Appeal, No. 302, Oct. T., 1955, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, March T., 1952, No. 406, in case of George J. Barnes v. Agnes C. Barnes. Decree reversed.
Vincent P. Desmond, for appellant.
Robert W. Beatty, with him Butler, Beatty, Greer & Johnson, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Carr, JJ.
[ 181 Pa. Super. Page 429]
The plaintiff, George J. Barnes, on March 20, 1952, filed his complaint in divorce in which he alleged that his wife had offered such indignities to his person as to render his condition intolerable and his life burdensome. After numerous and lengthy hearings the master recommended that a divorce be granted. The court below dismissed exceptions to the master's report on June 17, 1955, and entered a final decree dissolving the marriage on June 30, 1955. Agnes C. Barnes, the wife defendant, has appealed to this Court.
The history of this marriage was told on behalf of plaintiff by himself and the older daughter of the parties, and on behalf of defendant by herself, her doctor, and two other witnesses. A rather unusual feature of this case is that much of the conduct of the wife is admitted, and that the same may be said as to some of the conduct of the husband. A question naturally arises as to cause, that is, who was essentially at fault in bringing about the situation. The burden was upon the husband as plaintiff to establish by clear proof the imperious reasons for severing the marital relationship. DeFrancesco v. DeFrancesco, 179 Pa. Superior Ct. 106, 108, 115 A.2d 411. It was also incumbent upon him to show clearly and indubitably his status as the injured and innocent spouse. Gensemer v. Gensemer, 176 Pa. Superior Ct. 508, 509, 108 A.2d 834. A thorough examination of the record convinces us that these elements
[ 181 Pa. Super. Page 430]
of proof are lacking, and that the decree of the court below should be reversed.
The parties were married on June 17, 1932, in Philadelphia, and they began their married life together in the wife's room in a boarding house. At the time both parties were employed; the plaintiff worked as a deck hand on a tugboat, and defendant was an elevator operator. As their financial condition improved, the parties moved from place to place until, in 1941, they bought their own home in Drexel Hill, Delaware County. They lived there until plaintiff left his family in February, 1952. Two girls were born of the marriage; the older, aged 18 at the time of the hearing, lives with plaintiff, and the younger, aged 12, lives with defendant. In 1938 defendant suffered a nervous breakdown and since that time she has been under the care of Dr. N. W. Winkelman, a specialist in nervous and mental diseases, who testified in her defense. In addition to hospitalization for her mental condition, defendant has undergone numerous shock treatments; and in 1944 she had an operation for removal of a kidney, and a partial hysterectomy. Plaintiff, in his detailed and lengthy description of their married life, endeavored to demonstrate that its tranquillity was disturbed solely by the conduct of defendant. We shall briefly summarize his assertions, with defendant's denials and admissions thereto.
Plaintiff testified that defendant attempted to commit suicide on several occasions, one of which she admitted with the explanation that her husband had urged her to do so; that she was an extravagant spender, which she denied; that she cursed and used vulgar and profane language toward him in front of strangers and the ...