Jackson City Bank & Trust Co. v. Fredrick

Decision Date17 May 1935
Docket NumberNo. 79,April Term, 1935.,79
Citation271 Mich. 538,260 N.W. 908
CourtMichigan Supreme Court
PartiesJACKSON CITY BANK & TRUST CO. et al. v. FREDRICK.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Suit by the Jackson City Bank & Trust Company, special administrator of the estate of George W. Hastings, deceased, and others against Jessie Thomas Fredrick, sometimes known as Jessie Thomas Hastings. Decree for defendant, and plaintiffs appeal.

Affirmed.

Appeal from Circuit Court, Jackson County, in Chancery; John Simpson, judge.

Argued before the Entire Bench.

Norman E. Leslie and Rosenburg & Painter, all of Jackson, for appellants.

Bisbee, McKone, Wilson, King & Kendall, of Jackson, for appellee.

POTTER, Chief Justice.

Plaintiff Jackson City Bank & Trust Company, as special administrator of the estate of George W. Hastings, deceased, filed a bill of complaint against Jessie Thomas Hastings (named in the bill of complaint as Jessie Thomas Fredericks), to set aside conveyances of real estate whereby he deeded such real estate No. Nettie A. Begel, who reconveyed it to George Hastings and Jessie Thomas Hastings, as husband and wife, and as joint tenants by the entireties, with the rights of survivorship, upon the ground George W. Hastings and Jessie Thomas Hastings were not, in fact and in law, husband and wife, for the reason Jessie Thomas Hastings was never legally divorced from her former husband; so as to leave operative upon such real estate the last will and testament of George W. Hastings, deceased, executed April 20, 1931, and by which the real estate would pass but for such deeds.

Subsequently, Charles Hastings and Mary Griswold, heirs at law of George W. Hastings, deceased, were joined as parties plaintiff.

From a decree for defendant, plaintiffs appeal.

Upon the death of George W. Hastings, the title to his real estate vested in the devisee under his will or in his heirs at law, depending upon whether such real estate vested by will or under the statute of descent. The plaintiff Jackson City Bank & Trust Company had no right, title, or interest in and to the real estate in question, and was not a proper party plaintiff to the bill of complaint. This question is not raised because two of the heirs at law of George W. Hastings joined in the bill of complaint prior to trial and they would, under the statute of descent, have a right to maintain the bill.

November 9, 1932, Jessie Fredrick, of the city of Jackson, filed a bill of complaint against Louis Fredrick, defendant, for divorce, upon the ground be grossly, wantonly, and cruelly refused and neglected to provide plaintiff with suitable maintenance and support. Summons was issued November 9, 1932, and returned personally served upon Louis Fredrick, defendant, November 10, 1932, in the city of Jackson. Defendant did not enter his appearance in such divorce case, an order pro confesso was entered December 28, 1932, decree of divorce rendered January 7, 1933. It does not appear herein whether Louis Fredrick, subsequent to such divorce, remarried or not. But George W. Hastings and defendant were on October 7, 1933, married at Angola, Ind., and continued to live together up until the time of his death July 9, 1934.

The statute provides: ‘No proofs or testimony shall be taken in any case for divorce until the expiration of two (2) months from the time of filing the bill or petition therefor.’ 3 Comp.Laws 1929, § 12731.

It is claimed and, if the dates above given are correct, the final decree for divorce involved was rendered two days prior to the expiration of the statutory two months' period.

Bill for divorce was filed when it was tendered to the county clerk for filing. It is not entirely clear upon the record the bill for divorce was tendered to the county clerk for filing on November 9, 1932. The receipt from the office of the county clerk of Jackson county for the filing fee appears to be dated November 7, 1932, although a preponderance of the evidence indicates the trial court was correct when it found the bill for divorce was not filed will November 9, 1932.

It is contended by plaintiffs the trial court had no jurisdiction to grant a decree for divorce.

Jurisdiction of divorce proceedings is special and statutory. Plaintiffs and appellants claim the circuit court for the county of Jackson, in chancery, had no jurisdiction of the divorce proceedings because the testimony was taken less than two months after the filing of the bill, and by reason thereof the court acquired no jurisdiction to enter decree. There are many cases which hold that if a bill of complaint is filled on behalf of a party who has not been two years a resident of the state, the court does not acquire jurisdiction. If the party has not gained a residence in the state of Michigan for the purpose of instituting suit for divorce, their place of residence has not been changed to Michigan, but their residence adheres to the place from whence they came. Divorce proceedings involve, not only the status of the individual parties thereto, but the state itself is interested. The courts of this state ought not to exercise jurisdiction to determine the marital status of citizens of another state, though its courts may determine the status of its own citizens in such proceedings.

Both of the parties to the divorce proceedings lived in the state of Michigan. Upon the filing of the bill of complaint and the issuance and service of a summons, the trial court acquired jurisdiction of the parties and of the subject-matter of the suit. If the trial court had jurisdiction of the proceedings, of the subject-matter, and of the parties, and proceeded to a final decree, it necessarily had to find all jurisdictional facts present necessary to sustain the decree.

There is a wide difference between a want of jurisdiction in which case the court has no power to adjudicate at all, and a mistake in the exercise of undoubted jurisdiction in which case the action of the trial court is not void although it may be subject to direct attack on appeal. This fundamental distinction runs through all the cases.

When there is a want of jurisdiction over the parties, or the subject-matter, no matter what formalities may have been taken by the trial court, the action thereof is void because of its want of jurisdiction, and consequently its proceedings may be questioned collaterally as well as directly. They are of no more value than as though they did not exist. But in cases where the court has undoubted jurisdiction of the subject-matter, and of the parties, the action of the trial court, though involving...

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    ...arising in the case is but an exercise of that jurisdiction." 21 C.J.S., Courts, § 26. As pointed out in Jackson City Bank & Trust Co. v. Fredrick, 271 Mich. 538, 260 N.W. 908, 909: "There is a side difference between a want of jurisdiction in which case the court has no power to adjudicate......
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    ...cautioned, in recent decisions, against profligate use of the term.") (citation omitted). See also Jackson City Bank & Trust Co v Fredrick , 271 Mich. 538, 544-545, 260 N.W. 908 (1935). However, there are no indications in the George opinion that this Court was engaging in such casual use o......
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    ...of another state, though its courts may determine the status of its own citizens in such proceedings.’ Jackson City Bank & Trust Co. v. Fredrick, 271 Mich. 538, 260 N.W. 908, 909. The statutes and this policy upon the part of this State does not and cannot affect the validity of a divorce g......
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    ...of a decree of divorce cannot be heard to question the jurisdiction of the court which rendered it.' Jackson City Bank & Trust Co. v. Fredrick, 271 Mich. 538 (260 N.W. 908 (1935)). "In the divorce case alimony was waived. The future care of the child was merged in an outright lump sum suffi......
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