06 September 2011

That's an Expensive Headache: Wife Receives Damages for Husband's Indifference

The Guardian has reported on the curious case of the French wife who sued for divorce based on, I assume, a violation of the duties of marriage under Article 242 of the French Civil Code. What makes the case interesting is the judge's decision to fine the husband 10,000 euros to compensate the wife for the particular violation complained of, namely "lack of sex over 21 years of marriage."

Under the antique English common law, marriage came with an abundance of rights and duties. The husband had the duty to provide his wife with the necessities of life and had the right to her domestic services, the right to her property and income, and the right to have her live with him and have sex with her as he wished, called consortium. It seems that the French civil code developed in a similar manner. Title V concerns the law on marriage, including the obligations marriage gives rise to (Chapter V) and the rights and and duties of spouses (Chapter VI), and Title VI concerns the law on divorce.

In this case the husband was sued for breach of Article 215 (Title V, Chapter VI), which provides that:
"Spouses mutually oblige themselves to a community of living."
The judge held that sexual relations are a part of a "community of living," and the Guardian quotes the judge as saying that:
"A sexual relationship between husband and wife is the expression of affection they have for each other, and in this case it was absent. By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other."
Interestingly, from the size of the award, one can deduce that the going rate for sex in marriage is about 1.3 euros a day or about $1.80 Canadian at today's rate.