No. 368 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Philadelphia County, July Term, 1979, No. 4528.
Joseph P. Ford, in pro. per.
Richard H. Knox, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Price, Watkins and Montgomery, JJ. Price, J., concurs in the result.
[ 291 Pa. Super. Page 383]
The appellant, Joseph P. Ford, instituted this divorce action on July 27, 1979. Previously, his wife, Helen Feaster Ford, had instituted a similar action against him which resulted in the entry of a Decree in Divorce A.V.M. on December 18, 1979. That decree was the subject of an appeal to this court at No. 202 Philadelphia, 1980, which was dismissed on August 5, 1981. A petition for allocatur in that matter was thereafter filed with the Supreme Court and is currently pending at No. 460 E.D.Misc.Dkt., 1981.
After having appointed a master in the husband's case, the lower court, on January 30, 1980, vacated the appointment of the master and dismissed the action without prejudice to reinstitute it. It assigned, as the reason for its action, the entry of the decree in the other action filed by the wife. The husband's appeal from that order is now before us.
We are of the opinion that the vacation of the order appointing the master was within the discretion of the lower court, but the dismissal of the husband's action was error, although done so without prejudice.
Cross suits in divorce have long been recognized as permissible. Hilyard v. Hilyard, 87 Pa. Super. 1 (1926); Ulizio v. Ulizio, 96 Pa. Super. 91 (1929).
Under the 1961 amendment to Pa.R.C.P. 1130(b), a defendant is now permitted to set forth in his answer under the heading "Counterclaim" a cause of action in divorce or annulment. Thus a party may now, in one action, not only defend against the grant of a divorce sought by his or her spouse, but also may accomplish affirmative action and secure a divorce or annulment. As we interpret that rule, however, it is not mandatory that he do so. In Betz v. Betz,
[ 291 Pa. Super. Page 384103]
Pa. Super. 306, 157 A. 359 (1931), we discussed this subject at length and reached the conclusion that the parties may file cross suits, as distinguished from cross libels in the same action, each seeking to secure a divorce in his or her favor but for separate and distinct reasons, and that one party cannot, by bringing an action, deprive the other party from doing the same. In Betz, we also stated that such right existed unless a final decree in divorce has been entered in the other action in which case the court should take cognizance of the decree entered in the other case and not attempt to set aside that judgment.
Here, a final decree has been entered in the wife's case, but since it is on an appeal, we must further consider the effect of ...