If you have ever read a divorce decree, you will notice some rather dreary language regarding granting “a divorce a vinculo matrimonii.” Just what does that mean? And why do lawyers feel the need to speak in Latin?
Every time I draft a divorce decree, I am tempted to delete this “divorce a vinculo matrimonii” language. But tradition has placed this language so firmly in every divorce decree, it is difficult to delete — even for a young lawyer who likes to challenge convention.
So what does “a divorce a vinculo matrimonii” mean anyway? It is latin for a divorce from the “bonds of matrimony,” that is, a total or absolute divorce. Apparently, the common law made a distinction between divorces. At least one source states that, at least in common law times, a divorcee following a divorce a vinculo matrimonii could not marry his/her parmour following the divorce if the cause of the divorce was adultery.
The two divorces were:
- a divorce a vinculo matrimonii, which was an absolute divorce; and
- a divorce mensa et thoro, which was a divorce from bed and board
In this regard, see the authority of Prough v. Prough, 308 S.W.2d 294 (Ka. City Ct. App. 1957), which held:
“In our early law divorce actions were in two separate divisions. One was divorce a vinculo matrimonii, i. e. absolute divorce. The second divorce was a mensa et thoro,i. e. divorce from bed and board. These are now substantially indivisible portions of the one action for divorce, and it has been uniformly held in this state that a wife cannot recover in a separate maintenance suit unless she makes such proof as would entitle her to a divorce if she were seeking that relief.” Id. at 295.
Therefore, the divorce mensa et thoro is akin to what we think of today as an action for separate maintenance. This action still exists in Georgia. See OCGA 19-6-10. It’s basically a legal separation where one spouse generally pays alimony to the other spouse. This is an extremely rare proceeding. Much like an annulment, they simply do not exist anymore with the advent of no fault divorce.
If you are considering a divorce, please call the Law Offices of Mark Jones located in Columbus, Georgia. Lawyer Mark Jones actively practices in Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama. Call him today for a free consultation regarding your case. 706-225-2555