Crowder v. Crowder

Decision Date22 July 1965
Docket NumberNo. 18383,18383
Citation143 S.E.2d 580,246 S.C. 299
PartiesAnnle Lee C. CROWDER, Respondent, v. James W. CROWDER, Appellant.
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Raymond C. Hill, Justin A. Bridges, Laurens, for appellant.

Marshall W. Abercrombie, Laurens, for respondent.

LEWIS, Justice.

The wife brought this action in the Civil and Domestic Relations Court of Laurens, South Carolina, on April 1, 1964 for a divorce on the ground of physical cruelty, for permanent custody and support of the two minor children of the parties, and for a property settlement. The answer of the husband consisted of a general denial of the allegations of the complaint, and expressed a desire for a reconciliation with his wife. After hearing the testimony, a decree was issued by the Judge of the Civil and Domestic Relations Court, in which the wife was awarded (1) a divorce upon the ground of physical cruelty, (2) permanent custody of the children of the parties, and (3) Thirty ($30.00) Dollars per week for the support of the children. Subsequently, upon motion of the plaintiff, a supplemental decree was issued in which the wife was awarded a one-third interest in a house and lot owned by the husband and occupied by the parties before their separation, together with a one-half interest in the furniture and furnishings in the house, 'in full settlement of all property rights and claims of alimony.'

The husband has appealed from the foregoing judgment. The exceptions challenge (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings of the lower court as to physical cruelty, and (2) the jurisdiction of the Civil and Domestic Relations Court of Laurens to determine the issues relating to a property settlement.

We need only consider the exceptions which challenge the factual findings of the trial judge that the wife had established the charges of physical cruelty. Since this is an equity case, it is necessary that we review the evidence to determine whether or not such findings are supported by the preponderance of the evidence. It is now well settled that this court has jurisdiction in appeals in equity cases to find the facts in accord with our view of the preponderance or greater weight of the evidence, in the absence of a verdict by a jury; and may reverse a factual finding by the lower court in such cases when the appellant satisfies this court that the finding is against the preponderance of the evidence. Forester v. Forester, 226 S.C. 311, 85 S.E.2d 187.

The parties were married in December 1954 and have two children, ages eight and three. The wife is twenty-eitht years of age and the husband forty-three. Both have been gainfully employed since their marriage, the wife having a gross income now of about $84.00 per week and the husbnad a gross weekly income of $130.00. At the time of their separation, the parties resided in a six room brick home located on a thirty-five acre tract of land owned by the husband. The home is clear of indebtedness as is their furniture and household equipment. They lived together for approximately nine and one-half years, separating about March 24, 1964 when the wife left and went to the home of her parents, taking the children with her. The wife claimed that the separation was caused by acts of physical cruelty inflicted upon her by the husband, which he denied.

The alleged acts of physical cruelty which form the basis of this action began, according to the wife, in 1955 or 1956 and continued until the separation on March 24, 1964. She said that the first incident occurred when her husband kicked her in the stomach while she was pregnant with her first child. While the date is not given, this would have apparently been in either 1955 or 1956. Next, she testified that, when their oldest child was about three weeks old, the husband slapped her to the floor, stomped her in the face, got his gun and began waving it in the air. This incident occurred in 1956. She further testified that, about a year later, in 1957, her husband beat her, leaving her with a stiff neck for almost two weeks. After this incident, her testimony is that she went to the doctor and was away from work for one day.

Subsequent to the foregoing incidents and before the final alleged act, the wife testified that her husband inflicted physical abuse upon her on five or six occasions, three or four times during the last year that they lived together. The nature or severity of these alleged attacks was not described.

After some of the above alleged attacks by the husband, the wife testified that she left the home and went to her parents who lived in the same community, but returned in a short while, usually the same day, after the husband promised to do better. With reference to other occasions, she said that she did not leave her husband because the attacks usually happened at night and by morning his 'fits' were over. Her reason for continuing to live with him was because she had two children to think about and wanted to make a go of it for them.

The husband denied all of the foregoing accusations made against him by the wife.

The final act of physical cruelty charged against the husband occurred in the late afternoon of March 24, 1964. It seems that the husband had been suspicious of his wife's relations with another man. The subject arose at the supper table and the discussion resulted in the husband slapping the wife, after which she left and the parties have not lived together since. The wife's version of the attack is as follows:

'Q. All right. Did you say or do anything to cause him to choke you or hit you? Did you do anything to him?

'A. No. It was just a little argument.

'Q. What do you mean, a little argument?

'A. Well, it seems that he kept accusing me of talking to a man that worked with me and I told him that I wasn't interested in him or the other man either. And he got mad and slapped me, slapped a cup of coffee that I had in my hand, and it went all over myself and the baby. Then he jumped up and started beating me and choking me.'

The husband admitted slapping his wife on the above occasion, but gave a somewhat different version of the incident. He...

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    ...to find facts in accordance with its own view of the evidence. Townes, 266 S.C. at 86, 221 S.E.2d at 775 (citing Crowder v. Crowder, 246 S.C. 299, 143 S.E.2d 580 (1965)); Floyd v. Floyd, 365 S.C. 56, 93, 615 S.E.2d 465, 485 (Ct.App.2005). "However, we are not required to the findings of the......
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    ...in accordance with its views of the preponderance of the evidence. Townes, 266 S.C. at 86, 221 S.E.2d at 775 (citing Crowder v. Crowder, 246 S.C. 299, 143 S.E.2d 580 (1965)). Accord Segall v. Shore, 269 S.C. 31, 236 S.E.2d 316 LAW/ANALYSIS On appeal Alex and Atlas contend the trial court er......
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