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Schulz v. Doeppe

Supreme Court of Maine

April 5, 2018

CLAUDIA SCHULZ
v.
HENDRIK DOEPPE

          Argued: February 15, 2018

          E. Chris L'Hommedieu, Esq. (orally), Lewiston, for appellant Hendrik Doeppe

          Joe Lewis, Esq. (orally), Port City Legal, Portland, for appellee Claudia Schulz

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] When Hendrik Doeppe's wife, Claudia Schulz, filed a complaint for protection from abuse against him in the District Court located in South Paris, Doeppe fled to Florida in order to evade service of process, leaving Schulz and the couple's two-year-old daughter in Maine. Two months later, Schulz prepared a complaint for divorce from Doeppe, but neither she nor the Oxford County Sheriff's Office was able to serve him with the divorce complaint.

         [¶2] On Schulz's showing that she had diligently searched for Doeppe and that he was evading service, the court [South Pahs, Woodman, M.) granted a motion for service of the divorce complaint by alternate means, allowing Schulz to effect service by publishing notice of the divorce complaint in the Lewiston Sun Journal. Doeppe failed to appear at the divorce hearing, and the court [Ham-Thompson, M.) entered a judgment of divorce, defaulting Doeppe. Doeppe moved for relief from that judgment pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 60(b), asserting that the court should have ordered additional efforts to notify him that an order permitting service by publication had been granted. Doeppe appeals from the court's [Dow, J.) denial of that motion. We affirm the judgment.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶3] The following facts are drawn from the procedural record and the court's findings on Doeppe's motion to set aside the default. On February 9, 2016, Claudia Schulz filed a complaint for protection from abuse against her husband, Hendrik Doeppe. See 19-A M.R.S. § 4005 (2017). On the same day, Doeppe fled Maine and traveled to Florida in order to evade service. While he was in Florida evading service of process, Doeppe attempted, through family in Germany, to pressure Schulz into dismissing the complaint for protection from abuse.[1] Meanwhile, in her efforts to serve Doeppe, Schulz enlisted the support of the Oxford County Sheriff's Office, but she was unable to locate Doeppe in order to serve him with the summons and complaint.

         [¶4] On April 12, 2016, Schulz prepared a complaint for divorce that included a request for a determination of parental rights and child support. On the same day, the sheriff's office emailed Doeppe's Lewiston attorney to request Doeppe's address and ask whether the attorney would accept service of the divorce papers. Doeppe's attorney replied that he was not authorized to accept service on behalf of Doeppe, and he declined to provide Doeppe's address.

         [¶5] On April 26, 2016, Schulz sent a letter along with the summons and a copy of the divorce complaint to Doeppe's attorney by certified mail. In the letter, Schulz stated,

Neither the sheriff's department, the court nor I have heard back from your client and his location/address remains unknown, even with knowledge of the 2 orders to be served to him
Therewith, your client, Hendrik Doeppe, needs to be served by alternate means in our divorce case (CF/FM-201 for references). One of those forms is to attempt service by mailing you a copy of the summons by certified/registered mail with return receipt.

         Doeppe's attorney replied that he was "not yet authorized to accept service" ...


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