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Rayher v. Rayher

Decided: December 21, 1953.

MYRA WATSON RAYHER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EDWARD RAYHER, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Appellate Division of the Superior Court on certification granted.

For reversal -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Vanderbilt, C.J.

Vanderbilt

[14 NJ Page 175] The plaintiff, a resident of Chicago, comes from a family of means and personally has assets worth several thousand dollars. While attending school in New York City she met the defendant who was then teaching school at a salary of $2,000 a year. In January, 1945, the plaintiff informed her mother, Mrs. Watson, of her intention to marry the defendant. Later Mrs. Watson came to New

York City and while in her daughter's apartment in the presence of the defendant Mrs. Watson informed her of the plan formulated by her and her late husband to make separate gifts of real estate of approximately the same value to each of their two daughters at the time of their marriage. In accordance with this plan Mrs. Watson stated that upon returning to Chicago she would have a deed prepared making a gift to the plaintiff of property in Oak Park, Illinois, that was currently being rented. At this point the defendant spoke up, stating that he would like to have his name included in the deed since he thought it would look better and would make it easier for him to help in the management of the property. Mrs. Watson said she did not wish to do this since the property was to be a wedding gift to her daughter and she desired to put the wedding gift in the plaintiff's name only, just as she had done for her other daughter. However, at the plaintiff's insistence and upon her statement in the defendant's presence that he would take his name off the deed any time the plaintiff asked him to do so, the mother finally yielded and agreed to have the deed made out in both names.

A few days prior to the wedding the plaintiff, who was badly upset, informed her mother that the defendant had put on a display of tantrums, whereupon the mother stated that she would not include his name in the deed. The defendant, however, insisted, again stating to the plaintiff and her mother that it would look better and would facilitate his helping the plaintiff in the management of the property. At the plaintiff's insistence and reiteration of her assurance that the defendant would take his name off the deed whenever she requested him to do so, the mother gave in and after the wedding caused the deed to be made out to both the plaintiff and the defendant as tenants by the entirety and delivered the deed to the daughter.

The parties never occupied the Oak Park house but lived on Long Island until March, 1947, when the defendant obtained a teaching position in Teaneck, New Jersey. The plaintiff found a house in Teaneck which she wished to buy

at a price of $10,800, and reported it to her mother, who encouraged the purchase of the property, at the same time agreeing to advance the purchase price as a loan to be secured by a deed for the Oak Park home. The plaintiff informed her mother that she had funds of her own to cover the earnest money of $100 and the down payment of $1,000, but that she would require an additional $9,800 at the closing of title. On the plaintiff's assurance that she would send a quitclaim deed to the Oak Park property the mother forwarded a certified check payable to the plaintiff in the amount of $9,800 which the plaintiff deposited in a joint account that she and her husband maintained in the Chase National Bank in New York City. After the plaintiff had selected the property she wanted to buy, the defendant handled the details of the purchase of the property and had both the contract of sale and the deed made out in their joint names but without any expression of donative intent on the part of the wife. The quitclaim deed to the Oak Park property, signed by both the plaintiff and the defendant, was subsequently forwarded to the mother.

Mrs. Watson cleared approximately $7,700 from the sale of the Oak Park property, which she applied against the loan. Then in the summer of 1947 she gave each of her daughters a gift of $1,000, that to the plaintiff consisting of a credit in that amount against her indebtedness on the loan. All payments on account of this loan were made by the plaintiff except that the defendant drew one check for $100 to Mrs. Watson's order on the joint account in the Chase National Bank. There is presently a balance of approximately $500 due on the loan. Meanwhile the plaintiff had various improvements made to the property at a total cost of approximately $4,000, which she paid from her own separate funds, although the checks on account thereof were drawn from the joint bank account in the Chase National Bank.

In November 1948 the plaintiff left the Teaneck home where the parties had lived until that time and went to live

with her mother in Chicago. On January 2, 1950 she obtained a decree of divorce in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois, but since that court did not have personal jurisdiction of the defendant no adjudication of the title to the Teaneck property was made in the divorce proceedings. The defendant has remained in possession of the Teaneck property, claiming that as a result of the divorce decree he and his former wife became tenants in common and that therefore he is entitled to a one-half interest therein.

The plaintiff brought this action against her former husband in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court seeking among other relief the establishment of a trust of the one-half interest in the Teaneck property claimed by the defendant. In his answer the defendant alleged that he was the absolute owner of this one-half interest, denied the validity of plaintiff's Illinois divorce and counterclaimed for a divorce. The trial court upheld the validity of the plaintiff's divorce and found that the defendant held the one-half interest in the property on behalf of the plaintiff and therefore ordered him to convey it to her. On appeal the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, while sustaining the Illinois divorce decree, reversed the judgment of the trial court relating to the ...


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