FULL TEXT: The National Divorce Reform League, whose main object is to establish uniform divorce laws throughout the United States, has another plan which it would like to have the New York State Legislature pass at its next session and which should be more interesting to the average taxpayer, since it touches his pocketbook more closely.
This is to relieve a husband from going to jail for not paying alimony to his wife and to place upon the taxpayer the responsibility of supporting her and any children she may have, if the husband isn’t able to do it.
Every wife who has reached the “age of dissent,” which is twenty-five years, is to be entitled to divorce and alimony, even if she is the “guilty party” and whether her husband has any money or not. If he is not earning more than $30 a week, the State digs down into its treasury for her weekly balm and also for the support of the children. This, in effect, is to make the already not so cheerful taxpayer The third party to the divorce triangle, without a chance to defend himself, opponents of the measure point out, adding that it also allows an irresponsible man who has already saddled one wife and family on the treasury to wait only two weeks before running around to a minister or justice of the peace and starting another family headed for the public payroll.
The present New York law forbids the guilty party to remarry within the lifetime of the other, except with the court’s consent, which cannot be given for at least three years. This is interfering with an individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness, the League thinks, and should he abolished.
The only delay, says the League, should be a compulsory two weeks which, under its plan, must elapse between the application for any marriage license and its issuance. During that time the application would have to be posted in the clerk’s office and published in a newspaper.
Even if these proposals are passed, the divorce millennium will not have quite arrived. Up to the age of twenty-five, a girl will have to give some thought as to whether she is likely to live peacefully with the man of her choice. If she is under twenty-five, she can still throw him out the moment she tires of him or thinks she would prefer another man, but neither he nor the taxpayer will owe her a cent unless she has been married to him for at least one year.
At present a New York divorce can be obtained only for infidelity. In addition to this the League would list the following causes: Two years’ legal separation, living apart for five years, desertion for three, abandonment and non-support for three, cruelty, habitual drunkenness, incurable insanity, conviction and sentence for a felony.
The most important charge is cruelty which, in other States, has proved so elastic that it includes most everything, even driving a car too fast and criticizing a wife for displaying herself almost nude on the beach. The League points out that because of New York’s strict divorce law moat all its divorce business has been driven to Reno and others centers of liberality. It is planned that both parties to a divorce action must be represented in court. If the defendant fails to appear the court shall appoint a third party to represent him, which is supposed to be for the protection of the absentee’s interests. But if such a law is constitutional it would put the man’s property under the jurisdiction of the court which would then hand over a large slice of it to the wife.
This may seem a bit severe, but the League offers to mitigate it somewhat by requiring an apprenticeship before the wife can collect.
The plan as set forth is as follows:
“If the wife has lived with her husband has than one year she cannot be looked upon as having contributed to the building of his estate and therefore is not deserving of his continued support. However, if there be children and they be awarded to the mother, then she is to receive $10 a week for the first and $5 for each additional one. He must, however, have an income greater than $30 a week before he is liable to the payments.
“If the wife is over twenty-five and has lived with her husband two years, she is entitled to 25 per cent of his estate up to $50,000 and a third of all over that; also $15 a week for alimony. It is assumed that during this period she has contributed to the building up of the estate and is entitled to share in it.
“But if a wife has lived with her husband for ten years she is entitled to half of the first $50, 000, regardless of her age.”
By keeping the bulk of the marriage and divorce business at home, the League figures New York will take in quite a lot of money.
“When the saving that such a plan brings to the State is considered,” the League claims, “it becomes problematical whether any additional revenue will be necessary (for the free alimony). With such a law there will be no need for alimony jails. The bulk of civil jail inmates at the present time are alimony defaulters.”
Peggy Rich, the former Ziegfeld beauty, would have found these proposed laws most convenient In her divorce from Freddie Rich, the very successful bandmaster. Mr. Rich was so inconsiderate as to raid his wife’s apartment and catch her with Jack de Ruyter. This made her the defendant and disqualified her from any alimony rights.
Under the proposed new laws this status would not have made the slightest difference and the entirely innocent bandmaster would have had to see at least a third of his estate handed over to Peggy and on top of that would have been obliged to pay her $15 a week the rest of her life.
Claire Ray is another attractive actress who would have fared batter under the proposed law. Miss Ray, who has had so many husbands she doesn’t remember their names very well and can’t be sure whether it was five or six, tried to get a judge to grant her $500 a week alimony from her next-to-last husband, Charles E. Carnevale, son of a multi-millionaire, by telling how he had given her a $20,000 automobile, a $15,000 chinchilla coat and a 26-carat ring, all of which she considered proof of his ability to pay. But the judge thought otherwise and she didn’t get a cent. Under the League’s plan, she would at least be entitled to $15 a week, but, of course, she could only collect from one ex-husband at a time.
The congregation of the Prayer Tabernacle, Kansas City, Missouri, would no doubt have welcomed the League’s divorce scheme with hosannas and hallelujahs. In 1930 their beloved pastor, the Rev. Mr. Carl C. Walker, had been divorced by his wife and gotten into alimony default. Mrs. Walker with a squad of deputy sheriffs broke into the rectory and started carting off all the minister’s worldly goods.
In this crisis Mr. Walker prayed for help and it came in the form of several influential parishioners who paid the wife $800 cash down and obligated the flock to underwrite all future payments of $60 a week alimony. That was all right an long as the church thought its pastor was worth it, but the spirit moved him to wander away, socking pastures new, and they were stuck with the alimony, instead of the taxpayer, as under the reformed plan. Mrs. Etta S. Miller, society matron, would have been saved a lot of surprise and anguish by the League’s Idea when she convinced Supreme Court Justice Raymond E. Aldrich of West-Chester, N. Y., that her husband had been guilty of repeated infidelity with a Russian Princess who was known as Mme. Birit and also the family’s pretty French maid. Mlle. Jeanneret, who obligingly came into court and confessed all about it. Yet it did not do Mrs. Miller a bit of good.
If true, it was ample ground for divorce but, for reasons of her own, she preferred to ask only for separation with alimony which is supposed to be easier to get. But Mrs. Miller said her wealthy husband, Robert McWilliam Miller, had carried on his affairs so discreetly that she never suspected his philandering until both affairs were all over. Then it was too late for her to be sufficiently upset to warrant a separation, though a divorce would have been in order.
An analysis of the League’s provisions about alimony, approved by Theodore E. Apstein, the League’s attorney, is as follows:
1. When a wife is entitled to support for herself, it is never to be more and never leas than $15 a week.
2. If a wife has lived with her husband less than a year she is not entitled to support regardless of her age.
3. If a wife has lived with her husband for one year but less than ten years and la under twenty-five years old she is not entitled to any support unless she is unable to work because of lack of training or physical unfitness. If it is merely lack of training she is to receive alimony until she learns how to earn her own upkeep.
4. If a wife has lived with her husband for one year but lens than ten years and is over twenty-five age gets alimony the rest of her life or until she marries again.
5. Any wife who has lived with her husband ten years is entitled to alimony, regardless of her age.
6. If a wife has lived with her husband less than two years, regardless of her age, she is not entitled to any share of his estate.
7. If a wife has lived with her husband for two years but less than ten years and is still under twenty-five she is not entitled to any share of his estate.
8. If a wife has lived with her husband for two years but leas than ten years and is over twenty-five she is entitled to 25 per cent of his estate up to $60,000 and one-third of anything over that.
9. If a wife has been married ten years, regardless of her ago, she is entitled to 50 per cent of his estate up to $50,000 and one-third of anything over that.
10. If a husband is making enough money and cares to make a private agreement, outside the court, he can do so, but under no circumstances can a wife sue a husband for more than $15 a week for the support of herself.
11. If the husband is earning only $30 a week, or less, the State pays the entire $15 a week to his wife.
12. If he is earning more than $30 a week he pays a proportionate share.
13. Suppose, for example, there are three children and the wife is entitled to $15 for herself. She would then receive $35 a week. If her husband was only earning $30 a week the State would pay it all. Above that minimum, the husband would pay his proportionate amount and the State the rest. Thus a man with a divorced wife and three children to support would have to be earning $85 a week before he would be paying the whole thing.
14. If a wife meets the requirements that entitle her to share in the estate of her husband at the time of divorce she must pay a proportionate share of the children’s upkeep, so far as her income from her share of the estate goes. For example, a wife with one child receives at the time of the divorce her 25 per cent of a $20,000 estate. That would be $5,000. At 3 per cent interest, that would bring her $150 a year. The cost of supporting a child is arbitrarily placed at $520 a year or $10 a week. She would then pay $150 of that, and her husband or the State the remaining $370. At 3 per cent, the husband’s income from his three-quarters of the estate would be $450 a year. If his total income, including this $450, is only $30 a week, the State would then pay her $370 a year, or $7.11 a week, and she would be paying the remaining $2.89.
[“Let the Taxpayers Pay the Alimony? – Interesting Plan of the National Divorce Reform League by Which Almost Any Woman Can Have a Divorce and Support, Even If Her Husband is a Tramp,” The American Weekly (magazine section of San Antonio Express (Tx.), Sep. 19, 1937, p. 7]
For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts
For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts