Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County; Pugh, J.
Hammond, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Horney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
When the wife, Margaret G. Comulada, filed an action for separate maintenance for herself and custody of and support for the minor children, the husband, Edward V. Comulada, filed, first, a cross-bill for a divorce a mensa et thoro and, later, a supplemental cross-bill for a divorce a vinculo matrimonii alleging constructive desertion as a result of cruelty and violence. The chancellor dismissed the wife's bill insofar as alimony was concerned (but retained it for the purpose of awarding custody of and support for the children) and granted the husband a divorce a vinculo matrimonii on the ground of constructive desertion. On this appeal by the wife, it is contended: (i) that the evidence was insufficient to corroborate the testimony of the husband; (ii) that there was insufficient evidence of cruelty and violence to warrant granting the husband an absolute divorce on the basis of constructive desertion; and (iii) that the wife is entitled to alimony.
The parties were married in 1955 and, except for a two year period the husband was in the armed services, they lived together, first in Oakland, and then in Tacoma Park, until the husband moved out of the marital home in 1961. The husband, a dentist by profession, has practiced privately except for the time he was in the army. Two children, a boy and a girl, were born as a result of the marriage.
The marriage had been a turbulent one almost from the beginning. They quarreled on the way home from their honeymoon. There were minor differences between them when they were living in Oakland. But the difficulties, which eventually brought about the separation, began when the husband went into the service.
The wife, because she believed her husband was not faithful to his marriage vows, has accused him of "running with other women" ever since they were married. While they were living in Oakland she accused him of having an illicit relationship
with his dental assistant. During the two years he was at the Walter Reed Hospital, she stated he came home with lipstick on himself and his clothing and with compacts in his car which were not hers. After he was discharged from the army and had resumed private practice in an office in his home, the marital difficulties became more intensified. The wife further accused her husband, prior to their separation and in court, of having illicit relations with every woman with whom he came in contact, with his women patients, and even with her own sisters, and intimated that he was having unnatural relations with their three-year old son. She admitted that she had never actually caught her husband engaged in an illicit affair with anyone but insisted that she knew such affairs were going on. The husband, however, categorically denied that he had ever been unfaithful and said that he had never had any inclination to do so.
The wife also testified that her husband often neglected her, that he clothed her inadequately, that he rarely ever kissed her and frequently slept in a separate bedroom, that he was more attentive to his mother than he was to his wife and children and that he would go to dentists' meetings with a woman doctor who was a former classmate and sweetheart. She also suggested that her husband had drugged her and tried to poison her.
There is nothing in the record to support any of the accusations made by the wife against the husband. And, other than the testimony of the wife's father that she was not properly dressed at a public ceremony she and her husband attended, there was no substantiation of her complaints. There was testimony, however, by her father and a neighbor, that she had been a good wife and mother and that there was no justification for the husband to leave the home when he did. There was also testimony that the husband had left the marital home several times. Previous separations had been terminated by reconciliation, but the final separation, on October 1, 1961, has not been reconciled, despite the efforts of the wife to bring about another reconciliation.
The opposite side of the story presents a different version of the marital difficulties. The husband testified that on many occasions before the final separation, and thereafter, his wife
threatened to take his life. She had threatened more than once to beat his brains out with heavy cooking utensils she held over his head. Other threats had been made with an ax. She had said on several occasions when she had a knife in her hand that she would cut his guts out. At other times she had struck him with her fists, scratched him with her finger nails, kicked him, and, on one occasion, had knocked his glasses off and caused bruises and cuts about his eyes. During the course of some of her violent rages, she had destroyed chinaware and other household articles and ...