Kenneth A. Magar, Johnstown, for appellant.
Ronald P. Rusinak, Johnstown, for appellee.
[ 241 Pa. Super. Page 55]
This is an appeal from an order of the court below sustaining exceptions to a master's report and dismissing an action for divorce a vinculo matrimonii. After careful review of both the master's report and the findings of the lower court, we must agree with appellant that the lower court erred in dismissing the action for divorce.
Sandra and Richard Schrock were married on September 30, 1961. The parties, parents of three children, ages 12, 8, and 5, lived together for the next thirteen years, separating on March 13, 1974. On October 7, 1974, appellant filed a complaint in divorce, alleging indignities to the person.*fn1 A master's hearing was held on January
[ 241 Pa. Super. Page 5630]
, 1975. The evidence adduced at this hearing consisted solely of the testimony of the two litigants.
Appellant's testimony may be summarized as follows: Appellee who was employed as an automobile mechanic, refused to bathe regularly, causing appellant much personal distress as well as public embarrassment in that she was unable to entertain guests at the Schrock household. Appellee also drank excessively, stayed out late at night, and had admitted to being sexually involved with his brother's former wife, Linda Schrock. Appellee's liaison with Linda was not his first adulterous encounter. Five years prior to their separation, while the parties were living in Virginia, appellee became intimate with another woman, resulting in the birth of a child. Although distressed, appellant agreed to continue the marriage after appellee promised to "remain true" to her. However, despite this promise in late 1973, he was now openly associating with Linda. In early 1974, appellee spent a weekend in Ohio with Linda and his children. On this occasion, he "flaunt[ed] his relationship" with Linda at appellant by audaciously inviting appellant to accompany them. Appellant declined this invitation. Subsequent to the Schrock's separation, appellee took Linda and the children to Canada, remaining there for five days. Prior to this trip, appellee had acquired possession of the children from appellant upon the premise that he was going to a carnival, not mentioning his intended trip to Canada. Four days later, he called appellant to inform her of the children's whereabouts and that they would soon be returned. In another incident, appellee placed their youngest child in his car, seized appellant who was on the outside of the car attempting to restrain him, and drove down an "extremely long hill," dragging appellant alongside the car. While they lived in Virginia, appellee's drinking habits were so costly that appellant was forced to seek employment in order to support herself. Additionally, appellee had frequently
[ 241 Pa. Super. Page 57]
threatened to commit suicide. As a result of these experiences, appellant lost eighteen pounds and was placed on tranquilizers by her physician.
Appellee, on the other hand, denied that he had failed to support his family while they lived in Virginia; that he had threatened to commit suicide; and that he had been unclean. Furthermore, he denied having had sexual relations with Linda explaining that he had taken her to Ohio at the request of his brother, and that she had accompanied him to Canada solely to care for the children. Appellee admitted to drinking while he lived in Virginia, but asserted that this practice had become a problem only during the six month period preceding the separation. Moreover, he had recently spent seven days at a clinic in Johnstown in an effort to overcome his problem, and now believes that he no longer needs help.
The master's report reflects his belief that appellant's portrayal of events was more credible than that of appellee. Accordingly, the master, in his opinion, recommended that a divorce be granted. The lower court, however, disregarded this recommendation and examined each specific alleged indignity, concluding that each ...