Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Oct. T., 1972, No. 408, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Marilyn Lebowitz v. Leonard Lebowitz.
John E. Landis, for appellant.
Desmond J. McTighe, with him McTighe, Brown, Weiss, Bonner & Stewart, for appellee.
Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Watkins, J.
[ 227 Pa. Super. Page 594]
This is an appeal by the wife-appellant, Marilyn Lebowitz, from the order of the Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County, denying support from her husband-appellee, Leonard Lebowitz, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Civil Procedural Support Law.
The parties were married on October 27, 1956. They have three children, presently in the father's custody, Marci, age 14, Richard, age 13 and Donna, age 11, respectively, at the time of the hearing. The trouble in this family began when in 1971 the wife began showing interest in the sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses. She began studying the Bible with a member of the faith so that she could eventually become a member. The record clearly discloses that the husband was violently upset by his wife's conversion and the record supports the fact that she was forced to remove herself from the family home on two occasions because there was bitter objection to the activity in this religion. She contends that she was pushed out of the door of her home because she did not give up the Bible study as he insisted. She found refuge in a friend's home and was told she could not return until she agreed to give up the Bible study.
The second and final separation came about in October, 1972. This separation was brought about by the fact that she attended a wedding ceremony held by the Jehovah's Witnesses while her husband was away on a business trip. He became furious and ordered her to leave. He took the keys of the home and her credit cards from her pocketbook and according to her testimony put part of her clothing out on the patio. In order to get the rest of her clothing, she had to return to the home with a police escort. After separation, she lived with a friend and her family in a mobile home. While there, the husband-appellant made threats to the Cohans for giving refuge to his wife and interferring
[ 227 Pa. Super. Page 595]
with his marriage. Mrs. Lebowitz is still living there. She has no employment although prior to the marriage she was employed as a bookkeeper. Her husband is President of General Auto Placement, Inc., and according to his 1971 Income Tax Return his gross income was Forty-One Thousand Four Hundred Dollars ($41,400.00). While living in the marital home, the wife had the use of a corporation automobile and was given $150.00 weekly to manage the household. Since the separation, he has given the wife only $100.00 and has taken the use of the automobile from her. She had $25.00 in her pocketbook at the time of the separation and her only asset at that time was a bank account of approximately $600.00.
The question raised in this appeal is whether the court below abused its discretion in denying support to the wife on the ground that she was not justified in leaving the marital home.
"The husband has an absolute moral and legal obligation to support his wife. [ Commonwealth ex rel. Volinski v. Volinski, 180 Pa. Superior Ct. 348, 119 A.2d 648 (1956).] This obligation does not arise out of debt or contract; it is an incident of the marital status imposed by the law." 18 P.L.E. § 2, page 6.
"A wife who withdraws from the marriage domicile is entitled to support only if she shows that her husband's conduct justified her leaving, or that he consented to the separation. Commonwealth v. Sgarlat, 180 Pa. Superior Ct. 638, 121 A.2d 883 (1956). But she is not held to the high degree of proof required of the husband and need not establish facts which would entitle her to a divorce; it is sufficient if she justifies living apart from her husband for any reason ...