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Old 07-29-2010, 12:09 PM
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Taint of creation
Posts: 33,150
Why did Happy Rockefeller give up custody of her 4 children when she divorced and re-married?

In googling Happy Rockefeller I can't find much information on the rationale behind her decision to walk away from her marriage and four children in order to marry Nelson Rockefeller. Obviously she and Rockefeller were infatuated with each other, he ended his 31 year marriage to be with her, but leaving her four kids to the dad seems kind of extreme.

The Divorce

The custody court case afterwards.

People & Events: The 1964 Republican campaign

"This is still a free country, ladies and gentlemen." Standing before the hostile crowd at the 1964 GOP Convention in San Francisco, a defiant Nelson Rockefeller could barely make his words heard above the booing. After six months of heated campaigning, the convention was about to deliver the Republican nomination to his arch-rival, Barry Goldwater. A free country - and yet it was by exercising that very freedom in his personal life that Rockefeller had effectively shattered his best shot at becoming president of the United States.

The scandalous news of Rockefeller's wedding in May of 1963 spread quickly. Nelson, who had divorced his first wife Tod eighteen months earlier, was finally tying the knot with the woman he had been having a relationship with for over five years, Margaretta "Happy" Murphy. Public reaction to Nelson's divorce had been muted, but the headlines announcing his remarriage prompted the outrage and incredulity of many. Adding to the public's disapproval was the fact that in her recently settled divorce, Happy had surrendered custody of her four children.

Yet the political impact of Nelson's second marriage was even more irreversible than its moral implications. The polls, which had given him a comfortable lead over other potential candidates just weeks before, saw his popularity take a dive. Pundits called it an act of political self-destruction, noting that his presidential hopes seemed now more unattainable than ever. But the ever-confident Rockefeller forged ahead. Determined to regain the upper hand, he set out to turn the public's attention to the ideological battles heating up within the Republican Party. In July 1963 he publicly declared war against what he called the "extremist groups" that threatened to subvert the GOP from the right, taking aim at his main opponent for the nomination, conservative Barry Goldwater.
Old 07-29-2010, 12:31 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 3,905
I've seen plenty of divorces where parents are not competing to get custody of the children. In many cases, especially if money is no object and personal freedom is the goal, it becomes a battle of "who is going to get stuck with custody of the brats?"
Old 07-29-2010, 01:15 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Houston
Posts: 9,348
That was just part of the deal she had to sign to get the divorce. And she wanted to switch husbands. It happened in Idaho--apparently another option than Reno for those wishing to avoid the stringent New York divorce law, where her adultery with Rocky would have come up. From Time:

She went to Sun Valley, Idaho, in February, whiled away the state's six weeks residence requirement skating and sunning. When her lawyer went into Idaho's Camas County district court, he filed a petition based on grounds of "grievous mental anguish." The court approved the split, and all documents concerning the case were promptly sealed—unavailable to the public.
Those sealed records might give the answer. Happy married the recently divorced Rocky immediately. When her ex remarried, she fought to regain custody but was denied. She was hardly prevented from ever seeing her children again. More from Time:

Physically, the Murphys (and children) will live close to the Rockefellers, as their parents did for many years. The Murphy family has long had a comfortable summer house in Seal Harbor near the Rockefellers' place on Mount Desert Island, Maine. (As a boy, Dr. Murphy was a particular chum of Nelson's brother David, now board chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank.) About ten years ago, the Rockefellers sold Dr. Murphy 13 acres near their large estate in Pocantico Hills, up the Hudson River at Tarrytown, and Dr. Murphy built himself a handsome one-story house there in what might be described as Japanese modern.

Most of the year, the Murphys live in a comfortable brownstone town house on Manhattan's 64th Street, just around a couple of corners from the present Rockefeller apartment.
Did those years of close living, during which Happy & Rocky began and carried on an affair, continue to rankle? But Dr Murphy wasn't so poor as to be defenseless, even though he wasn't Rich as Rockefeller.

Last edited by Bridget Burke; 07-29-2010 at 01:15 PM.
Old 07-29-2010, 04:44 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 23,426
In the days before no-fault divorce became common, New York had some of the strictest rules in the U.S. One of the few grounds that New York did recognize, however, was adultery.

If Dr. Murphy had chosen to sue to divorce Happy in New York, on grounds of adultery, it would have ended in a very public, very messy trial, put the details of the affair out in the open AND probably ended up with Happy losing custody anyway. One can assume the parties involved worked out a deal to avoid all that.
Old 07-29-2010, 05:08 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 8,562
Nobody ever asks this about a man. Anyone else ever notice that?

Last edited by DianaG; 07-29-2010 at 05:08 PM.
Old 07-29-2010, 06:15 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: the Keystone State
Posts: 14,055
Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
In the days before no-fault divorce became common, New York had some of the strictest rules in the U.S. One of the few grounds that New York did recognize, however, was adultery...
Yep, the only other grounds were cruelty and imprisonment (for felony). Even today NYS has the stricted divorce laws in the country. In addition to the 3 fault grounds a divorce is possible after a year's seperation, but I think that requires both parties to consent. It's also still possible (though rare) to elect to have a jury trial to determine fault.
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