Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Divorce a Mensa et Thoro Definition:

An obselete form of divorce order which did not end the marriage but allowed the parties to reside separate; in effect, a legal or judicially-sanctioned separation of two married persons.

Related Terms: Divorce, Decree Nisi, Decree Absolute

Also spelled "a mentha et thoro".

In Latley on Divorce, 13th Edition (1945), page 1:

".. divorce a mensa et thoro (from bed and board) (is) the equivalent to the judicial separation of today, by which the marriage bond remains technically unbroken."

In Book 1 of his 1756 Commentaries on the Law of England, William Blackstone wrote:

"Divorce a mensa et thoro is when the marriage is just and lawful ab initio, and therefore the law is tender of dissolving it, but for some supervenient cause, it becomes improper or impossible for the parties to live together, as in the case of intolerable ill temper or adultery."

Previously distinguished from a divorce a vinculo matrimonii.

Farwell v Farwell 105 DLR 3d 364 (BCSC 1979):

"The decree of divorce a mensa et thoro (was) '... we do pronounce decree and declare that the said A. B. ought by law to be divorced and separated from bed board and mutual cohabitation with the said C. B. her husband until they shall be reconciled to each other; and we do by these presents divorce and separate them accordingly'.

"The old decree was thus concerned with the obligations of consortium, that is to say with the institution of marriage as a relationship between man and woman and the basis of family life.

"It entitled the parties, although still married, to live apart without being guilty of desertion.

"It entitled a wife to be supported by her husband while living apart, and it had consequences of some importance in earlier times as a defence to certain actions including those for harbouring and restitution of conjugal rights."

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!