HARDING V. HARDING, 198 U. S. 317 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Harding v. Harding, 198 U.S. 317 (1905)

Harding v. Harding

No. 222

Argued April 20, 1905

Decided May 15, 1905

198 U.S. 317


Pursuant to the statutes of Illinois, a wife living apart from her husband, both being citizens of Illinois, sued for separate maintenance alleging that she was so living on account of the husband's cruelty and adultery and without any fault on her part. The suit was contested, and, after much evidence had been taken, the husband filed a paper admitting that the evidence sustained the wife's contention, and consenting to a decree providing

Page 198 U. S. 318

for separation and support on certain terms, and the wife filed a paper accepting the terms offered by the husband if the decree found that her living apart from her husband was without fault on her part. Such a decree was entered. Subsequently the husband removed to California and commenced a suit for divorce on the ground of desertion. The wife contested and pleaded the Illinois judgment as an estoppel, but the California court declined to recognize it on the ground that the issues were not the same, and also because it was entered on consent. The wife then defended on the merits, and judgment was entered in favor of the husband. Reversed on writ of error and held that:

Under the circumstances, the wife did not waive her right to assert the estoppel of the judgment by defending on the merits.

The issues involved in the Illinois case and the California case were practically the same, and, under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, the California court should have held that the Illinois judgment was an estoppel against the assertion of the husband that the wife's living apart from him was through any fault on her part or amounted to desertion.

As under the Illinois statutes the judgment entered in favor of the wife was necessarily based on a judicial finding that her living apart was not through her fault, the papers filed were to be regarded as consents that the testimony be construed as sustaining the wife's contention, and not as mere consents for entry of judgment.

As a judgment in Illinois entered on consent has the same force as a judgment entered in invitum, and is entitled to similar faith and credit in the courts of another state.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 198 U. S. 324

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