HADDOCK V. HADDOCK, 201 U. S. 562 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Haddock v. Haddock

No. 119

Argued December 11, 1905

Decided April 12, 1906

201 U.S. 562


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

Page 201 U. S. 563

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, 21 How. 582. "

Page 201 U. S. 564

"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.

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