McGuire v. McGuire
157 Neb. 226, 59 N.W.2d 336 (1953)

  • Lydia was married to Charles. She did all the cooking and cleaning and took care of the farm, but Charles managed the finances. He was really cheap.
    • For example, he hadn’t taken her to a movie in 12 years, and hadn’t bought her any clothing for four years. The house was also old and shoddy (and had no indoor plumbing).
  • Lydia sued Charles for suitable maintenance and support money.
    • Lydia argued that, as he husband, Charles was legally obligated to support her. (aka necessaries).
      • Traditionally under the common-law, necessaries have been found to include things such as food, clothing, medicine, legal services, and housing. But there was never an exact definition.
  • The Trial Court found for Lydia and ordered Charles to pay her a $50 per month allowance. He appealed.
    • Charles argued that the allowance was not supported by evidence, was contrary to law, and was an unwarranted usurpation and invasion of his rights.
  • The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed.
    • The Nebraska Supreme Court found that the living standards of a family are a matter of concern to the household, and not for the courts to determine.
      • See Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479 (1965)).
    • The Court found that as long as the home is maintained and the couple is living together as husband and wife, it can be said that the husband is legally supporting the wife.
    • The Court noted that, outside of divorce, the only way Lydia could make a claim would be if Charles has abandoned her.
      • They further noted that it was theoretically possible for the facts to show that Charles had effectively abandoned her even if they were still living together, but there wasn’t enough evidence in this case.
  • In a dissent it was argued that if Lydia left, she would be entitled to support from Charles as part of a divorce. So it is inconsistent to find that she is not entitled to support if she stays with him.
  • Note that if it were today, Lydia could just divorce Charles for being cheap, but when this case was decided, you could not get a divorce in most places without a showing of fault, and if Lydia just left, then she would be the one who did the abandoning and would most likely be entitled to nothing.
    • She might be able to file for divorce on the basis of cruelty, but it would be tough for her to win.