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Ill health both explains and excuses a spouse's conduct, and the acts of a spouse resulting from ill health do not furnish a ground for divorce.
Plaintiff husband and defendant wife were married in August 1946. In August 1958, the defendant wife was stricken with the incurable disease, multiple sclerosis. As a result of this disease, defendant has double vision, slurred speech, weakness of the muscles and she cannot walk without the assistance of another person or a cane. During the summer of 1961, the defendant noticed that the plaintiff was taking more pride in his appearance. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a complaint in divorce a.v.m. on the ground of indignities to the person. According to the plaintiff, the defendant expressed her disappointment in failing to have a female child and that she verbally abused him and blamed him for this failure. The wife's alleged misconduct was sporadic in nature and did not constitute a course of conduct as required by law. The master recommended that a divorce be granted; however, the Court of Common Pleas, after reviewing the matter, dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff appealed.
Under the circumstances, was the dismissal of the husband’s complaint in divorce a.v.m. proper?
The court affirmed the lower court’s decree, noting that the parties lived together for 15 years and that the husband did not complain about the wife until then. The court also noted that after 15 years, the wife contracted an incurable disease, multiple sclerosis. The court, concluding that the husband did not become dissatisfied with the wife until she contracted the disease, ruled that he had no right to discard her for that reason and that her illness should not have been blindly disregarded. Further, the court ruled that illness explained and excused the wife's conduct and that her acts resulting from ill health did not furnish a ground for divorce. The court also concluded that the husband had an inappropriate relationship with another woman and that he had failed to show clearly and indubitably his status as the injured and innocent spouse. Accordingly, the court determined that the husband's complaint had been properly dismissed.