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 

Unlock the treasures in all the records you can find with our Ultimate Guide to Genealogy Records eBook!

Discover the best genealogy records using the tips and strategies in this guide, which shows you how to find and use census records, birth records, marriage records and more.