Betts v. Betts

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtROBERTS; HOBSON
Citation63 So.2d 302
Decision Date24 February 1953
PartiesBETTS v. BETTS.

Page 302

63 So.2d 302
BETTS

v.
BETTS.
Supreme Court of Florida, Division B.
Feb. 24, 1953.
Rehearing Denied March 19, 1953.

Page 303

Fred Paradise, Miami, for appellant.

Rinehart & Gibbs, Miami, for appellee.

ROBERTS, Justice.

Mrs. Betts, the appellant, filed suit for divorce in the Circuit Court in and for Dade County, Florida, against Mr. Betts, the appellee, alleging the statutory grounds of extreme cruelty and desertion. Mr. Betts in his answer denied that he had been guilty of the charges made against him and alleged, additionally, that the charge of extreme cruelty had been adjudicated adversely to Mrs. Betts by the Superior Court of Hancock County, Maine, and that such question was res adjudicata. The cause came on for hearing before the Chancellor on the issues thus made. The Chancellor found that Mrs. Betts had not sustained the allegations of her complaint as to either ground and, also, that the decree of the Mains court was res adjudicata on the issue of extreme cruelty. He dismissed her complaint with prejudice, and Mrs. Betts had appealed from the decree of dismissal.

It appears that the parties were married in January 1946 in Stonington, County of Hancock, State of Maine, and lived and cohabited there until September of 1948. At that time, together with Mrs. Betts' mother and the two-year-old child of the parties, they went to Salt Lake City, Utah, apparently to spend the winter there and in California on account of the health of Mrs. Betts' mother. Mr. Betts obtained employment in Salt Lake City but was discharged in December of 1948. On December 26, 1948, he left Salt Lake City and returned to Stonington, Maine, ostensibly to obtain employment there. From that time until the present date the parties have not lived together. They have also been engaged in almost continuous litigation since then, the course of which will be recounted as briefly as possible.

The litigation involves two suits filed by Mr. Betts in the State of Maine and two suits filed by Mrs. Betts, one in Utah and one in Maine--and, of course, the instant suit filed by Mrs. Betts in this state. Mr. Betts started the litigation by filing a petition for custody of the child of the parties on March 8, 1949, in the Probate Court of Hancock County, Maine. While this suit was pending, and on March 30, 1949, Mrs. Betts filed suit for divorce in Utah on the ground of extreme cruelty. Mr. Betts, by his counsel, appeared specially in such cause to challenge the jurisdiction of the Utah court on the ground that Mrs. Betts was not a bona fide resident of the State of Utah, but such motion was denied; and the cause proceeded to the entry on June 22, 1949, of an interlocutory decree of divorce in favor of Mrs. Betts without any further appearance therein by Mr. Betts. In the meantime, on June 7, 1949, Mr. Betts' petition for custody of the child had been denied by the Maine Probate Court.

On June 15 or 16, 1949, Mrs. Betts returned to Stonington, Maine. Mr. Betts immediately, on June 16, 1949, instituted divorce

Page 304

proceeding against Mrs. Betts in the Superior Court of Hancock County, Maine. Mrs. Betts testified that she was served with process in that suit the day after she returned to Maine; but so far as the record shows, no further proceedings appear to have been taken in such suit, and it was dismissed without prejudice (apparently upon the motion of Mr. Betts) on September 22, 1950.

No attack was made by Mr. Betts on the Utah decree until December 14, 1949, at which time he filed in the cause a motion to set aside the decree, supported by his affidavit, on the ground that Mrs. Betts was not a bona fide resident of the State of Utah. Hearing on the motion was had on July 21, 1950, both parties being represented by counsel, and an order nullifying and setting aside the Utah decree was entered on September 8, 1950.

As above noted, Mr. Betts' Maine divorce suit was dismissed without prejudice on September 22, 1950. On September 28, 1950, Mrs. Betts instituted divorce proceedings in the Superior Court of Hancock County, Maine. This proceeding was apparently adjudicated adversely to Mrs. Betts, as shown by a copy of a docket entry introduced in evidence in the instant suit, reading as follows: 'August 20-1951: Hearing had: Divorce denied.' Mrs. Betts then moved to Florida and filed her suit for divorce here on December 31, 1951.

At the outset, it should be noted that there is no basis here for the application of the doctrine of res adjudicata, and the Chancellor must be held in error for so decreeing. In the place, it does not appear that a copy of the final judgment of the Maine court was filed in this cause, and we do not think a mere docket entry is sufficient as a foundation for the invocation of the doctrine of res adjudicata. In the second place, Mr. Betts failed to carry his burden of proving that the issue of 'extreme cruelty' had been formerly adjudicated in the Maine suit. In the Maine suit, Mrs. Betts alleged the statutory ground of 'cruel and abusive treatment,' and the Maine statute, Section 55, Chap. 153, p. 2061, Revised Statutes of Maine, 1944, also lists 'extreme cruelty' as a ground for divorce. Mrs. Betts thus relied on a different statutory ground in her Florida suit. However, it is the rule in this state that 'The test of the identity of the causes of action, for the purpose of determining the question of res adjudicata, is the identity of the facts essential to the maintenance of the actions.' Gordon v. Gordon, Fla., 59 So.2d 40, 44. Only a portion of the testimony adduced in the Maine cause was offered by counsel for Mr. Betts, and the Chancellor excluded most of this testimony. The testimony admitted by the Chancellor related solely to the state of Mrs. Betts' feelings toward Mr. Betts when he departed from Utah in December of 1948. This was certainly insufficient as a basis for a finding that the 'testimony produced by the plaintiff in the second suit [was] essentially the same as that which was produced in the former action', Gordon v. Gordon, supra, and that is what Mr. Betts was required to prove in order to sustain his plea of res adjudicata. It was, then, error to hold that the question of extreme cruelty was res adjudicata.

We need not decide whether the Chancellor erred, also, in holding that Mrs. Betts failed to prove her...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 practice notes
  • Thoman v. Ashley, No. 4548
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 18, 1964
    ...351. A party relying on a former judgment must not only plead but must prove the judgment relied upon. Betts v. Betts, Fla.App.,1953, 63 So.2d 302. The mere reference to a prior controversy and adverse decision is insufficient to raise the issue of res judicata. Moorhead v. Moorhead, Fla.Ap......
  • Born v. Born, No. 19957
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • February 10, 1958
    ...outweighed and overcome. Easter v. Easter, 75 N.H. 270, 73 A. 30; Holmes v. Holmes, 82 Ohio App. 33, 80 N.E.2d 507; Betts v. Betts, Fla., 63 So.2d 302; Hartpence v. Hartpence, N.J.Ch., 121 A. 513. In Appleton v. Appleton, 97 Wash. 199, 166 P. 61, it was held that where, after a wife had obt......
  • Reynolds v. Reynolds, No. B-10
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 10, 1959
    ...continued desertion for one year as required by the statute, the following rule announced by our Supreme Court in Betts v. Betts, Fla., 63 So.2d 302, 304, appears 'In considering this question, we are at once confronted with the necessity of determining whether such desertion was 'willful a......
  • McLean v. McLean, No. 84-482
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 11, 1985
    ...and prove the judgment. The mere reference to a prior controversy is insufficient to raise the res judicata issue. See Betts v. Betts, 63 So.2d 302 (Fla.1953) and Thomas v. Ashley, 170 So.2d 332 (Fla. 2d DCA 1964), cert. denied, 177 So.2d 205 (Fla.1965). Here, the wife pled and proved that ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Thoman v. Ashley, No. 4548
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 18, 1964
    ...351. A party relying on a former judgment must not only plead but must prove the judgment relied upon. Betts v. Betts, Fla.App.,1953, 63 So.2d 302. The mere reference to a prior controversy and adverse decision is insufficient to raise the issue of res judicata. Moorhead v. Moorhead, Fla.Ap......
  • Born v. Born, No. 19957
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • February 10, 1958
    ...outweighed and overcome. Easter v. Easter, 75 N.H. 270, 73 A. 30; Holmes v. Holmes, 82 Ohio App. 33, 80 N.E.2d 507; Betts v. Betts, Fla., 63 So.2d 302; Hartpence v. Hartpence, N.J.Ch., 121 A. 513. In Appleton v. Appleton, 97 Wash. 199, 166 P. 61, it was held that where, after a wife had obt......
  • Reynolds v. Reynolds, No. B-10
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 10, 1959
    ...continued desertion for one year as required by the statute, the following rule announced by our Supreme Court in Betts v. Betts, Fla., 63 So.2d 302, 304, appears 'In considering this question, we are at once confronted with the necessity of determining whether such desertion was 'willful a......
  • McLean v. McLean, No. 84-482
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 11, 1985
    ...and prove the judgment. The mere reference to a prior controversy is insufficient to raise the res judicata issue. See Betts v. Betts, 63 So.2d 302 (Fla.1953) and Thomas v. Ashley, 170 So.2d 332 (Fla. 2d DCA 1964), cert. denied, 177 So.2d 205 (Fla.1965). Here, the wife pled and proved that ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT