: “divorce from bed and board,” or a state like today’s legal separation; neither party could remarry
divorce a vinculo matrimonii: absolute divorce; it sometimes freed at least one party (the “innocent” one) to remarry
estovers: another term for alimony
feme covert: a married woman
feme sole: a single woman, either never married or one whose married ended by death or divorce
reconciliation: like condonation, the forgiveness of a matrimonial offense
recrimination: a counter charge in a divorce suit, usually of adultery or cruelty

separate maintenance: an allowance to a woman by her husband on an agreement to live separately; similar to alimony, but based on agreement instead of judicial order
From the December 2014 Family Tree Magazine