Pye v. Magnuson

Decision Date29 November 1929
Docket NumberNo. 27521.,27521.
Citation178 Minn. 531,227 N.W. 895
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Appeal from District Court, Rice County; Fred W. Senn, Judge.

Action by William W. Pye against Dora R. Magnuson. From an order denying defendant's motion for a new trial, defendant appeals. Reversed.

Reuben G. Thoreen, of Stillwater, for appellant.

William W. Pye, of Northfield, and Lucius A. Smith, of Faribault, for respondent.


Rudolph C. Ebling and his wife, Dora R. Ebling, resided in Washington county. He owned an 80-acre farm in Rice county. In the early part of May, 1924, he deserted his wife and disappeared. Thereafter she brought an action for support and maintenance and attached the land in Rice county and other property belonging to her husband. On December 22, 1924, judgment was rendered against Ebling in this action awarding the wife the sum of $1,064.55 for support, maintenance, and medical attention prior to the rendition of the judgment and requiring him to pay her the sum of $100 per month thereafter until the further order of the court, and making the allowance of $100 per month a specific lien upon all the real estate attached in the action. A certified copy of the judgment was recorded in the office of the register of deeds of Rice county, and a transcript of the judgment for $1,064.55 was filed and docketed in the office of the clerk of the district court of that county. Later the wife brought an action for divorce against Ebling and on December 24, 1925, judgment was rendered therein granting her an absolute divorce and awarding her the sum of $4,000 as permanent alimony, and making the judgment for alimony a specific lien upon the real estate described in the complaint of which the land in Rice county was a part. The summons was served by publication in both actions. Under an execution issued on the judgment in the divorce action, the land in Rice county was sold on April 10, 1926, to the plaintiff in the present action for the sum of $4,213. No redemption was made from the sale, and plaintiff became the owner of the property. In July, 1927, he brought this action to determine adverse claims. The former wife of Ebling, now Dora R. Magnuson, interposed an answer in which she asserted a lien under the judgment of December 22, 1924, for the balance unpaid on the judgment for $1,064.55 and for the 12 monthly payments of $100 each which had accrued after the rendition of that judgment and before the rendition of the judgment of divorce, none of which had been paid. The court allowed her a lien for the sum of $351.74, the balance due on the judgment of $1,064.55 after deducting the several sums collected thereunder, but denied a lien for the unpaid monthly installments. Whether she is entitled to a lien therefor is the question presented by her appeal from an order denying a new trial. She will be intended by the term defendant when used hereafter.

Plaintiff admits having actual, as well as constructive, notice of the judgment, but claims that the award to defendant of $100 per month is not a lien on the land because not docketed. This claim is untenable. The statute providing for the docketing of money judgments and making them a lien on the real estate of the debtor from the time of such docketing merely provides the procedure by which such judgments, usually not otherwise a lien on such real estate, may be made a lien thereon. When a court of equity decrees a lien upon a specified tract of land, the lien so declared exists wholly independent of the statute which provides for the docketing of ordinary money judgments. It is no more dependent on that statute than is a mechanic's lien or the lien created by a mortgage.

The real question presented is whether, in the action for support, the court had jurisdiction to make the amounts ordered to be paid therefor by the husband in the future a lien on his real estate, in the absence of a statute authorizing it.

It is settled in this state, and by the great weight of authority elsewhere, that, independently of any statute on the subject, the court in the exercise of its equitable powers may make provision for the separate maintenance of the wife out of the property or income of the husband where she is justifiably living apart from him. Baier v. Baier, 91 Minn. 165, 97 N. W. 671; Jacobs v. Jacobs, 136 Minn. 190, 161 N. W. 525, L. R. A. 1917D, 971; Robertson v. Robertson, 138 Minn. 290, 164 N. W. 980; Dorsey v. Dorsey, 142 Minn. 279, 171 N. W. 933; Waller v. Waller, 160 Minn. 431, 200 N. W. 480.

In the cases above cited the defendant was a resident and the court had jurisdiction of his person. An action against a nonresident, though in personam in form, is an action in rem in effect; and the jurisdiction acquired extends no farther than to permit the court to apply to the satisfaction of the plaintiff's demand property of the defendant within the state which has been brought within the control of the court by seizure under process or in...

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