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Crawford v. Crawford

decided.: April 14, 1958.

ADELINE J. CRAWFORD,
v.
FRANCIS B. CRAWFORD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Author: Magruder

Before MARIS, MAGRUDER and STALEY, Circuit Judges.

MAGRUDER, Circuit Judge.

Adeline J. Crawford and Francis B. Crawford were married in 1941. A child, Nancy, was subsequently born of this union.

The parties to the marriage became estranged, and on December 13, 1950, they executed a separation agreement, which recited that the parties thereto were desirous of settling their property rights and the question of the custody of the child, "and the Husband is desirous of making provision for the maintenance and support of the Wife and for the maintenance, support and education of the Child". Clause 1 of the agreement provided that the parties "shall at all times hereafter live separate and apart, * * * as if he or she were sole and unmarried." It was provided in the fourth clause that the wife should have custody of the child, and control, supervision and direction of her upbringing, subject, however, to a right of visitation in the husband one day each month. Clause 5 provided as follows:

"The Husband shall pay to the Wife the sum of One hundred and sixty Dollars ($160.00) per month, payable on the 7th day of each and every month, commencing February 7, 1951, for the support and maintenance of the Wife and for the support, maintenance and education of the Child.

"(a) All payments by the Husband to the Wife as provided in this Paragraph 5. of the agreement shall cease and terminate in the event that

"(i) The Wife at any time hereafter remarries; or

"(ii) The Child dies, marries or attains her majority.

"(b) The obligation of the Husband with respect to payments hereunder and the rights of the Wife to receive such payments shall not survive their respective deaths."

It was also stated that "except as otherwise provided herein, all liability of whatsoever nature on the part of the Husband to the Wife, past, present and future, actual or potential, whether arising from their relationship as husband and wife, or otherwise, shall cease and terminate absolutely and forever."

Clause 11 contained the following terms:

"The provisions of this agreement shall not be construed to preclude or bar either of the parties hereto from maintaining a suit for absolute divorce against the other in any jurisdiction upon any lawful grounds whatsoever; provided, however, that if consistent with the rules and practice of the court granting such decree of absolute divorce, the terms and provisions of this agreement, particularly with reference to the support and maintenance of the Wife and custody, support maintenance and education of the Child are concerned, shall be incorporated in such decree. No decree so obtained by either party shall in any way affect this agreement or any of the terms, covenants or conditions thereof, this agreement being absolute, unconditional and irrevocable and both parties intending to be legally bound thereby."

The separation agreement is not a model of logical symmetry. For instance, although the announced purpose was to provide for the maintenance and support both of the mother and of the child, the payment obligation, in its entirety, terminated upon the death of either. But that is the way the document was written.

The wife brought a divorce action in the District Court of the Virgin Islands on the ground of cruel and abusive treatment. The husband, who was never a resident of the Virgin Islands, filed a notice of appearance, answer and waiver, and admitted the execution of the aforesaid separation agreement. In that divorce proceeding the district court issued its decree on February ...


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