Rhoades v. Rhoades

Decision Date07 March 1907
Docket Number14,563
Citation111 N.W. 122,78 Neb. 495
CourtNebraska Supreme Court

APPEAL from the district court for Hall county: JAMES N. PAUL JUDGE. Affirmed.


John C Stevens, for appellant.

N. P McDonald, contra.

EPPERSON, C. AMES and OLDHAM, CC., concur.



The question presented by this appeal is one of some importance, and has not heretofore been passed upon by this court. The facts are substantially as follows: July 1, 1884, the plaintiff, Alice M. Rhoades, and the defendant George M. Rhoades, were married in Adams county, Nebraska, where they then resided. One child, born June 4, 1885, is the issue of their marriage. The parties moved to Hall county, this state, in 1886, and continued to live together as husband and wife until June, 1887, when Mrs. Rhoades left her husband because of his extreme cruelty, and has since justifiably lived apart from him. Shortly after the separation, defendant moved from Nebraska, and at all times since has been a nonresident of the state, and his whereabouts are unknown to plaintiff. Defendant is the owner of an undivided one-half interest in a certain quarter section of land in Hall county. In 1901 plaintiff instituted this action in the district court for that county upon notice by publication, alleging the above facts, and others, which would entitle her to a divorce, and prayed that the court determine a reasonable sum due from defendant for her maintenance and support without divorce, and that the interests of defendant in the Hall county land be subjected to the payment of such sum; that a receiver be appointed to take charge of the interests of the defendant in said premises and collect the rents and profits arising therefrom; and that plaintiff have such other and further relief as may be just and equitable. Defendant filed a special appearance, and objected to the jurisdiction of the court. His objections were overruled, and, upon his refusal to plead further, trial was had and a judgment entered for plaintiff. The court found the facts substantially as above stated, and, further, that plaintiff and her child were entitled to maintenance and support out of the rentals of defendant's said property in the sum of $ 500 a year; that the temporary receiver appointed at the commencement of the action had taken possession of the interests of defendant in said real estate, and the tenant in possession had attorned to said receiver and paid to him the share of defendant in the rents and profits therefrom. It was adjudged and decreed by the court that the undivided interest of defendant in the Hall county land be impounded and the rents and profits devoted to the maintenance and support of the plaintiff; that N. S. Taylor be appointed receiver to take possession of said property and manage the same and collect the rents and profits arising therefrom, together with the rents and profits which have come into the hands of the temporary receiver from said premises, and that he distribute the same: (1) To the payment of the costs that may be adjudged against the plaintiff in this suit; (2) to the payment of such reasonable fees as the court may determine for his services as such receiver, and one-half of the taxes levied and assessed against said premises, and one-half of the necessary repairs and improvements thereon; (3) that the remainder be paid, as collected, to the plaintiff herein. Defendant appeals.

The sole question for determination is: Did the district court have jurisdiction, upon service by publication, to subject the interests of the nonresident husband in the Hall county land to the maintenance and support of his wife and child?

1. It has been held that a court of equity will entertain an action brought for alimony, and will grant the same, although no divorce or other relief is sought, where the wife is separated from her husband without her fault. Earle v. Earle, 27 Neb. 277, 43 N.W. 118; Cochran v. Cochran, 42 Neb. 612, 60 N.W. 942; Price v. Price, 75 Neb. 552, 106 N.W. 657. And it is clear that the district courts of this state, being courts of general equity jurisdiction, are not limited in the exercise of such jurisdiction by statute. Cochran v. Cochran, supra. However, the question presented by this record was not involved in the cases above cited. It is here sought, under the general equity powers of the court, to appropriate property of a nonresident, which is situated within the jurisdiction of the court, to the maintenance of his wife and child.

2. It is urged that service by publication is not authorized by statute in cases of this kind. Section 77 of the code provides that service may be made by publication "in actions brought against a nonresident of this state, or a foreign corporation, having in this state property or debts owing to them, sought to be taken by any of the provisional remedies, or to be appropriated in any way." It is apparent that the legislature intended the clause, "to be appropriated in any way," to apply to actions similar to the case at bar. It cannot be claimed that the clause is limited to actions where an appropriation of property is sought by provisional remedies. The preceding language includes all cases where property is sought to be thus taken, and hence the expression, "to be appropriated in any way," could serve no useful purpose in the statute if construed to refer only to actions where an appropriation of property is sought to be taken by provisional remedies.

3. Neither can it be successfully contended that there was no "appropriation," or that the property was not brought within the control of the court. "Control of the property by the court before the rendition of the judgment is essential to the jurisdiction to render it; and if rendered without such jurisdiction, it cannot be made valid by the subsequent seizure of property of the defendant. But, we do not understand it is necessary, in order to bring the property under the control of the court, that it shall be actually taken on attachment or other writ. Any authorized act by which the court takes charge of property, or asserts its control over it, is sufficient within the meaning of the rule, for the purpose of jurisdiction." Benner v. Benner, 63 Ohio St. 220, 58 N.E. 569. In Murray v. Murray, 115 Cal. 266, 37 L. R. A. 626, 47 P. 37, it was said: "According to the common experience of mankind, the owner of property keeps some oversight of it, wherever situated, and will probably be apprised of the seizure thereof, and so warned of the purpose of the seizure. To accomplish this object the taking of property into the possession of a receiver is at least as well adapted as the similar taking by process of attachment, and it is common practice to apply property which has been attached in the course of an action in personam against a nonresident to the satisfaction of the judgment obtained, although no personal service of summons has been effected. Attachment is not the only means by which the court may acquire control of the property of the absentee defendant, so as to impress the action, as to such property, with the jurisdictional characteristics of a proceeding in rem." Benner v. Benner and Murray v. Murray, supra, are cases similar to the one at bar. See authorities cited in those decisions. A temporary receiver was appointed at the commencement of this action, who took possession of the land in controversy and collected the rents and profits therefrom. We are therefore of opinion that there was a sufficient seizure of the property to bring it within the control of the court when the judgment was rendered.

4. This court has held that service by publication is sufficient in proceedings substantially in rem. Fowler v Brown, 51 Neb. 414, 71 N.W. 54; Anheuser-Busch Brewing Ass'n v. Peterson, 41 Neb. 897, 60 N.W. 373. But it is urged that this action is one in personam, and the court acquired no jurisdiction by constructive service. It is fairly well settled in this state that an action for alimony, in the strict sense of the term, is a proceeding in personam, and personal service must be had, or an appearance made, to authorize a personal judgment against the defendant. Dillon v. Starin, 44 Neb. 881, 63 N.W. 12, and cases cited. We concede the force of the rule above stated, but it is inapplicable to the facts of this case. Williams, J., answering a similar contention in Benner v. Benner, supra, said: "Cases are cited to sustain this contention which hold that, although ex parte divorce may be obtained on constructive service, alimony cannot be decreed unless the defendant appear, or has been served with process within the jurisdiction of the court. So far as we have examined them, these do not appear to be cases where the defendant had property within the jurisdiction of the court, which it was sought to reach, and have appropriated to the support of the wife, but those only where a general personal judgment for alimony was rendered, or sought." No case has been called to our attention holding that an action cannot be maintained, on service by publication, by a wife against her nonresident husband to...

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