201 U.S. 562 (1906), 119, Haddock v. Haddock

Docket Nº:No. 119
Citation:201 U.S. 562, 26 S.Ct. 525, 50 L.Ed. 867
Party Name:Haddock v. Haddock
Case Date:April 16, 1906
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 562

201 U.S. 562 (1906)

26 S.Ct. 525, 50 L.Ed. 867




No. 119

United States Supreme Court

April 16, 1906

Argued December 11, 1905




The husband and wife being domiciled in New York, the husband left the wife, acquired, in good faith, after a lapse of years, a domicil in Connecticut, and obtained in that state, and in accordance with its law, a judgment of divorce based on constructive, and not actual, service of process on the wife, who meanwhile remained domiciled in New York and never appeared in the action. The wife subsequently sued for divorce in New York, and obtained personal service in that state on the husband, who pleaded the Connecticut judgment. Held,

Without questioning the power of the State of Connecticut to enforce the decree within its own borders, and without intimating any doubt that the State of New York might give it such degree of efficacy that it might be entitled to in view of the public policy of the state, that the Connecticut decree, rendered as it was without being based on personal service of the process on, and therefore without personal jurisdiction of the court over, the wife, was not entitled to obligatory enforcement in the New York by virtue of the full faith and credit clause of the federal Constitution.

A suit for divorce brought in a state other than that of domicil of matrimony against a wife who is still domiciled therein is not a proceeding in rem justifying the court to enter a decree as to the res, or marriage relation, entitled to. be enforced outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the court.

Questions concerning alleged fraud in contracting a marriage and laches on the part of one of the parties in bringing an action for divorce are matters solely of state cognizance, and may not even be allowed to indirectly

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influence this Court in determining the federal question which is involved.

The states, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, possessed full power over the subject of marriage and divorce, and the Constitution delegated no authority to the central government in regard thereto, and the destruction of the power of the states over the dissolution of marriage as to their own citizens cannot be brought about by the operation of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution of the United States.

Previous decisions of this Court hold in regard to the full faith and credit to be given by states to the judicial decrees of other states that:

The requirement is not that some, but that full, faith and credit, equal to that to which it is entitled in the state where rendered, shall be given to a judicial decree of another state. Harding v. Harding, 198 U.S. 317.

A personal judgment against a nonresident -- not a proceeding in rem -- based merely upon constructive service and therefore jurisdiction not being acquired over the defendant's person may not be enforced in another state under the full faith and credit clause. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714.

All governments possess inherent power over the marriage relation, its formation and dissolution, as regards their own citizens, and where a court or legislature of a state has acted conformably with its own laws concerning the marriage tie as to a citizen of that state, its action is binding in that state as to that citizen, and its validity under the due process clause of the Constitution may not therein be questioned. Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190.

As a corollary to the power of the state, irrespective of any extraterritorial effect, any other sovereign may, under the principles of comity, give to such a decree the efficacy which its own conception of duty and public policy may justify.

Where husband and wife are domiciled in a state, jurisdiction exists in that state, for good cause, to enter a decree of divorce, entitled to enforcement in another state under the full faith and credit clause, and where a bona fide domicil has been acquired in a state by either husband or wife, a decree of divorce obtained by either in a court having personal jurisdiction of the other is likewise entitled to be so enforced in other states. Cheever v. Wilson, 9 Wall. 108.

Where the domicil of a matrimony is in a particular state, and the husband, abandoning the wife, wrongfully goes into another state in order to avoid his marital obligation, such other state does not become a new domicil of matrimony, nor the actual or constructive domicil of the wife. That continues in the original state until she actually acquires a new one. Barber v. Barber, 1 How. 582.

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Where the domicil of the husband is in a particular state, which is also the domicil of matrimony, the courts of that state may, in virtue of the wife's duty to be at the matrimonial domicil, disregard her unjustifiable absence therefrom and treat her as having her domicil therein for the purpose of dissolving the marriage and render a judgment to that effect entitled to recognition in all other states under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. Atherton v. Atherton, 181 U.S. 155.

The facts, which involved the full faith and credit to be given by the courts of the New York to a decree of divorce, obtained in Connecticut by the husband, formerly a resident of New York, from his wife still residing in New York, based on substituted service of the summons, are stated in the opinion.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff in error will be called the husband and the defendant in error the wife.

The wife, a resident of the State of New York, sued the husband in that state in 1899, and there obtained personal service upon him. The complaint charged that the parties had been married in New York in 1868, where they both resided and where the wife continued to reside, and it was averred that the husband, immediately following the marriage, abandoned the wife, and thereafter failed to support her, and that he was the owner of property. A decree of separation from bed and board and for alimony was prayed. The answer admitted the marriage, but averred that its celebration was procured by the

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fraud of the wife, and that immediately after the marriage, the parties had separated by mutual consent. It was also alleged that, during the long period between the celebration and the bringing of this action, the wife had in no manner asserted her rights, and was barred by her laches from doing so. Besides, the answer alleged that the husband had, in 1881, obtained in a court of the State of Connecticut a divorce which was conclusive. At the trial before a referee, the judgment roll in the suit for divorce in Connecticut was offered by the husband and was objected to, first because the Connecticut court had not obtained jurisdiction over the person of the defendant wife, as the notice of the pendency of the petition was by publication and she had not appeared in the action, and second because the ground upon which the divorce was granted, viz., desertion by the wife, was false. The referee sustained the objections and an exception was noted. The judgment roll in question was then marked for identification, and forms a part of the record before us.

Having thus excluded the proceedings in the Connecticut court, the referee found that the parties were married in New York in 1868, that the wife was a resident of the State of New York, that, after the marriage, the parties never lived together, and shortly thereafter that the husband, without justifiable cause, abandoned the wife, and has since neglected to provide for her. The legal conclusion was that the wife was entitled to a separation from bed and board and alimony in the sum of $780 a year from the date of the judgment. The action of the referee was sustained by the Supreme Court of the State of New York, and a judgment for separation and alimony was entered in favor of the wife. This judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. As, by the law of the State of New York, after the affirmance by the Court of Appeals, the record was remitted to the supreme court, this writ of error to that court was prosecuted.

[26 S.Ct. 526] The federal question is did the court below violate the Constitution of the United States by refusing to give to the

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decree of divorce rendered in the State of Connecticut the faith and credit to which it was entitled?

As the averments concerning the alleged fraud in contracting the marriage and the subsequent laches of the wife are solely matters of state cognizance, we may not allow them to even indirectly influence our judgment upon the federal question to which we are confined, and we therefore put these subjects entirely out of view. Moreover, as, for the purpose of the federal issue, we are concerned not with the mere form of proceeding by which the federal rights, if any, was denied, but alone have power to decide whether such right was denied, we do not inquire whether the New York court should preferably have admitted the record of the Connecticut divorce suit, and, after so admitting it, determined what effect it would give to it, instead of excluding the record, and thus refusing to give effect to the judgment. In order to decide whether the refusal of the court to admit in evidence the Connecticut decree denied to that decree the efficacy to which it was entitled under the full faith and credit clause, we must first examine the judgment roll of the Connecticut cause in order to fix the precise circumstances under which the decree in that cause was rendered.

Without going into detail, it suffices to say that, on the face of the Connecticut record, it appeared that the husband, alleging that he had acquired a domicil in Connecticut, sued the wife in that state as a person whose residence was unknown, but whose last known place of...

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