Mr. and Mrs. Courson were married for less than a year when Mrs. Courson decided to leave him.  But after talking to her father-in-law, who was a marriage counselor, she had a change of heart.  The father-in-law told the husband that the wife wanted to reconcile but the husband flatly refused.  A child was born during the separation but the husband showed no interest in either the child or the wife.

He filed for divorce on grounds of desertion and she countersued for desertion.  The husband then hired a private detective to follow the wife for $25 a week.  The detective was able to surprise the wife and a male companion in a parked car in a wooden area near Loch Raven Dam in the early hours of the morning.  The trial court granted the husband an absolute divorce based on adultery.

The wife appealed and the Maryland Court of Appeals asked what effect was to be given to the fact that the husband had abandoned the wife, and therefore the husband was guilty of an offense which the statute says is a cause for divorce by the wife?

“Recrimination”, the Court of Appeals said, “is generally defined as a rule or doctrine which precludes one spouse from obtaining a divorce from the other, where the spouse seeking a divorce has himself or herself been guilty of conduct which would entitle the opposite spouse to a divorce.”  Based on the wife’s defense of recrimination, the Court reversed the trial judge and vacated the divorce.  Courson v. Courson, 208 Md. 171; 117 A.2d 850 (1955).

Postlogue:  In 1983, the Legislature decreed that recrimination no longer be a bar to divorce at Family Law Section 7-103(b), and it has no application in no-fault divorces.  But it still may be a factor to be considered by the court in cases involving adultery.