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Coleman v. Coleman

June 23, 1954

COLEMAN
v.
COLEMAN



Combs

Dr. D. H. Coleman filed this suit for divorce against his wife, Susan Coleman, alleging the statutory ground of cruel and inhuman treatment. Mrs. Coleman filed first a general denial to the petition but later, by counterclaim, asked for a divorce and for alimony. The chancellor declined to grant an absolute divorce to either party but did grant to each of them a divorce from bed and board and awarded Mrs. Coleman alimony in the amount of $350 per month. Dr. Coleman contends on this appeal that the chancellor should have granted him an absolute divorce. Mrs. Coleman insists on cross-appeal that the amount of alimony awarded to her is insufficient. Her attorneys, who have been made parties to the appeal, contend that the attorneys' fee of $1,500 awarded to them is too small.

The chancellor has filed a comprehensive opinion in which he analyzes the facts and what he considers to be the applicable law. While we do not agree with his conclusions of law, we adopt his statement of the facts. His statement follows:

"Plaintiff and defendant were married December 27, 1950. A few days later they left for Florida, on a wedding trip, and also to give Dr. Coleman, a busy doctor, a period of rest and relaxation. He has suffered from heart trouble for some years. She, it may be noticed, has high blood pressure. They came home toward the last of April. The next January they went back to Florida, staying until the first of May, 1952. On the fifth of the next September, he filed this suit for divorce, on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment. In her original answer, Mrs. Coleman, while alleging he was guilty of cruel treatment of her, did not ask for divorce, but only alimony. However, after all the evidence had been taken, she amended, and sought an absolute divorce on that ground.

"At the time of their marriage, Dr. Coleman was 58, and she was 49. It was the second marriage for each. His first wife died in 1945. They had no children. Defendant had been divorced a year or two prior to 1945. She and plaintiff had known each other a good while, he having been her family physician during the period of her first marriage. After his wife's death, they had been in each other's company a great deal, for three or four years before their marriage. Her son of her first marriage, Bill Curry, now 10 years old, lived with them. The evidence is that Dr. Coleman was devoted to this child, and desired to have him in their home.

"Both like to play bridge, and enjoy having their friends in to play with them. He also plays golf, playing a good deal both at home and in Florida. But she does not play golf.

"The evidence that is material in this case consists almost exclusively of the testimony of the two parties. With one or two exceptions, which will be noticed in the course of this opinion, the behavior of which any serious complaint is made took place when only these two were present. What others testified about was the demeanor of Dr. and Mrs. Coleman in the presence of guests in their home, or when elsewhere in company. As to their testimony, it is not of enough significance to justify more than a recital of its general tenor. But as to the testimony of plaintiff and defendant it is necessary, in order to see the picture each sketches of their married life, to give a somewhat lengthy summary of that testimony. And it will make for an easier understanding of their troubles to notice the particular complaints each makes against the other, and in each instance give their respective versions of what happened.

"Dr. Coleman testified Mrs. Coleman had a violent temper; was extremely jealous, and very suspicious. For these reasons she kept him emotionally upset and under terrific strain. While in Florida the first time, he frequently played golf with Mrs. Walter McMakin, who he had known for some ten years. Mrs. Coleman was jealous of her. And she was jealous of his sisters-in-law, Mrs. Walter Coleman and Mrs. Lewis Charles Coleman, widows of his deceased brothers. She was jealous of Mrs. Davis a widow with whom he had sometimes gone prior to his marriage with Mrs. Coleman. She did not care for his own sisters, and made this noticeable when in their presence. She disliked some of his best friends; did not want to have them in to play bridge; would speak critically of them to him.

"Mrs. Coleman testified she was not jealous of any of these persons; that she did not dislike his sisters; tried to be pleasant with all of his family; that Mrs. Walter Coleman did not seem to like her, and she rarely saw her. Some of his friends had not been agreeable with her before the marriage, and she did not feel under social obligations to them; for this reason, in some instances, she did not invite them to their home, or care for their company. She said she informed her husband of these circumstances.

"Dr. Coleman stated that on one occasion while they were in Florida the first time she accused him of immoral relations with Mrs. McMakin, and slapped him in the face. He told her that if that was the way she felt towards him, the thing to do was for her to go to her home, and he to his. Her version is that the McMakins were around so much that she told her husband that she was fed up with them; they had an argument; he told her he was going to take her home and get rid of her; that she slapped him, he then slapped her, pushing her over on the bed, twisting his fist in her throat. But Dr. Coleman declared all that he did was to hold her wrists to restrain her, when she attacked him.

"He was helping with the education of one of his nephews, son of Mrs. Lewis Charles Coleman, sending her checks for that purpose. He stated that because of this defendant referred to this sister-in-law as his girl friend, and spoke of his keeping her. Defendant denied this, saying, further, that she and plaintiff had an understanding before marriage that he was to send his nephew to school.

"As to her jealousy of Mrs. Walter Coleman, he told of his writing a letter to the latter in reply to her sending him newspaper clippings about her son as a basketball player; that he left this letter in the house to be mailed; his wife opened and read it, and then said to him that she knew Mrs. Walter Coleman was in love with him, and would have liked to marry him after her husband's death. Defendant testified she made no such statement; but that he gave her the letter to mail; that she did read it and thought nothing of it, as he left family letters for her to read.

"Then there was the occasion he told of when he had arranged for a dinner for members of his family, including Mrs. Walter Coleman, at Beaumont Inn, and his wife, upon learning the former was invited, announced she would not go, and he had to call off the dinner. Her account of it was that he called it off because she had invited another sister-in-law, Mrs. Ethel Coleman, widow of Lee James Coleman, who, according to the statement she attributed to him in explanation of his cancelling the dinner, was not on friendly terms with some other members of the family he had invited.

"Dr. Coleman kept one car, which served both for professional and family use. Several of the unpleasant affairs that disturbed this marriage, and of which he speaks, resulted from this fact. He testified she "jumped on' him several times when he had the car and she wanted to use it. Once when he was ready to enter an ambulance to go bring in a patient to the hospital, he had to wait for Mrs. Coleman to return with the car because his medical bag was in it. He asked her in the future when taking the car to please leave the bag. In a loud voice she told him to shut his mouth. He asked her not to talk so loudly, as people would hear her, and she then told him to go to hell. Mr. Norton, in charge of the ambulance, was present, and he corroborated Dr. Coleman. Mrs. Coleman admitted she told him to go to hell, because he kept "raving' about her taking his things out, and she wished to make him hush.

"As to her jealousy of Mrs. Davis, he testified that Mrs. Coleman accused him of running around with her, and meeting her at places in Harrodsburg and Lexington. ...


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