Rutherford v. Rutherford, No. 23576

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtTOAL; GREGORY
Citation307 S.C. 199,414 S.E.2d 157
PartiesBobby RUTHERFORD, Respondent, v. Carol RUTHERFORD, Petitioner. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 23576
Decision Date21 October 1991

Page 157

414 S.E.2d 157
307 S.C. 199
Bobby RUTHERFORD, Respondent,
v.
Carol RUTHERFORD, Petitioner.
No. 23576.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard Oct. 21, 1991.
Decided Feb. 10, 1992.

Page 158

[307 S.C. 201] Nathan M. Crystal and Kenneth M. Mathews, Columbia, for petitioner.

Stevens B. Elliott, Columbia, for respondent.

Nancy C. McCormick, Columbia, for amicus curiae South Carolina Protection and Advocacy System for the Handicapped, Inc.

Jacqueline D. Belton, Columbia, for amicus curiae Mental Health Ass'n in South Carolina.

TOAL, Justice:

This domestic action is before this Court on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals. Rutherford v. Rutherford, 303 S.C. 424, 401 S.E.2d 177 (Ct.App.1990). This case presents three issues on appeal: (1) what is the proper standard of appellate review in domestic actions from the family courts; (2) what level of mental incapacity must be proven as to constitute a defense to adultery as a ground for divorce or bar of alimony; and (3) does an informal oral agreement of support override the statutory bar to alimony for adulterous spouses.

Respondent ("Husband") brought this action for divorce on the ground of adultery. He also sought an order barring Carol Rutherford ("Wife") from seeking alimony. Wife filed an answer denying adultery and counterclaimed for support and maintenance.

Page 159

A trial was held in the Family Court in Richland County. At trial Wife denied the adultery took place. Alternatively, Wife sought to prove that even if it had, she should not be held responsible due to her mental illness. Wife's psychiatrist testified Wife suffered from multiple personality disorder. 1 [307 S.C. 202] Additionally, the Wife submitted evidence of the parties' verbal agreement of support. She asserts this agreement overrode the statutory bar of alimony applicable to adulterous spouses. S.C.Code Ann. § 20-3-130 (1985). The trial judge denied the Husband's petition for divorce on the basis of a finding due to the Wife's mental disability, she lacked the capacity to commit adultery. The trial judge found the Wife had committed the physical act of adultery, however, at the time of the physical act of adultery, the Wife was under the control of one of her alter personalities and lacked the ability to control her actions. The lower court awarded Wife separate maintenance and support and divided the parties' property.

Husband appealed both the denial of a divorce and the award of support. The Court of Appeals reversed. In the view of the Court of Appeals, in order to successfully maintain a defense to the adultery charge of lack of capacity, the wife had the burden under the facts of this case to show that a disengaged alter ego committed the adulterous acts rather than respondent as a cognitive person. Based on its own view of the preponderance of evidence, the Court of Appeals held Wife did commit adultery, but she did not prove she could not at least control her transformation into her alter personalities. The Court of Appeals also found Wife had not proven she was not in control of the alter personality when she committed the adultery. Finally, the Court of Appeals held in order to sustain her defense, the Wife must show by clear evidence her mental condition deprived her of the ability to control her acts. On petition for rehearing, Wife argued the Court of Appeals' scope of review was limited to determining whether there was substantial evidence to support the lower court's finding under § 14-3-320 of the South Carolina Code. The Court of Appeals held the statute unconstitutional as repugnant to Article V, Section 5 of the South Carolina Constitution, however, the court modified its previous holding to provide that Wife could sustain her burden by proving by a preponderance[307 S.C. 203] of the evidence her mental condition deprived her of the ability to control her various personalities.

We granted certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals. Wife also asserts as an additional sustaining ground that the parties' agreement as to support overrides the statutory bar of alimony for adulterous spouses.

I. STANDARD OF APPELLATE REVIEW

Article V, Section 5 of the South Carolina Constitution provides:

§ 5. Jurisdiction of Supreme Court

The Supreme Court shall have power to issue writs or orders of injunction, mandamus, quo warranto, prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus, and other original and remedial writs. The Court shall have appellate jurisdiction only in cases of equity, and in such appeals they shall review the findings of fact as well as the law, except in cases where the facts are settled by a jury and the verdict not set aside.

This constitutional provision was adopted as part of the original Constitution of 1895

Page 160

and has remained substantially unchanged since that time. 2

This provision was interpreted by this Court in Finley v. Cartwright, 55 S.C. 198, 33 S.E. 359 (1899). In Finley, Justice Jones writing the opinion of the Court declared, "it may now be regarded as settled that this court may reverse a finding of fact by the circuit court [in a case of equity] when the appellant satisfies this court that the preponderance of the evidence is against the finding of the circuit court." Id., at 202, 33 S.E. at 360-61. This interpretation has been consistently applied to all equity cases, including domestic actions since Finley. See, e.g., Miller v. Miller, 299 S.C. 307, 384 S.E.2d 715 (1989); Forester v. Forester, 226 S.C. 311, 85 S.E.2d 187 (1954); Wise v. Wise, 60 S.C. 426, 38 S.E. 794 (1901).

In 1983, § 14-3-320 was enacted. This provision...

To continue reading

Request your trial
91 practice notes
  • Lanier v. Lanier, No. 3966.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 21 d1 Março d1 2005
    ...31, 2005) (Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 6 at 48); Emery v. Smith, 361 S.C. 207, 603 S.E.2d 598 (Ct.App.2004) (citing Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 414 S.E.2d 157 (1992)). However, this broad scope of review does not require us to disregard the family court's findings. Bowers v. Bowers, ......
  • Lewis v. Lewis, No. 26973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 9 d1 Maio d1 2011
    ...in equitable actions, including domestic relations actions, has been well-settled and consistently applied. Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 203, 414 S.E.2d 157, 160 (1992) ( “This interpretation [of the Court's scope of review in equitable actions] has been consistently applied to a......
  • Hunnicutt v. Hunnicutt, 2006-UP-024
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 12 d4 Janeiro d4 2006
    ...family court, this court may find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 204, 414 S.E.2d 157, 160 (1992); Owens v. Owens, 320 S.C. 543, 546, 466 S.E.2d 373, 375 (Ct. App. 1996). However, this broad scope of review ......
  • Badeaux v. Davis, No. 3047.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 20 d1 Setembro d1 1999
    ...has the authority to find the facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 414 S.E.2d 157 (1992); Charest v. Charest, 329 S.C. 511, 495 S.E.2d 784 (Ct.App.1997); Owens v. Owens, 320 S.C. 543, 466 S.E.2d 373 (Ct.App.1996)......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
91 cases
  • Lanier v. Lanier, No. 3966.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 21 d1 Março d1 2005
    ...31, 2005) (Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 6 at 48); Emery v. Smith, 361 S.C. 207, 603 S.E.2d 598 (Ct.App.2004) (citing Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 414 S.E.2d 157 (1992)). However, this broad scope of review does not require us to disregard the family court's findings. Bowers v. Bowers, ......
  • Lewis v. Lewis, No. 26973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 9 d1 Maio d1 2011
    ...in equitable actions, including domestic relations actions, has been well-settled and consistently applied. Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 203, 414 S.E.2d 157, 160 (1992) ( “This interpretation [of the Court's scope of review in equitable actions] has been consistently applied to a......
  • Hunnicutt v. Hunnicutt, 2006-UP-024
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 12 d4 Janeiro d4 2006
    ...family court, this court may find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 204, 414 S.E.2d 157, 160 (1992); Owens v. Owens, 320 S.C. 543, 546, 466 S.E.2d 373, 375 (Ct. App. 1996). However, this broad scope of review ......
  • Badeaux v. Davis, No. 3047.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 20 d1 Setembro d1 1999
    ...has the authority to find the facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Rutherford v. Rutherford, 307 S.C. 199, 414 S.E.2d 157 (1992); Charest v. Charest, 329 S.C. 511, 495 S.E.2d 784 (Ct.App.1997); Owens v. Owens, 320 S.C. 543, 466 S.E.2d 373 (Ct.App.1996)......
  • 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