Mueller v. Mueller

Decision Date12 October 1972
Docket NumberNo. 771S200,771S200
Citation33 Ind.Dec. 55,259 Ind. 366,287 N.E.2d 886
PartiesSandra Lou MUELLER, Appellant, v. Thomas H. MUELLER, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Maurice A. David, Sharpnack, Bigley & David, Columbus, for appellant.

Thomas N. Mote, Dalmbert, Pushor, Mote & Schug, Columbus, for appellee; Richard R. Donnelly, Nashville, of counsel.

HUNTER, Justice.

This is an appeal by Sandra Lou Mueller, appellant, from a default judgment awarding custody of two minor children to Thomas H. Mueller, appellee and former husband of the appellant. * This Court has jurisdiction in this cause per IC 1971, 33--3--2--7, (Ind.Ann.Stat. § 4--214 (1968 Repl.)) and the fact that the appeal was filed prior to January 1, 1972 (at which time the above mentioned statute was repealed). The fifteenth clause of that section provided that all appeals from judgments in which an award was made concerning the permanent care and custody of a minor child or minor children would be taken directly to the Supreme Court of Indiana.

The general issue involved in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in overruling appellant's motion to dismiss based on insufficiency of service of process under TR. 12(B)(5), IC 1971, 34--5--1--1 Rule 12(b)(5).

The action concerns a petition to modify a divorce decree brought by the appellee, Thomas H. Mueller to obtain from his former wife, Sandra Lou Mueller, appellant, the custody of two minor children. The original decree of divorce was entered December 28, 1964, and this petition to modify was filed on February 17, 1970. On that date summons was issued by the Clerk for service by the Sheriff of Bartholomew County. Sandra Lou Mueller could not be found, however, and the sheriff was unable to make personal service upon her. The summons which was simultaneously sent by First Class Mail was returned by Sandra Lou Mueller's parents accompanied by a letter stating that Sandra Lou Mueller had become a legal resident of another state as of February 16, 1970, and that no forwarding information was presently available. Thomas H. Mueller then filed a praecipe for service by publication on March 9, 1970, accompanied by an affidavit stating that he had made a diligent search for Sandra Lou Mueller but had been unable to locate her, and that she had left the State of Indiana and had concealed her whereabouts. Notice was then published in 'The Republic,' a newspaper published in Bartholomew County. On April 23, 1970, Sandra Lou Mueller, by counsel filed a motion to dismiss under TR 12(B)(5) alleging insufficiency of service of process. Argument was heard on the motion and it was overruled on May 8, 1970. A motion to reconsider was filed June 5, 1970, and overruled on June 10, 1970. On July 1, 1970, a hearing was held on the merits of Thomas H. Mueller's petition to modify the original divorce decree. Sandra Lou Mueller was neither present in person nor by counsel. Evidence was heard and the court entered judgment awarding custody of the two minor children to Thomas H. Mueller. A motion to correct errors was filed and after hearing argument upon it and the occurrence of several other delays, the trial court overruled the motion to correct errors on April 9, 1971, and this appeal followed.

The basis of Sandra Lou Muller's argument is not entirely clear but she apparently asserts that service of process by publication could not be used in this instance. She argues that, although the Petition to Modify was filed after the effective date of the new rules (The new rules having gone into effect on January 1, 1970, and the petition having been filed February 17, 1970), the provisions for publication pursuant to TR. 4.4(A)(7) and 4.4(B), IC 1971, 34--5--1--1, Rule 4.4(a)(7), (b), nevertheless do not apply in this instance because their marriage was terminated in a court action in 1964, and thus prior to the effective date of the new rules.

TR. 84, IC 1971, 34--5--1--1, Rule 86, reads:

'These rules will take effect on January 1, 1970. They govern all proceedings in actions brought after they take effect and also all further proceedings in actions then pending, except to the extent that in the opinion of the court their application in a particular action pending when the rules take effect would not be feasible or would work injustice, in which event the former procedure applies.'

This action should be characterized as an action still pending. IC 1971, 31--1--12--15 (Ind.Ann.Stat. § 3--1219 (1968 Repl.)) provides that the court granting the original divorce decree shall make provisions for the custody of the minor children, and that the jurisdiction over the children shall remain in that court at all times during the minority of the children. Thus, the original custody decree was not a final judgment but one by which the court retained jurisdiction in case changed circumstances indicated a need to modify the original decree, and the custody decree becomes an 'action then pending' under TR. 84. The new rules still apply in such an instance unless this 'would not be feasible or would work an injustice.' See, Transcontinental Credit Corp. v. Simkin (1972), Ind.App., 277 N.E.2d 374.

Appellant makes no allegation that the use of the new rules is not feasible nor does she claim their use would work an injustice. She contends, however, that 'notice' is a substantive right and therefore cannot be given retroactive effect. Appellant cites State ex rel. Red Dragon Diner, Inc. v. Superior Court of Marion County (1959), 239 Ind. 384, 385, 158 N.E.2d 164, 165, wherein it is stated:

'Notice, giving a defendant opportunity to be informed regarding the nature of the action and reasonable opportunity to make a defense, is an essential element of due process.'

She then cites Knutson v. State ex rel. Seberger (1959), 239 Ind. 656, 157 N.E.2d 469, reh. den. 160 N.E.2d 200, for the general proposition that retrospective laws are unconstitutional if they disturb or destroy existing vested rights. We agree that 'notice' is a fundamental right of due process. However, this does not necessarily mean that the form of the notice cannot be altered if it meets the requirements of due process.

'An elementary and fundamental requirement of due process in any proceeding . . . is notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections. . . . The notice must be of such nature as reasonably to convey the required information . . . and it must afford a reasonable time for those interested to make their appearance. . . . But if with due regard for the practicalities and peculiarities of the case these conditions are reasonably met, the constitutional requirements are satisfied.' Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co. (1950), 339 U.S. 306, 314--315, 70 S.Ct. 652, 657, 94 L.Ed. 865.

This doctrine was further refined in Walker v. City of Hutchinson (1956), 352 U.S. 112, 77 S.Ct. 200, 1 L.Ed.2d 178. The case involved condemnation proceedings in which the only notice given was by publication. This was reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States. In an opinion by Justice Black the Court held that the newspaper publication alone was not adequate notice as required by due process, where the owner's name was known to the condemning city and was on the official records. However, Black there stated:

'In Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co. . . . we gave thorough consideration to the problem of adequate notice under the Due Process Clause. That case establishes the rule that, if feasible, notice must be reasonably calculated to inform parties of proceedings which may directly and adversely affect their legally protected interests. We there called attention to the impossibility of setting up a rigid formula as to the kind of notice that must be given; notice required will vary with circumstances and conditions. We recognized that in some cases it might not be reasonably possible to give personal notice, for example where people are missing or unknown.' (our emphasis) 352 U.S. at 115--116, 77 S.Ct. at 202.

In McDonald v. Mabee (1917), 243 U.S. 90, 92, 37 S.Ct. 343, 344, the United States Supreme Court stated:

'To dispense with personal service the substitute that is most likely to reach the defendant is the least that ought to be required if substantial justice is to be done.'

Thus, it can be seen that the notice should be such as is reasonably calculated to inform defendant of the pending proceedings. In making this determination we must decide whether the best method possible has been utilized. A certain method is sufficient if no other method better calculated to give notice is available but is insufficient if another method obviously better calculated to give notice is available. See 1 Harvey, Indiana Practice pp. 404--405.

TR. 4.4 reads in part:

'(A) Acts serving as a basis for jurisdiction. Any person or organization that is a nonresident of this state, a resident of this state who has left the state, or a person whose residence is unknown, submits to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state as to any action arising from the following acts committed by him or his agent:

(7) living in the marital...

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25 cases
  • Lawrance, Matter of
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • September 16, 1991
    ...did not have this requirement of notice, Article 1, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution would impose it. See Mueller v. Mueller (1972), 259 Ind. 366, 287 N.E.2d 886. As Justice Frankfurter wrote, "The history of liberty has largely been the history of observance of procedural safeguards.......
  • General Finance Corp. v. Skinner
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    • September 29, 1981
    ...of the proceedings. Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., (1950) 339 U.S. 306, 70 S.Ct. 652, 94 L.Ed. 865; Mueller v. Mueller, (1972) 259 Ind. 366, 287 N.E.2d 886. In Mullane, supra, 339 U.S. at 314-315, 70 S.Ct. at 657-658, the Supreme Court of the United States "An elementary and f......
  • Chapman v. Chapman
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    • August 31, 1987
    ...court never lost the personal jurisdiction it acquired over Jerry in the original dissolution proceeding. In Mueller v. Mueller (1972), 259 Ind. 366, 287 N.E.2d 886, the wife had custody of the parties' children pursuant to the dissolution decree entered in 1964. She and the children then m......
  • Marriage of Henderson, In re
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • August 31, 1983
    ...the decrees were entered when one parent failed to appear, hearings were held and evidence received. See, e.g., Mueller v. Mueller, (1972) 259 Ind. 366, 287 N.E.2d 886; Loeser v. Loeser, (1974) 160 Ind.App. 236, 311 N.E.2d 636, cert. den. 419 U.S. 1122, 95 S.Ct. 806, 42 L.Ed.2d 822. It has ......
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