Appeal from the Circuit Court No. 2 of Baltimore City; Cardin, J.
Brune, C. J., and Hammond, Prescott, Horney and Sybert, JJ. Sybert, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
This appeal is from a decree awarding permanent alimony, without divorce, to a wife, as well as custody of, and support for, the infant child of the parties, and a counsel fee for her solicitor, on the ground that the husband had deserted her without just cause. The husband challenges only that portion of the decree granting permanent alimony, contending that the Chancellor erred: (1) in finding that he had in fact deserted his wife; (2) in finding that he had not made proper and sufficient efforts to effect a reconciliation; and (3) in failing to give weight to evidence that appellee was unwilling to be reconciled and had in fact taken steps to insure a permanent separation of the parties. It is, of course, well settled that permanent alimony may not be awarded unless the complainant shows grounds sufficient to support a decree of either form of divorce. Russell v. Russell, 224 Md. 329, 167 A.2d 770 (1961).
The parties were married in February, 1960, when he was thirty-one years of age and she twenty-two. The husband was
a graduate doctor of medicine and after the marriage completed his residency in neurology at a Baltimore hospital and remained there for further work in that field. Through a medical grant and other sources, he received an adequate income. The wife, who was a school teacher, continued to work for some months after the marriage. A daughter was born in December, 1960.
The voluminous testimony reveals that from its inception this union was marred by numerous quarrels due to headstrong behavior and an apparent lack of understanding by both parties of the fact that patience, forbearance and consideration for the other's point of view are vitally necessary in order to effect the reasonable adjustments required to achieve success for any marriage. The incidents prior to the ultimate break-up, while exacerbating the feelings of the parties, are not worthy of mention as legal grounds for termination of the relationship. A comment made by the husband on the witness stand is singularly revelatory of their triviality: "We had quarrels all that week [just before the separation] * * * and I don't remember all the things we quarreled about. * * * I think probably some of them are not as important as I thought then * * *."
One major source of friction appeared to be the respective parents of the parties. A visit by them, or even discussion of such a visit, usually resulted in electrifying the atmosphere. The birth of the child seemed only to provide another cause of strife. It was disagreement over the care of the infant which triggered an argument leading to the husband's leaving the matrimonial domicile on May 5, 1961, saying, according to the wife, "I am leaving. I have had enough." She testified that she asked him not to leave and that upon his return three or four hours later she threw her arms around him, but that he then said, "Now, look, I haven't changed my mind. I am still leaving you. I just came home to spend the night here and I am going to see my lawyer in the morning to find out what my rights are." He deposited $500 in the joint checking account of the parties on that day, but packed his bags and left the next day. The wife said she ran to the door and said, "Donald,
please, can't we talk? Please." He testified that he was very angry and felt his leaving was justified, but that he did not intend to remain away permanently. He stated he hoped to shock his wife into a realization that they "couldn't go on this way, that things were too upsetting," and he also hoped to persuade her to go to a marriage counselor with him. This, also, had been a source of difference, since (as was the case with most other matters) the parties had never been able to agree upon a counselor.
The husband returned to the apartment at various times to take away more of his belongings and to visit the child. He continued to pay the apartment rent and gave his wife $25 a week as support money. A week after leaving he withdrew the balance of the money in the checking and savings accounts held jointly with his wife. The reason given by him was his anger over an incident that had taken place on one of his visits. His wife, upon returning home from the beauty parlor, had found the car of her mother, who had been baby sitting, gone and her husband's car in front of the apartment, and, becoming fearful of his "uncontrollable temper", as she explained, had called the police, who suggested to the husband that it would be better if he left quietly. The husband later informed the gas company, telephone company and various commercial establishments by letter that he was separated from his wife and would no longer be responsible for her bills, and he sent copies of the letters to his wife, whom he addressed as "Madam". This was done, the husband testified, because of the purchase of a quantity of furniture by his wife and the pressure of his own financial responsibilities. The wife stated, however, that she had given him all the money she earned after the marriage for the purchase of furniture.
The wife continued to live in the apartment until July, 1961, when she moved into the home of her parents. The husband had never returned to stay in the apartment though he continued to pay the rent and the $25 support money to his wife, designating it as "child support" after she began living with her parents. His contacts with his ...