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Woodham v. Woodham

Decided: June 26, 1964.

WOODHAM
v.
WOODHAM



Two appeals in one record from the Circuit Court No. 2 of Baltimore City (CARDIN, J.).

The cause was argued before Henderson, Hammond, Marbury and Sybert, JJ., and Anderson, J., Associate Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, specially assigned.

Marbury

MARBURY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Helen E. Woodham has appealed from an order passed October 1, 1963, terminating her right to support and maintenance.

She has further appealed from an order passed December 26, 1963, sustaining, without leave to amend, a demurrer to her petition for costs on appeal and attorney's fees. In view of our recent decision in Price v. Price, 232 Md. 379, 198 A.2d 99, decided since this appeal was filed, she has abandoned this second ground for appeal.

The appellee, Duward W. Woodham, filed a cross-appeal from that portion of the order of October 1, 1963, increasing the support payments for the parties' minor daughter from $20 per week to $50 per week.

The parties separated in August 1960 and on June 12, 1961, they entered into a property settlement agreement. The present controversy centers around clause 8 (a) in which the husband agreed to make support payments to the wife of $65 a week, to cease if she died or remarried and also "upon the obtaining of employment by the wife," and clause 8 (b) in which he agreed to pay her $20 a week for the support of their minor child subject to further order of the court.

Subsequently the wife filed suit for an absolute divorce and custody of the child, both of which were decreed her. The decree, dated February 3, 1962, also incorporated the agreement already referred to, stating that Mr. Woodham was to pay $20 per week for the child's support and "$65 per week to the Plaintiff as permanent alimony * * * subject to the further order of the Court * * *." Four days before the passage of this decree the wife obtained a clerical job at Koppers Company where she received a gross salary of $63 per week and a net take-home pay of $45, but she did not make this known to the appellee. He continued payments until April 3, 1962, when he learned of her employment. She thereupon on April 23, 1962, petitioned the court to cite him for contempt for failure to make the payments, and he answered setting up in defense that the agreement, adopted by the court in its decree, provided payments were to cease if the wife obtained employment.

Negotiations between counsel for the parties did not result in the settlement of their differences. During this period counsel for Mrs. Woodham wrote a letter to appellee's counsel dated June 21, 1962. In the letter he requested that the husband make payments on a mortgage on the premises which the parties had

owned and which was transferred to the appellant under the terms of the settlement agreement, and make up the difference between the $45 take-home pay of Mrs. Woodham and $65. He further stated that if Mr. Woodham refused he would advise his client to resign her position and would request a hearing. The request was not met and the wife obtained a date for a hearing before the Master of the Domestic Relations Division on her petition. The date set for the hearing was July 18, 1962. On July 17, 1962, the day before the hearing, she resigned her position at Koppers Company. From the record before us it is not clear what transpired between the parties from the hearing date set by Master on July 18, 1962, and March 1, 1963. On that date the appellee filed a petition to modify the divorce decree on the ground it mistakenly provided for permanent alimony. In addition he asked the court to terminate his obligation to support the appellant. After more pleadings had been filed the court heard testimony, asked for briefs, then heard additional testimony. On September 18, 1963, the court filed a memorandum opinion in support of an order signed October 1, 1963, which in addition to denying the petition for contempt citation, provided substantially as appellee had contended.

The divorce decree was modified so as to change the $65 payments from alimony to support and maintenance and then stated the payments had terminated by virtue of the operation of the clause terminating them if employment was obtained. However, much to the objection of appellee, the ...


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