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The Swedish Marriage Act

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Matrimonial Property Law in Quebec

The Swedish Marriage Act

Reading: The Danger of Alimony

Reading: Role of the Church


A commission of prominent jurists from Sweden, Norway and Denmark—with a woman member from each country—drafted this law. After a trial period in Sweden, the law was also enacted in Denmark and Norway. Rather than replacing traditional marriage property laws, it was an alternative system—a marriage contract that made for a "unity of property and a unity of responsibility."

Emily summarized this new marriage law as:

"A partnership entered into by a man and a woman who pool their common interests, and give their common service, the woman in the way which seems incumbent on her to keep the home in order and look after the children; the man in the way for which he seems best fitted to go outside and earn the money upon which the family is to live..."

Provisions of the Swedish Marriage Act:

  • If an amount for the wife to receive cannot be mutually agreed upon, then they can have a percentage fixed by a judge
  • Husband and wife are also equal partners in the care and raising of their children. If they cannot agree on the management of their family, they can appeal to court, where a judge decides what is in the best interests of the child.
  • If either partner dies, the other has equal rights to the property that remains.
  • If they separate, or divorce, their common property is divided on an equal basis, and each receives the tools of his or her trade or labour.
  • Permanent mediators were to be appointed by an administrative authority for the settlement of disagreements between the husband and wife.

Emily Murphy found the provision for a mediator especially appealing:

"The immensely practical nature of this provision is evident when we consider how the disruption of homes, owing to the disagreement of married persons, is rapidly resulting in crime, vagrancy and unemployment, and is causing a large number of children to be chargeable to the State. There can be little doubt our Canadian provinces will see the wisdom and propriety of providing for similar mediatorial service."

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