BATES V. BODIE, 245 U. S. 520 (1918)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bates v. Bodie, 245 U.S. 520 (1918)

Bates v. Bodie

No. 120

Argued January 4, 1918

Decided January 21, 1918

245 U.S. 520


When a case is here upon the ground that the court below denied full faith and credit to a decree of a court of another state, a motion to dismiss the writ of error based on the proposition that the decree was accorded its due value under the statutes of the its rendition merely begs the question in issue, and must be denied.

The principles of estoppel by judgment are reviewed in the opinion and held to apply (semble with peculiar reason) to decrees for divorce and alimony.

In a court of Arkansas, a wife, by her cross-bill, sought absolute divorce, return of money lent her husband, and alimony "as the facts and law warrant, and all other proper and necessary relief," alleging that her husband owned certain real and personal property, including land in Nebraska. The decree granted the divorce as prayed, adjudged that the wife recover a stated sum "in full of alimony and all other demands set forth in cross bill," recited that such judgment was rendered by the husband's consent on condition that there he no appeal, made provisions for security, which the husband complied with, and awarded her certain personal property. After the husband had paid the judgment, the wife sued him in Nebraska to obtain further alimony out of the Nebraska land, claiming that the Arkansas court had no jurisdiction to take it into consideration and did not do so. Held that the face of the decree, with the cross-bill, showed a plenary adjudication of the liability for alimony with consent of parties; that this was confirmed by the parties' conduct, and the weight of the testimony in this case, concerning the former proceedings; that, in virtue of the consent, if not under the Arkansas statutes (Kirby's Digest, §§ 2681, 2684), the decree was within the jurisdiction of the Arkansas court, and that the action of the court below in sustaining the plaintiff's contentions and not accepting the decree as an estoppel was a denial of full faith and credit.

99 Neb. 253 reversed.

Plaintiff in error, Bates, filed a complaint in divorce against defendant in error in the chancery court of Benton

Page 245 U. S. 521

County, State of Arkansas, alleging cruelty and praying for an absolute divorce.

Defendant in error filed an answer denying the charge against her and a cross-complaint accusing him of cruelty.

In the cross-complaint, she alleged that Bates was the owner of real and personal property of the fair value of $75,000, consisting of 320 acres of land in York County, Neb., which she described, and alleged further that she was the owner in her own right of $3,000, $2,500 of which she loaned to Bates, taking his note therefor bearing interest at 8% per annum.

She prayed for an absolute divorce, for the restoration of the money borrowed from her, and "that the court award her such alimony as the facts and law warrant, and all other proper and necessary relief." The court, after hearing, dismissed Bates' complaint for want of equity and granted her a divorce, and alimony was decreed her as follows:

"It is ordered, adjudged, and decreed by the court that the defendant Lucie Bates have and recover of and from the defendant [plaintiff] Edward Bates the sum of $5,111.00 in full of alimony and all other demands set forth in cross-bill, which judgment is rendered by the consent of the plaintiff on condition that no appeal be taken by the defendant from the judgment and decree herein rendered."

Certain personal property, consisting of silverware and household furniture, was adjudged to her, and a lien was declared on a lot in the City of Siloam Springs, State of Arkansas, and certain notes and mortgages amounting to the sum of $2,801.06 were required to be deposited with the clerk of the court as additional security. He, however, was given the power to sell the same, but required to deposit the proceeds of the sale with the clerk until the sum awarded her be paid, for which no execution was to issue for six months. It was

Page 245 U. S. 522

also decreed "that she be restored to her maiden name, . . . and that the bonds of matrimony entered into" between her and Bates "be dissolved, set aside, and held for naught."

She subsequently brought this suit against him in a Nebraska state court, repeating the charges of cruelty against him and the proceedings in Arkansas resulting in a decree for divorce and alimony as stated above, and

"that the court of chancery did not have any jurisdiction of or over the property of complainant which was situated outside of the State of Arkansas, and that, in consequence of that fact, in determining the amount of alimony to be granted the defendant in that suit, he was limited and prohibited from taking into account the above-mentioned property situated in York County, Nebraska. Said court was limited by the laws of Arkansas from taking into consideration said property lying in York County, Nebraska, in determining the amount of alimony that should be granted to defendant in that suit, who is plaintiff herein."

The laws of the State of Arkansas further provide, she alleged, that:

"where the divorce is granted to the wife, each party is restored to all property not disposed of at the commencement of the action which either party obtains from or through the other during the marriage and in consideration or by reason thereof, and the wife so granted a divorce from the husband shall be entitled to one-third of all lands of which her husband is seized of an estate of inheritance at any time during the marriage, for her life, unless the same shall have been released by her in legal form."

She further alleged that the land in Nebraska was worth the sum of $48,000; that the amount of alimony allowed her by the Arkansas decree was largely inadequate for her support and was not such a fair proportion of the property of Bates owned by him at the date of

Page 245 U. S. 523

the decree as she then was, and is entitled to in view of the circumstances. She prayed that a reasonable sum be adjudged her out of the York County property in addition to the amount allowed her by the Arkansas decree. A copy of the decree was attached to the complaint.

Bates demurred to the complaint on the ground that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, and, she declining to plead further, the cause was dismissed for want of equity. The judgment was reversed by the supreme court.

On the return of the case to the trial court, Bates answered. He set up the proceedings in Arkansas, and pleaded the decree and alleged that it was made upon full consideration of the evidence and the issues, and that the court took into consideration the value of the land in York County, Nebraska, in determining the amount of alimony to be awarded to plaintiff; that the decree remained "in full force and effect, except that the amount of alimony awarded therein has been fully paid" by him; that the Arkansas court, in awarding the alimony "took into consideration all of the property owned by" him,

"which decree, so far as it relates to alimony, having been fully satisfied, has become a full and complete bar to further proceedings on the part of the plaintiff in this suit, defendant in that, to recover additional alimony under the laws of Arkansas;"

and that, further, under the Constitution of the United States, the findings and decree are entitled to full faith and credit in the courts of Nebraska, and constitute a full and complete bar to plaintiff's right to recover additional alimony under the laws of the State of Nebraska.

It was adjudged and decreed that plaintiff (defendant in error here) have and recover from the defendant (plaintiff in error here) the "sum of $10,000, being the amount found due her as alimony." The judgment was affirmed by the supreme court, to review which this writ of error was prosecuted.

Page 245 U. S. 524

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