Lowengrub, J.d.c. (temporarily assigned).
An amended complaint was filed in this matter on September 29, 1971 alleging as the ground for divorce from the bond of matrimony defendant's institutionalization in the Camden County Psychiatric Hospital for Mental Illness (hereinafter called Lakeland), for 24 consecutive months after the date of the marriage and next preceding the filing of that complaint.
The parties were married on September 21, 1963.
On May 24, 1968 defendant was committed to Lakeland on a temporary commitment, and on June 14, 1968 he was transferred to a regular commitment. Defendant's medical diagnosis on admission was paranoid schizophrenia.
Defendant was, as of the date of the trial in this matter, March 1, 1972, an active patient at Lakeland under a program of rehabilitation.
Between June 20 and September 29, 1971 he was permitted to leave the hospital on 15 separate weekend visits with his mother. The weekend visitations continue to date. There have not been other visitation periods permitted him.
Plaintiff testified that she has not seen defendant since his commitment and, further, that there was no cohabitation between her and defendant since his admission to Lakeland.
Defendant does not deny that he has suffered from mental illness since at least his commitment on May 24, 1968, but he argues that he was not institutionalized for a period of at least 24 consecutive months next preceding the filing of the complaint because he was permitted to leave the hospital on weekends for a period of about three months before the filing date of the amended complaint.
Defendant also argues that the real meaning of the statute is that plaintiff must prove that he was mentally incompetent
for the statutory period. He alleges that plaintiff has failed in that burden since no evidence was introduced by her of a determination that he was a mental incompetent.
The hospital records show that defendant was, from the date of his temporary commitment to the trial date, a patient committed to the hospital without benefit of discharge. He was given permission to leave the hospital after application for weekend visits had been made by his mother and approved by the hospital staff member in charge of his case.
Defendant could not leave Lakeland without permission, and although he was away for the weekend, he was subject to the rules ...