DuPont v. DuPont

Decision Date22 March 1951
PartiesDU PONT v. DU PONT.
CourtCourt of Chancery of Delaware

Page 680

79 A.2d 680
32 Del.Ch. 56

Court of Chancery of Delaware, New Castle County.
March 22, 1951.

[32 Del.Ch. 57] James R. Morford, William H. Bennethum, and Morton E. Evans of Morford, Bennethum, Marvel & Cooch, all of Wilmington, for Dorothy Elizabeth Barton duPont.

Arthur G. Logan, and Samuel R. Russell of Logan, Marvel & Boggs, Wilmington, for Alfred Victor duPont.

SEITZ, Vice Chancellor.

Dorothy Elizabeth Barton duPont, as the wife of Alfred Victor duPont, asks this Court in two separate actions to award her separate support and maintenance based upon allegations that she was abandoned by her husband without legal cause and that she is in destitute and necessitous circumstances. Neither cause is in connection with any divorce action. Both Mr. and Mrs. duPont live in New Castle County. Her husband has moved to dismiss her actions on the ground, inter alia, that the Delaware Court of Chancery has no jurisdiction to award such relief. The parties have agreed that I should first dispose of the jurisdictional question.

Mrs. duPont's counsel contends that the Delaware Chancery Court has inherent jurisdiction to award separate maintenance to

Page 681

a wife abandoned by her husband in a proceeding not involving divorce. Counsel for her husband argues that the Delaware Court of Chancery never had jurisdiction of proceedings seeking separate maintenance; but, even if it did, it was deprived of such jurisdiction in New Castle County by the act creating the Family Court for New Castle County, 45 Laws of Del. Chap. 241; and in any event Paragraphs 3527-3539 of the 1935 Code provide an adequate remedy at law.

Let us consider Mr. duPont's contentions. He first says this Court never had jurisdiction in this type of case. His argument goes as follows: The High Court of Chancery of Great Britain did not have jurisdiction to award [32 Del.Ch. 58] separate maintenance to a deserted wife apart from other factors not here present; the Supreme Court of Delaware in Glanding v. Industrial Trust Co., 28 Del.Ch. 499, 45 A.2d 553, held that the jurisdiction of the Delaware Court of Chancery consists of the complete system of equity as administered by the High Court of Chancery of Great Britain 1 until the Legislature provides otherwise; since the English Court of Chancery did not exercise jurisdiction in this type of case and since our Legislature has not given it such jurisdiction, it follows that this Court does not have such jurisdiction.

Let us examine the major premise in this reasoning. An examination of the English law on this question prior to the enactment of our Act of 1726-1736 or even prior to the Separation, discloses that the High Court of Chancery of Great Britain wavered back and forth in the treatment of the question of jurisdiction over an action by a deserted wife solely for separate maintenance. The Alabama court noted this uncertainty in Glover v. Glover, 16 Ala. 440. The tendency in most of the earlier cases in this country was to conclude that, absent statute, our equity courts also lacked jurisdiction to award separate maintenance. There was substantial authority to the contrary. However, the majority view today in the United States is in favor of equity jurisdiction. See 141 A.L.R. 399. It must be conceded that many of the cases so holding are governed by statute.

The solution of the problem is not without difficulty. As stated, the High Court of Chancery of Great Britain did in some types of cases entertain jurisdiction over actions for support. Most of the...

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12 cases
  • Du Pont v. Du Pont
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • March 1, 1954
  • Fields v. Synthetic Ropes, Inc.
    • United States
    • Delaware Superior Court
    • May 7, 1965
    ... ... The Plotkin decision was affirmed in DuPont v. DuPont, 32 Del.Ch. 56, 79 A.2d 680 (1951); Hickman V. Hickman, 10 Terry 568, 121 A.2d 689 (1956); and Owens v. Owens, 38 Del.Ch. 220, 149 A.2d 320 ... ...
  • Cohen v. Markel
    • United States
    • Court of Chancery of Delaware
    • February 23, 1955
    ... ... adoption of the Delaware Constitution of 1792 and unless later Delaware 3 constitutional and statutory provisions restrict such jurisdiction, duPont v. duPont, 32 Del.Ch. 56, 79 A.2d 680, affirmed 32 Del.Ch. 413, 85 A.2d 724, I conclude that this Court should furnish a remedy for a needy child ... ...
  • Gilbert v. Gilbert
    • United States
    • Delaware Superior Court
    • November 20, 1961
    ... ... 163-164, 29 A.2d at page 152); compare DuPont v. DuPont, 32 Del.Ch. 413, at 429, 85 A.2d 724, at 733 ...         The significance of these statements is this,--that matters of divorce ... ...
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