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Koch v. Koch

Decided: June 29, 1967.

RUTH KOCH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GEORGE KOCH, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Gaulkin, Lewis and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lewis, J.A.D.

Lewis

Plaintiff sued her husband for maintenance and support for herself and the infant child of their marriage. The Chancery Division entered judgment for defendant. Plaintiff appeals.

We gather these facts from the record: The parties were married on March 1, 1959. Plaintiff had a 15-year-old daughter by a previous marriage. It was planned that she would live with them and that defendant's mother, then residing in Hungary, would be brought to this country and that she would likewise live in their home. In September 1961 a daughter was born of the marriage.

The mother-in-law arrived on September 11, 1964; she was cordially received and took up residence with her son and daughter-in-law, they having obtained larger quarters for this purpose. It is undisputed that during the previous 5 1/2 years the marriage "was a very loving relationship"; in the words of the wife, "We had as perfect a marriage as any marriage could be." Discord, however, soon developed. It is unnecessary to recount the details that generated an atmosphere of irritation. Suffice it to say, within a very short time after the arrival of the mother-in-law the incompatibility between her and plaintiff caused a disintegration of the marriage.

The only witnesses at the trial were the litigants themselves. The wife testified that her husband's attitude toward her changed, she lost 20 pounds in weight, and the situation became "as good as unbearable." A marriage counsellor and a psychiatrist were consulted, both of whom suggested that the mother-in-law move out of the apartment. When the wife told her husband that the prevailing conditions could not continue and that he would have to choose between living with her or living with his mother, "He chose to live with his mother." She stated that upon her suggestion that the mother-in-law "could live in a furnished room and eat with us and visit with us and stay with us during the day," defendant

said "he didn't bring his mother over from Hungary so she could live in a furnished room."

Plaintiff, with her two daughters, left defendant on July 9, 1965. To a question whether her mother-in-law was present at the time she moved out, plaintiff replied, "when the movers came, my husband was ready to leave for work. He kissed me good-bye with tears in his eyes, and his mother just sat there and laughed out loud."

Defendant testified that his mother did not interfere with the functions of the household; he stated that he would accept his wife back if she would live up to her agreement. He was interrogated from the bench as follows:

"THE COURT: * * * As I understand it, prior to the time you got married, your wife agreed that your mother could come to live with you.

THE WITNESS: Yes.

THE COURT: Now, supposing she hadn't agreed to let your mother come to live with you, would you ...


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