The common law doctrine of necessaries requires the husband to buy for his wife and children necessary items, which normally include food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and legal expenses.
The doctrine of necessaries thus differs from agency principles in that the husband's express or implied consent to purchase certain goods is not required under the doctrine of necessaries, and the wife and children may therefore buy any necessary item and charge it to the husband's account, even though the husband may not have consented to such a purchase.[FN1]
In determining what should be furnished to a spouse or child as a "necessary" item, a court will normally look at the financial circumstances and needs of the parties, as well as the standard of living established during the marriage.[FN2] However, in the case of Schilling v. Bedford County Memorial Hospital,[FN3] the Virginia Supreme Court stated that the doctrine of necessaries, as it existed under the common law, was unconstitutional gender-based discrimination against the husband, since there was no similar obligation on the part of the wife
Subsequent to the Schilling case, the Virginia General Assembly amended the Virginia doctrine of necessaries statute so that it now applies equally to both spouses