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Raffio v. Raffio

Decided: April 17, 1952.


McGeehan, Jayne, and Goldmann. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.


On July 5, 1941, the plaintiff, a widow now three score years of age having a daughter born of her former wedlock, married the defendant, who is now 56 years old. The bride possessed an abode which she had inherited from her former mate, and the bridegroom had been for some period an inhabitant of the dwelling in the situation of a boarder. The demands of the daughter's occupation obliged her to withdraw from the household and to select an independent domicile in a distant city. It is not entirely conjectural to infer from the evidence that the imminent social proprieties and the economic practicalities contributed more predominantly to the cause of the marital attachment than did the tender emotions of love.

The pecuniary donations deemed necessary to subsidize the current domestic expenses soon became a subject of discord. The defendant initially invested the weekly sum of from $12 to $15 for the contents of the larder. In 1944, through the persuasive intervention of her counsel, the plaintiff induced the defendant to spare $30 a week. In 1948 illness besieged the wife, and the same legal diplomatist persuaded the defendant to squeeze out of his income or personal resources a weekly allowance of $45 to meet the increasing cost of living and the supplementary expenses occasioned by the illness of the wife.

Recognizing that these periodical incursions upon his purse were becoming progressively more devastating, he resolved that he "would fain die a dry death," and on October 6,

1948, he decamped. He moved into an apartment consisting of three bedrooms, a bathroom, dining room, and kitchen, which he had leased two weeks previously. He took with him his desk, radio, and a vacuum cleaner, which were the removable chattels that he had supplied to the accommodations of the former dwelling. More preeminently, he thereupon discontinued his endowments for the support of his wife.

On December 6, 1948, the plaintiff instituted and thereafter prosecuted the present action against him alleging that without justifiable cause he abandoned and separated himself from her and has since refused or neglected to maintain and provide for her. R.S. 2:50-39. The advisory master upon a very deliberate consideration of the evidence concluded that the alleged cause of action of the plaintiff was adequately sustained by the credible evidence, and he authorized the entry of a judgment directing the defendant to pay to the plaintiff the sum of $30 on Monday of each week for her support and maintenance, together with the allowance of a counsel fee of $300.

We are requested to examine the legal and factual propriety of the judgment. The only point of a legalistic complexion is that there was an absence of testimony corroborative of that of the plaintiff.

It is to be at once recognized that in a maintenance action, as distinguished from one for divorce, corroboration of the plaintiff's testimony is not necessary, and the relief can be granted on the testimony of the plaintiff alone where it is deemed credible and adequate. Pinkinson v. Pinkinson , 92 N.J. Eq. 669, 671 (E. & A. 1921); Shore v. Shore , 96 N.J. Eq. 661, 667 (E. & A. 1924); Gerhold v. Gerhold , 109 N.J. Eq. 634 (E. & A. 1932); Zehrer v. Zehrer , 5 N.J. 53, 61 (1950). We observe, however, that the testimony of the plaintiff's daughter possesses some corroborative characteristics.

The only other essential element of the plaintiff's alleged cause of action the proof of which is claimed by the

defendant to be insufficient is that the defendant abandoned and separated from his wife without justifiable cause. The defendant does not even intimate that the cause of his acknowledged separation was one of the quality to warrant a dissolution of the marriage. Vide, Dinnebeil v. Dinnebeil , 109 N.J. Eq. 594 (E. & A. 1932).

The controversial jars which ultimately caused the separation of the parties were in the category of domestic economy. Money disputes. The defendant testified that on more than one hundred occasions when they were out of tune the plaintiff recommended that he leave the home and that his eventual departure, although not in pursuance of a contractual bargain, was nevertheless in harmony with her expressed wishes. Cf. Biddle v. Biddle , 104 N.J. Eq. 313 (Ch. 1929); Patton v. Patton , 58 A. 1019 (Ch. 1904). The plaintiff at the trial both affirmed and denied the utterance of such statements. The transcripts of evidence which currently flow before us in matrimonial causes ...

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