GENE M. DASKIN, Respondent Below, Appellant,
GRETCHEN KNOWLES, Petitioner Below, Appellee.
Submitted: June 13, 2018
Decided: August 20, 2018
Below: Family Court of the State of Delaware File No.:
CN17-03287 Petition No.: 17-16093
appeal from the Family Court. VACATED IN PART, REVERSED IN
PART AND REMANDED.
Gretchen S. Knight. Esquire, and Jill Spevack Di Sciullo,
Esquire, Morris James LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, and Leslie
B. Spoltore, Esquire, Obermayer, Maxwell, Rebmann &
Hippel, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellant.
Patrick J. Boyer, Esquire, and Marie I. Crossley, Esquire,
MacElree Harvey, Ltd., Centreville, Delaware, for Appellee.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VAUGHN and SEITZ, Justices.
an interlocutory appeal in a Family Court divorce proceeding.
The petitioner in the Family Court is the wife, Gretchen
Knowles ("the wife"). The respondent/husband, Gene
Daskin ("the husband"), is a Greek citizen residing
in Greece. The appeal comes from the husband. He raises two
claims: (1) the Family Court erred in finding it had subject
matter jurisdiction over the wife's divorce petition
because she was not a Delaware resident for six consecutive
months prior to the filing of the petition; and (2) the
Family Court erred in finding that service of process upon
him was sufficient without requiring that service be properly
made under the Hague Service Convention.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
wife is a dual citizen of the United States and Greece. She
was born in Wilmington and resided with her mother at her
mother's Wilmington home prior to the parties'
marriage. They married in Wilmington in 1990, and from then
until November 2015, resided together in Greece.
the marriage, the wife traveled frequently between the United
States and Greece. In November 2015, she traveled to Delaware
for what she states in an affidavit was a permanent move back
to this state because of marital difficulties between she and
her husband. She moved into her mother's house and still
resides there. Her mother is now deceased. She states that
her mother's house is to be sold and she has bought
another house in Wilmington to live in once her mother's
house is sold. She states that she returned to Greece from
December 2016 to January 2017 to celebrate the Christmas
holiday with her children and friends. She then returned to
Delaware. On March 19, 2017 she returned to Greece to attend
the funeral of her husband's mother. She explains that in
the Greek Orthodox Church, the mourning process includes the
funeral and then a memorial service held 40 days after the
funeral. She returned to Delaware May 16, 2017. She has
health insurance in Delaware and a vehicle which is
registered in Delaware. She is a Delaware taxpayer, maintains
a Delaware driver's license, and is registered to vote in
husband contends that the time the wife has spent in Delaware
since 2015 is temporary and for limited purposes. He contends
she was not a resident of Delaware for the six months
preceding the filing of her divorce petition. In his
affidavit, the husband states that the wife pays taxes in
Greece, has a Greek social security number, has a Greek
identity card and has accounts in Greek banks. He also states
that the wife continues to maintain a private marketing
business out of their home in Greece. He states her trip to
the United States on May 16, 2017 was to see their son
graduate from an American University. He also states that the
wife's presence in Delaware was for the temporary purpose
of caring for her mother and visiting their sons, both of
whom attended American universities. The wife owns several
properties in Greece. The husband's position is that she
is a resident of Greece, not Delaware.
wife filed her petition for divorce on May 30, 2017. Service
of process upon the husband was made by mailing and
publication in accordance with 13 Del. C. §
1508(b). Specifically, the summons and a copy of the petition
were mailed to the husband care of his place of business in
Greece. Publication occurred in the Wilmington News Journal.
husband moved to dismiss the divorce petition on June 20,
2017, arguing that the Family Court lacks jurisdiction
because the wife was not a resident of Delaware for six
months preceding the filing of the petition and that service
upon him was insufficient because it was not made in
accordance with the requirements of The Hague Service
wife filed a response in opposition to the motion, claiming
that Delaware has subject matter jurisdiction over her
divorce because she has been a Delaware domiciliary since
November 3, 2015. In addition, she argued that the husband
has been properly served under 13 Del. C. §
1508(b). She also argued that she had attempted and was
continuing to attempt to serve the husband personally at his
Greek residence in accordance with Greek law, but he was
refusing to answer the door. As to that effort, the record
shows that initially a Greek process server went to the wrong
address in Greece and, not finding anyone there, posted the
service documents on the door. This was followed by mailing a
copy of the documents to the same wrong address. It was
subsequently discovered that the address was wrong because of
a translation error. The process server then went to the
correct address, and, apparently again not finding anyone
there, posted the documents to the door, followed by mailing
to that address. The husband disputes that service in this
manner was ever made upon him.
she responded to the husband's motion to dismiss, the
wife also filed a "Motion to Approve a Special Process
Server and Approve Alternate Means of Service." In that
motion, she asked the court to approve service "through
either a) hand-delivering a copy of the Petition for Divorce
to opposing counsel, b) providing Husband a copy of the
Petition for Divorce via email and certified mail or c)
authorizing service through O'Rourke Investigative
Services and/or Crowe Foreign Services."
August 8, 2017, a Family Court Commissioner denied the
husband's motion to dismiss. He also ruled that the
wife's motion for alternate service or a special process
server was moot because the husband had been properly served.
The Commissioner ordered the husband to file an answer within
twenty days. The husband then filed a motion appealing the
Commissioner's decision to a Judge and requesting a stay
of the order that he file an answer within twenty days.
Shortly thereafter, he filed a "Motion to Amend and
Supplemental Motion to Stay Commissioner's Order
Regarding Filing of Answer to Petition for Divorce." The
wife filed a response opposing those motions.
meantime, the wife filed a motion for interim relief. In that
motion she requested alimony, attorney's fees, and other
interim relief. The other relief requested included an order
requiring the husband to dismiss a petition for divorce he
filed in Greece and enjoining him from filing any future
divorce petitions in any jurisdiction other than Delaware.
The wife also filed a "Motion for Priority Scheduling
and Amended Motion for Interim Relief." In his motion to
amend, mentioned above, the husband opposed the wife's
motion for interim relief. The husband also filed a
"Motion for Leave of Court to File a Reply to Response
to Respondent's Request for Review of Commissioner's
Order and a Motion to Strike Motion for Priority Scheduling
and Amended Motion for Interim Relief."
order dated November 1, 2017, the Family Court Judge denied
the husband's appeal. He found that the wife's
affidavit established that she is a Delaware resident who
actually resided in Delaware for six or more months before
the filing of her petition and that the husband had been duly
served under 13 Del. C. § 1508(d). He denied
the husband's motion for a stay and ordered that the wife
could proceed with her divorce since no answer had been filed
to the divorce petition within twenty days of the
Commissioner's order. He further ordered the husband to
file a response to the wife's motion for interim relief
by November 20, 2017. Finally, he enjoined the husband from
seeking a divorce in Greece.
to the Family Court docket, two days later a final divorce
decree was issued and jurisdiction was retained for ancillary
husband applied for certification of an interlocutory appeal
of the Family Court's November 1, 2017 order. The Family
Court certified the interlocutory appeal, and this Court