ESTIN V. ESTIN, 334 U. S. 541 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Estin v. Estin, 334 U.S. 541 (1948)

Estin v. Estin

No. 139

Argued February 2-3, 1948

Decided June 7, 1948

334 U.S. 541


While both spouses were domiciled in New York, a wife obtained a decree of separation and alimony there. Later the husband obtained a Nevada divorce in a proceeding in which the wife was notified constructively and entered no appearance. He stopped paying alimony, and the wife sued in New York for the amount in arrears. The husband appeared and defended on the ground of the Nevada divorce. The New York court sustained the validity of the divorce, but granted the wife judgment for the arrears of alimony. The highest court of New York affirmed.

Held: the New York judgment did not deny full faith and credit to the Nevada decree. Pp. 334 U. S. 542-549.

(a) Notwithstanding any earlier holdings in New York to the contrary, the holding of the highest court of New York that the award of alimony survived the divorce under New York law, is binding on this Court -- unless it conflicts with the Full Faith and Credit Clause. P. 334 U. S. 544.

(b) The fact that the marital capacity was changed does not mean that every other legal incidence of the marriage was necessarily affected. Pp. 334 U. S. 544-545.

(c) That the requirements of full faith and credit are exacting, so far as judgments are concerned, does not mean that the state of the domicile of one spouse may, through the use of constructive service, enter a decree that changes every legal incidence of the marriage relationship. Pp. 334 U. S. 545-546.

(d) Nevada could not adjudicate rights of the wife under the New York judgment when she was not personally served and did not appear in the Nevada proceeding. Pp. 334 U. S. 546-549.

(e) Since Nevada had no power to adjudicate the wife's rights in the New York judgment, New York need not give full faith and credit to that phase of Nevada's judgment. P. 334 U. S. 549.

296 N.Y. 308, 73 N.E.2d 113, affirmed.

Notwithstanding a divorce obtained by a husband in Nevada, a New York court gave the wife a judgment for arrears of alimony awarded under an earlier decree

Page 334 U. S. 542

granted while both spouses were domiciled in New York. 63 N.Y.S.2d 476. The Appellate Division and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 271 App.Div. 829, 66 N.Y.S.2d 421; 296 N.Y. 308, 73 N.E.2d 113. This Court granted certiorari. 332 U.S. 840. Affirmed, p. 334 U. S. 549.

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