Victorian illustration to download showing the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, Westminster Hall. A judge deliberates on his bench, and lawyers wearing wigs sit in front of him. Spectators watch the proceedings, including two women. Before 1857, wives were regarded almost as the property of their husbands, and divorce was nearly impossible. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 made marital matters, divorce and judicial separation civil matters to be decided by the court, and a divorced or separated woman was able to have control of her own property/money and civil rights.