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Lynch v. Lynch

Supreme Court of Maine

March 7, 2017


          Argued: October 25, 2016

          Matthew C. Garascia, Esq. (orally), Auburn, for appellant Denise K. Lynch.

          Catherine C. Miller, Esq. (orally), Miller Law and Mediation, LLC, Portland, for appellee Daniel G. Lynch.


          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Denise K. Lynch appeals from a judgment (West Bath, Dobson, J.) dismissing her divorce complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because a Swedish judgment divorcing the parties precluded litigation of the action in Maine. Because a review of the Swedish judgment, which is being appealed in Sweden, is premature, we affirm in part, and vacate in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are derived from Denise's complaint, and the documents submitted by the parties in conjunction with Daniel G. Lynch's motion to dismiss. See Davric Me. Corp. v. Bangor Historic Track, Inc., 2000 ME 102, ¶ 6, 751 A.2d 1024. In 1991, Denise and Daniel were married in Virginia Beach, Virginia. At the time of their marriage, Daniel was an active member of the United States Navy, and from 1992-1995, 1997-2000, and 2003-2005, he served tours of duty in Brunswick, Maine. While on these tours of duty, Denise and Daniel resided at a home in Brunswick they acquired approximately one year after they were married. They own no other real estate. After completing his final tour of duty in Maine in 2005, Daniel moved with Denise and their two daughters to Belgium, where they remained until 2008, when they moved to Arlington, Virginia.

         [¶3] A year after returning to the United States, Daniel, Denise, and their children moved to Sweden when Daniel was assigned as the naval attache there. Daniel retired three years later, but remained in Sweden to accept a teaching position with the Sweden National Defense College.

         [¶4] In the fall of 2013 Denise and Daniel separated. Denise returned to Maine in October 2013 to live in the Brunswick home that the couple had maintained as a rental property while they were living abroad, and Daniel remained in Sweden.

         [¶5] Approximately three months after Denise's return to Maine, on January 27, 2014, Daniel initiated divorce proceedings in Sweden. He executed service of process via mail, and Denise received the summons and complaint on March 2, 2014. Denise responded to the complaint by objecting to the proceedings and asserting that the Swedish court did not have personal jurisdiction over her. As provided by Swedish law, the Swedish court stayed the action for a six-month "reconsideration period, " which commenced on March 14, 2014.

         [¶6] On May 30, 2014, while the Swedish action was still in the reconsideration period, Denise initiated an action for divorce in the District Court. In her complaint, Denise sought: (1) dissolution of the parties' marriage; (2) a court order distributing marital property; (3) spousal support; and (4) an award of reasonable attorney fees.[1] Denise listed as marital property the Brunswick home, various investment and bank accounts, and Daniel's military pension.

         [¶7] In response to the initiation of Denise's divorce action in Maine, Daniel moved to dismiss the complaint for forum non conveniens, arguing that Sweden, and not Maine, was the more appropriate forum to decide the merits of the case.[2] The court [Ende, J.) denied Daniel's motion to dismiss, noting that, although the Swedish divorce action commenced first, the Swedish court had not yet entered a final judgment and that Maine was the more convenient forum to determine, inter alia, "whether and how to divide the real property in Maine; and ... how to divide the marital portion, if any, of [Daniel's] military pension." Daniel subsequently filed an interlocutory appeal of the court's denial of his motion to dismiss.

         [¶8] While Daniel's appeal was pending before us, the Swedish court entered an order divorcing the parties and appointing an administrator to divide their assets. In its order, the Swedish court acknowledged Denise's claim that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over her, but it nonetheless proceeded to adjudicate Daniel's complaint, noting that because it had jurisdiction over Daniel it was "competent to adjudicate ... the divorce case, " and that "[a]n issue concerning the spouses' economic relationship may be entertained by a Swedish court... if the issue is linked to a divorce case in Sweden." Following the entry of the Swedish divorce judgment, Denise sought and obtained leave to appeal the portion of the judgment appointing an ...

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