Baierlein v. Haffner (In re Haffner's Estate)

Decision Date08 July 1930
PartiesIn re HAFFNER'S ESTATE. BAIERLEIN v. HAFFNER.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Application of Hermine Baierlein for the revocation of letters of administration granted to respondent Friedrich Haffner, on the estate of Louise Haffner, deceased. From an order (228 App. Div. 799, 239 N. Y. S. 856) of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, which affirmed an order of the Surrogate's Court, New York County, which denied the petition to remove the respondent as administrator of the estate on the ground that the respondent was not the legal husband of the intestate, petitioner appeals.

Order affirmed.

Appeal from Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department.

C. Campbell Hunicke and Francis L. Driscoll, both of New York City, for appellant.

August P. Wagener, of New York City, for respondent.

HUBBS, J.

On February 10, 1894, the respondent, Friedrich Haffner, entered into a ceremonial marriage with Lilli Scholl, in Germany.

In 1895 the respondent's wife commenced an action against him in Germany for an absolute divorce. After the commencement of that action and in the same year, the respondent came to this country. The decree in that action granting a divorce to the plaintiff therein against the respondent was not entered until September 27, 1901. Before the entry of that decree and upon August 14, 1898, the respondent at Newark, N. J., entered into a ceremonial marriage with Marie Louise Stoll, thereafter known as Louise Haffner, the deceased herein. Before her marriage to the respondent, she had entered into a ceremonial marriage with Adolph Hauk at Camden, N. J. In March, 1900, Adolph Hauk procured a divorce from decedent in the state of Illinois. At the time, deceased was a resident of the state of New York. She was served by publication but never personally appeared in the divorce action in Illinois. That divorce decree was void as to her. Olmsted v. Olmsted, 190 N. Y. 458, 83 N. E. 569,123 Am. St. Rep. 585. Thereafter the said Adolph Hauk, deceased's first husband, died in 1921, a resident of the state of New Jersey.

It thus appears that in 1898 when respondent and deceased entered into a ceremonial marriage in New Jersey, he had an undivorced wife living in Germany, and deceased had an undivorced husband living. Concededly the ceremonial marriage between respondent and deceased entered into on August 14, 1898, was void, as both parties thereto had at the time a living spouse. In 1901 the divorce decree granted to respondent's first wife was entered in Germany. In 1924 said first wife died in Germany. The record does not contain a copy of the German decree. If we assume that it was a valid decree, the respondent and deceased were free to legally marry at any time after the death of deceased's first husband in 1921. In any event, the last obstacle to their marriage was removed in 1924 by the death of respondent's first wife in Genmany. The question for determination is whether the conduct of the parties, after all impediments to their legal marriage were removed, was such as to constitute a valid common-law marriage under the laws of this state. When respondent entered into the ceremonial marriage with deceased, he was twenty-nine years of age. He worked at his trade as a brewer in New York city. He and the deceased were thrifty and saved his earnings which were deposited in a savings bank in a joint account. About 1915 money was withdrawn from the account and invested in a rooming house. The savings from the income from the rooming house were placed in the savings bank joint account.

In 1921 they commenced to invest the savings from the joint account in bonds and mortgages upon real property. Between January, 1921, and May, 1926, three mortgages were taken in their names, as husband and wife. Thereafter, the deceased took three mortgages in her individual name, but the money advanced therefor came from the joint account.

During the period from August 14, 1898, the date of the ceremonial marriage, until February 18, 1929, when deceased died, she and respondent had continuously lived and cohabited as husband and wife, and held each other out as hearing that relation. They never had any children. The record presents a picture of a frugal, hard-working German man and wife. It does not contain a suggestion of any trouble or improper conduct between the parties, other than the fact that their ceremonial marriage was illegal. Their conduct indicates their belief that they occupied the status of legally married persons.

Nothing in the record discloses their state of mind when they entered into the ceremonial marriage except the fact that they voluntarily entered into the solemn obligations of the marriage relation under the form of a valid ceremonial marriage. Whether deceased believed that her first husband, who had run away with another woman and left her in New York, was dead, or whether she supposed that his conduct and the lapse of time had released her from that marriage, we do not know. Neither do we know whether the parties believed that the commencement of the divorce action by respondent's first wife in Germany had resulted in freeing him from that marriage.

We do know that the parties undertook by a formal ceremonial marriage to enter the legal relation of a man and wife. True their relation in the eyes of the law was illegal in violation of section 6 of the Domestic Relations Law (Consol. Laws, c. 14), but it was not intended by the parties to be ‘meretricious in the sense that it was known to the parties to be immoral and unlawful, even if, as a matter of law, it was illegal and void.’ Matter of Crandall's Estate, 214 App. Div. 363, 365, 212 N. Y. S. 210, 211.

Common-law marriages have been valid in this state since January 1, 1908, when chapter 742 of the Laws of 1907, which amended the Domestic Relations Law of 1896 (chapter 272), as amended by chapter 339 of the Laws of 1901, became effective. Matter of Ziegler v. P. Cassidy's Sons, 220 N. Y. 98, 115 N. E. 471, Ann. Cas. 1917E, 248;Domestic Relations Law of 1909, § 10.

A common-law marriage is not required to be proved in any particular way. It is sufficient if the evidence establishes that legally competent parties in praesenti intended to become husband and wife and thereafter lived and cohabited as husband and wife. The ceremonial marriage evidenced the intent of the deceased and respondent to enter into a legal and honorable state of matrimony.

For thirty years they lived...

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24 cases
  • Sanseri v. Sanseri
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • 6 Abril 2015
    ...to become husband and wife and thereafter lived and cohabited as husband and wife, such a marriage existed. Matter of Haffner, 254 N.Y. 238, 242, 172 N.E. 483 (1930). In attempting to decide whether to create marital obligations for couples living without the benefit of a formalized marriag......
  • Sanseri v. Sanseri
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • 6 Abril 2015
    ...to become husband and wife and thereafter lived and cohabited as husband and wife, such a marriage existed. Matter of Haffner, 254 N.Y. 238, 242, 172 N.E. 483 (1930). In attempting to decide whether to create marital obligations for couples living without the benefit of a formalized marriag......
  • Ventura v. Ventura
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • 12 Mayo 1967
    ...in Matter of Wells' Estate, 123 App.Div. 79, 108 N.Y.S. 164, affd. 194 N.Y. 548, 87 N.E. 1129 and iterated in Matter of Haffner's Estate, 254 N.Y. 238, 242, 172 N.E. 483, 484. There, the Court of Appeals stated that a 'common-law marriage is not required to be proved in any particular way. ......
  • Carson v. Fed. Reserve Bank of New York
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 8 Julio 1930
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