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TAYLOR v. TAYLOR

March 14, 1956

HELEN DEHART TAYLOR, RESPONDENT,
v.
JOHN A. TAYLOR, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Moss, Justice.

March 14, 1956.

John A. Taylor and Annie Warren Taylor were ceremonially married on August 16, 1917 at Taylors, South Carolina. They lived together until they separated on August 16, 1943. The appellant went to Reno, Nevada on October 1, 1944 and entered the employ of the Navy Ammunition Depot. Thereafter, he instituted an action in the District Court of the County of Washoe, in said State, seeking a divorce from Annie Warren Taylor on the ground that she had wilfully deserted him. He alleged in his complaint that he had been a resident of the State of Nevada for more than six weeks immediately preceding the commencement of the action. He also alleged a property settlement with his wife.

In said action, the said Annie Warren Taylor, the defendant therein, filed a general appearance submitting herself to the jurisdiction of the District Court of the County of Washoe, State of Nevada. In the same instrument she waived all time to demur, answer or otherwise plead and agreed that the case could be set down for trial at the convenience of the Court. This appearance and waiver was duly probated and filed in the District Court as aforesaid.

The record shows that through a club or matrimonial agency the appellant met Helen Dehart Taylor, the respondent herein. They were ceremonially married on September 20, 1947 and lived together in Spartanburg, South Carolina until their separation in 1952, at which time a separation agreement was entered into, by which the appellant paid to the respondent more than $5,000.00 in money and securities. They agreed to live separate and apart and that the respondent released the appellant from any further obligation for maintenance or support.

The present action is one in which the respondent asks the Court to decree that the divorce of the appellant from Annie Warren Taylor, in the Courts of the State of Nevada, was invalid on the ground that the appellant was not a bona fide resident of the State of Nevada and failed to procure adequate and proper service upon his then wife, Annie Warren Taylor. She asserts also that John A. Taylor is still legally married to Annie Warren Taylor and that her purported marriage to the appellant was null and void. She also asks that if the Court should hold that the divorce of the appellant from Annie Warren Taylor in the State of Nevada was valid, that she be granted a divorce on the ground of physical cruelty and that an award be made for alimony and suit money. The appellant duly answered and asserted that he had obtained a legal and valid divorce from his former wife, Annie Warren Taylor, in the State of Nevada. He also alleged that he and the respondent had entered into a separation agreement whereby the plaintiff released him of any and all obligations arising out of their marital relations and that by reason thereof he was not responsible or liable to her for maintenance and support, nor was she entitled to a divorce from him on the ground of physical cruelty.

The case was referred to the Master of Spartanburg County for the purpose of taking the testimony and reporting his findings. The Master, after taking the testimony of the witnesses produced by the parties, filed his report and recommendations, finding that the appellant was legally divorced from his first wife and that Helen Dehart Taylor was the legal wife of the Appellant. He also found that the respondent had not made out her cause of action for a divorce and recommended dismissal of the complaint.

The respondent excepted to the Report of the Master of Spartanburg County and the exceptions were heard by the County Judge, who filed a decree sustaining the exceptions of Helen Dehart Taylor and holding that the divorce obtained by John A. Taylor in the State of Nevada was invalid. He also that no valid marriage ever existed between the appellant and the respondent.

It should be stated that during the course of the hearing before the Master for Spartanburg County that certain evidence relating to the divorce was objected to and placed upon the excluded sheet. However, it appears that certain of this evidence was considered by the Master and also by the County Judge in reaching their conclusions, even though such evidence was upon the excluded sheet.

The appellant complains that the County Judge considered evidence which had been placed upon the excluded sheet when there was no specific exception thereto. It is not proper to consider questions which were not raised in exceptions to the Master's Report. Numerous cases hold this. Sanitary & Aseptic Package Co. v. Shealy, 205 S.C. 198, 31 S.E.2d 253; Verner v. Perry, 45 S.C. 262, 22 S.E. 888.

We conclude from an examination of the exceptions to the Master's Report that the holding of the Master as to admission of testimony was challenged, even though the exceptions might have been more specific and certain. The respondent asserts that the testimony with reference to the divorce obtained by the appellant in the State of Nevada was relevant. Since both the Master and County Judge considered the evidence with reference to said divorce, we will here consider such. Since the appellant becomes the beneficiary of the holding hereinafter made upon the testimony to which he now objects, he cannot therefore complain of error.

We now consider the question of whether or not the County Judge erred in holding that the Nevada divorce was invalid by reason of the fact that such Court lacked jurisdiction of the parties and of the subject matter of the action.

The appellant asserts that the respondent could not attack the judgment of the decree rendered in the Nevada Court. It is the settled law of this State that the want of jurisdiction over either the person or the subject-matter is open to inquiry where a judgment rendered in one State is challenged in another. Peoples National Bank of Greenville v. Manos Bros., 226 S.C. 257, 84 S.E.2d 857, 45 A.L.R.2d 1070. Likewise, it is competent for the courts of this State to inquire into the validity of a divorce granted in another State so far as its validity depends upon the ...


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