Appeal No. 206, Oct. T., 1962, from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Lancaster County, No. 427 of 1961, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Frances Drebot v. Paul M. Drebot. Order reversed.
William E. Woodside, for appellant.
Edgar R. Casper, Deputy Attorney General, With him Marshall M. Cohen, Assistant Attorney General, Alan Miles Ruben, Deputy Attorney General, and David Stahl, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ. (woodside, J., absent).
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In this appeal from an order of the court below directing him to support the relatrix the appellant contends that the evidence is legally insufficient to support the court's finding that the parties contracted a valid common law marriage.
The record discloses that the relatrix was married to Wilson Snyder when she and the defendant first began living together in December 1949, that she was
[ 199 Pa. Super. Page 441]
divorced from Snyder in June 1951, that the parties ceased living together in September 1959, and that the defendant subsequently married Patricia Ruhl, by whom he subsequently has had at least one child.
Since the parties' relationship was meretricious at its inception, and such a relationship, once established, is presumed to continue, the relatrix had the burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that the parties entered into a valid common law marriage after the legal obstacle to such a marriage was removed. See Pierce v. Pierce, 355 Pa. 175, 179, 49 A.2d 346, 348 (1946); Mainor v. Midvale Co., 192 Pa. Superior Ct. 367, 371, 162 A.2d 27, 30 (1960).
The principal evidence relied upon by the court below to sustain the heavy burden of proof assumed by the relatrix was testimony that the parties obtained a marriage license in Schuylkill County on March 15, 1952, for which no return was ever made, and testimony by the relatrix that on March 28, 1952, the parties went through a civil marriage ceremony performed by a "squire". This testimony was not contradicted as to the marriage license but as to the performance of the marriage ceremony it was uncorroborated and was contradicted by the defendant. Her son, who was about eleven years old and living with the parties in 1952, testified that he never heard of it until the date of the hearing in 1961.
In its opinion, prepared from notes taken at the time of the trial and without benefit of the transcript of the testimony, which had been lodged in this court, the court below stated that it was impressed by the relatrix's straightforward account of the marriage ceremony and that it based its determination ...