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Divorce- Medieval Women's Rights & Obligations
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE - PROPERTY SETTLEMENTS

Grounds for divorce
Medieval marriages could, and were, dissolved. Annulments took place before the courts and were expensive. One of the most common reasons cited for divorce was consanguinity; the close relations by blood or marriage of the intended parties.

Other grounds for the dissolution of a marriage also included adultery, leprosy and impotency. The failure by a husband to render his wife her marriage debt was taken quite seriously, as it was believed that a woman needed regular sexual intercourse for her emotional and physical well-being.

Interestingly, failure to supply a male heir was not grounds for divorce, as it was clear that God willed the father a daughter instead of a son, and to divorce for such a reason was to imply that the husband was against God's plan.
There are documented court cases in both 1292 at Canterbury and 1433 in York where wise women testified against the husband in cases such as this.

Property settlements
The status and rights of medieval women during the dissolution of marriage differed from period to period. Anglo-Saxon women in England, should they have been married for seven years before the marriage dissolved, had a great deal of property settlement owing to them, but the laws were very specific as to what was hers and what remained with her husband. The laws of Hywel Dda are examined by Henrietta Leyser in her book Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 thus:

Pigs go to the man, sheep to the woman. Eldest and youngest son to the father, middle son to the mother. Milking vessels, except one pail, to the woman. All drinking vessels to the man. The man gets the hens and one cat. The woman gets all the flax and linseed and wool, all the opened vessels of butter and the opened cheese and as much as she can carry of flour by the strength of her own hands and her knees from the larder to the house. The bedclothes which are over them to the woman and those which are under them to the man, until he takes a wife. After he takes a wife, they belong to the woman. If the wife who comes to the husband sleeps on them, she must pay compensation to the first wife.

The status of women changed around 1066 and new laws affected the way property was divided after a marriage breakdown. In many instances, holdings of land to be passed down to the woman's sons was the biggest issue of contention after a marriage breakdown.

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