Renbarger v. Renbarger

Decision Date13 December 1994
Docket NumberNo. 80255,80255
Citation1994 OK 140,889 P.2d 1250
PartiesCacina RENBARGER, Appellee, v. Donald RENBARGER, Appellant.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

Certiorari to the Court of Appeals, Division 3, Appeal from the District Court of Oklahoma County, Eileen Echols, Trial Judge.

The trial court decided a common law marriage existed between the parties at the time a modified temporary order pendente lite was issued in a divorce proceeding. At the later trial for divorce and property division appellant sought to present additional evidence in support of his defense that no common law marriage existed. The trial judge refused to allow the additional evidence on the basis the issue had already been ruled on. Appellant appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. HELD: The trial court erred because the temporary order was interlocutory and the determination therein that a common law marriage existed was not res judicata as to the existence of the marriage relationship. The issue of common law marriage was, thus, open for adjudication at trial.

Certiorari Previously Granted; Court of Appeals' Memorandum Opinion, Order of June 7, 1994 and Corrected Order of June 28, 1994 Vacated; Trial Court Judgments Reversed and Remanded with Directions to Grant A New Trial.

William H. Campbell Oklahoma City, for appellant.

Michael Gassaway Oklahoma City, for appellee.

LAVENDER, Vice Chief Justice.

In a divorce action a modified temporary order pendente lite was issued in which determination was made that a common law marriage existed between the parties. At the later trial appellant sought to present additional evidence on the issue. The trial judge refused to hear the evidence or reconsider the issue because of the earlier ruling contained in the modified temporary order. We decide whether the trial court erred by refusing to allow the evidence or reconsider the issue. We hold the trial court erred because the initial ruling in the modified temporary order was interlocutory, it was not res judicata of the issue of the existence of the marriage relationship and that issue was open for final adjudication at trial.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Appellee, Cacina Renbarger sued appellant, Donald Renbarger for divorce. The trial court ordered an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the parties were married. After the evidentiary hearing a modified temporary order pendente lite was filed on November 15, 1990, in which the trial court found the marriage was consummated in January 1989, i.e. that a common law marriage existed as of sometime in that month.1 After certain discovery was conducted appellant moved the trial court in March 1991 to reconsider the ruling contained in the modified temporary order. This motion was denied in May 1991. Appellant appealed the denial of his motion to reconsider to this Court. In Renbarger v. Renbarger, No. 77,459 (Okla.S.Ct. Sept. 16, 1991), we dismissed the appeal as premature noting that the trial court's pronouncement of November 15, 1990 (i.e. the modified temporary order) was neither a final order, nor among those interlocutory orders specifically made appealable by statute. The matter returned for disposition to the trial court.

A trial was held in July 1992. The record of the trial shows that the trial judge refused to hear additional evidence sought to be presented by appellant on the issue of the marriage relationship and that appellant was allowed to make an offer of proof as to this additional evidence. The record of the trial also shows that the trial judge refused to hear the evidence or reconsider the issue because of the earlier ruling. The trial judge stated in this regard, "[a]gain, for the purposes of this record, all parties are aware that Mr. Renbarger has reserved the issue of common law marriage, which has not been presented here today because the Court has already ruled on it. And we have a ruling from the higher Court advising the appeal was dismissed at that time [as] premature but you are going to raise that." July 21, 1992 Transcript, pp. 95-96.2

On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that "[a]ppellant's complaint that he was not allowed to present [ ] evidence [on the common law marriage issue] at the [trial] is not well-taken." The Court of Appeals also apparently decided because they had no transcript of the hearing which led to the modified temporary order they were required to presume the trial court did not err in the determination that a common law marriage existed. Beyond challenging the trial court's refusal to allow additional evidence at trial on the marriage relationship issue and the refusal to reconsider the issue at trial, appellant also appealed the trial court's ruling on the merits of that issue, as well as the ruling by the trial judge on the merits of the property division. Thus, the Court of Appeals went on to affirm the trial judge's rulings on the marriage relationship and the property division. Appellant sought certiorari which we previously granted.3

ANALYSIS

We ruled over fifty (50) years ago that it was error for a trial court to reject evidence offered at trial for the purpose of establishing the nonexistence of the marriage relationship on the ground that the existence of the marriage relationship had been established and the issue was res judicata by virtue of a previous finding entered by the trial court in a hearing on an application to vacate an order for alimony pendente lite. Powell v. Powell, 191 Okla. 581, 131 P.2d 1019, 1020-1021 (1942). Our ruling was based on the view that the findings or order made upon an application for alimony pendente lite in an action for divorce are interlocutory in nature and therefore not res judicata of the main issue of the marriage relationship. Id. 131 P.2d at 1021. Accordingly, the issue of the marriage relationship is open for later adjudication in the same action upon the final trial even though a finding has been made thereon in conjunction with an earlier application for temporary or incidental relief. Id. 131 P.2d at 1020-1021; See also Elliott v. Elliott, 279 P.2d 328, 329 (Okla.1954) (a finding of a marriage relationship in an action brought for separate maintenance, made on application for maintenance money pendente lite, is not a final determination of such issue, but is...

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2 cases
  • SW v. Duncan
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • May 8, 2001
    ...¶ 11 Generally, temporary orders are interlocutory orders and not immediately appealable, unless made so by statute. Renbarger v. Renbarger, 1994 OK 140, 889 P.2d 1250, 1251; Kantor v. Kantor, 1994 OK 132, 886 P.2d 480; Elliott v. Elliott, 1954 OK 356, 279 P.2d 328. No statute creating such......
  • Cook v. Bowen
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma
    • August 27, 2014
    ...establishing the existence of the common law marriage was an interlocutory order and not a final determination of that issue. Renbarger v. Renbarger, 1994 OK 140, ¶ 5, 889 P.2d 1250 ; see also 12 O.S.2011 § 952(b)(3). Furthermore, the two (2) year limitations period at 12 O.S.2011 § 95(A)(3......

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