FLAXMAN v. FLAXMAN

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FLAXMAN v. FLAXMAN
1934 OK 443
35 P.2d 950
169 Okla. 65
Case Number: 22673
Decided: 09/18/1934
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

FLAXMAN
v.
FLAXMAN.

Syllabus

¶0 1. Divorce--Provision in Decree Awarding Stipulated Monthly Alimony Without Definitely Fixing Total Amount Held Void and Subject to Vacation on Motion.
The rule has been definitely established in this state that in divorce cases, where the decree provides alimony for the wife a certain sum per month without fixing a definite amount ultimately to be paid, although in conformity to a written stipulation of the parties, the decree as to the alimony is void and may be vacated on motion as provided by section 563. O. S. 1931.
2. Same--Decree Valid as to Divorce Though Void as to Alimony--Status of Cause After Motion to Vacate Sustained.
In a divorce proceeding, where the decree grants a divorce and orders the payment of alimony for the benefit of the wife at a certain sum per month without fixing a definite amount ultimately to be paid, the decree is valid as to the divorce, but is void as to the alimony; in such a case, the decree as to alimony may be attacked by a motion after the term of court has expired in which it was entered, and when such motion is sustained, the parties to the original proceedings are left with the alimony question pending before the court and undetermined, and it is the duty of the court after such motion is sustained to hear and determine the question of alimony.

Appeal from District Court, Beckham County; T. P. Clay, Judge.

Divorce action by Phillip Flaxman against Cordelia Flaxman. Decree of divorce for plaintiff, containing provision for payment of alimony to defendant. Motion by plaintiff to vacate decree as to alimony overruled, and he appeals. Reversed.

Bingham, Clearman & Speed, for plaintiff ill error.
Wilson, Wilson & Owens, for defendant in error.

PER CURIAM.

¶1 This is an appeal from an order of the district court of Beckham county overruling a motion to vacate a part of a judgment.

¶2 The record discloses that on the 8th day of August, 1923, Phillip Flaxman, hereinafter referred to as plaintiff, was granted a decree of divorce from Cordelia Flaxman, hereinafter called defendant. In this judgment the district court of Beckham county ordered the plaintiff to pay to the defendant, as alimony, the sum of $ 150 per month so long as the defendant lived and did not remarry. The judgment did not specify any fixed sum to be definitely paid the defendant.

¶3 The parties to said action had, prior to 1923, entered into a written contract, whereby the plaintiff was to deliver certain property to the defendant and to pay the defendant the sum of $ 200 per month during her lifetime or until she remarried. This property agreement was modified by the court, whereby the plaintiff was ordered to pay the defendant the sum of $ 150 per month, instead of the sum of $ 200 agreed upon. It appears from the record that the plaintiff has considerable wealth, and that the greater part thereof was accumulated, during the married life of said parties. No minor children are involved.

¶4 In 1931 plaintiff filed in said action a motion to vacate that part of the judgment wherein the plaintiff was ordered to pay the sum of $ 150 per month to the defendant, on the ground that the same was void because not definitely fixing the total amount to be paid, or the term during which payments were to be made. The trial court overruled the motion to vacate such part of the judgment, and from that order the plaintiff has appealed to this court.

¶5 We think the motion to vacate that part of the divorce decree awarding the defendant the sum of $ 150 per month as alimony should have been sustained. In the case of West v. West, 134 Okla. 226, 273 P. 209. it was held:

"A provision in a divorce decree awarding alimony to the wife in the sum of $ 100 per month, without definitely fixing the total amount to be paid or _the term during which the payments are to be made, although in conformity to a written stipulation of the parties, is beyond the power of the court to make and enforce, is void, and may be vacated on motion as provided by section 817, C. O. S. 1921."

¶6 See Dutton v. Dutton, 97 Okla. 234, 223 P. 149; Boulanger v. Boulanger, 127 Okla. 103, 260 P. 49; Ex parte West, 134 Okla. 228, 273 P. 211; Javine v. Javine, 134 Okla. 283, 273 P. 267; Hadley v. Hadley, 129 Okla. 219, 280 P. 1097; Oder v. Oder, 149 Okla. 63, 299 P. 202.

¶7 In West v. West, 157 Okla. 89, 10 P.2d 1088, it was stated that where a part of a divorce decree allowing alimony at a certain sum per month, in accordance with a written stipulation of the parties, was invalid because the decree did not fix the total amount to be paid, an action would not lib on the written agreement to pay a certain sum monthly. However, although the part of the divorce decree assailed is void, the defendant is not left wholly without a remedy. As we said in the case of Oder v. Oder, supra:

"In the original divorce proceedings the void judgment as to alimony neither operated as a judgment denying alimony nor as awarding the same. The parties were left in the same position with this question pending before the court. When the plaintiff in error filed his motion and the defendant in error responded thereto, the jurisdiction of the court was invoked. On a hearing the court held that the judgment as to alimony was void. This left the original proceeding as to alimony still pending before the court and undetermined. The court set it for hearing at a definite time and both parties appeared. It determined the question of alimony and entered its judgment in reference thereto. It had jurisdiction to hear and determine this matter, and its judgment in awarding the alimony is affirmed."

¶8 The same rule is followed in Dutton v. Dutton, supra, and in Dresser v. Dresser, 164 Okla. 94, 22 P.2d 1012.

¶9 The order of the trial court overruling plaintiff's motion to vacate that part of the judgment requiring plaintiff to pay the defendant the sum of $ 150 per month is reversed and the cause remanded, with directions to enter judgment vacating that part of the judgment and to determine the question of alimony between said parties.