JOHNSON V. MUELBERGER, 340 U. S. 581 (1951)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Johnson v. Muelberger, 340 U.S. 581 (1951)

Johnson v. Muelberger

No. 296

Argued January 4, 1951

Decided March 12, 1951

340 U.S. 581


1. In a divorce proceeding brought in Florida by the second wife of a New York resident, wherein he answered on the merits and had full opportunity to contest (but did not contest) the jurisdictional issues, the court granted a decree of divorce, although the wife had not complied with the jurisdictional 90-day residence requirement of Florida. He married again, and, after his death, his third wife elected, under New York law, to take the statutory one-third share of his estate. This was contested in New York by a daughter of his first marriage (sole legatee under his will), who challenged the validity of the Florida divorce on the ground that the complainant had not complied with the 90-day residence requirement.

Held: The daughter could not have challenged the validity of the Florida decree in the courts of that State, and therefore she was precluded by the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Federal Constitution from collaterally attacking it in the courts of New York. Pp. 340 U. S. 582-589.

2. When a decree of divorce cannot be attacked on jurisdictional grounds by parties who were actually before the court, or by their privies, or by strangers, in the courts of the State in which the decree was rendered, the Full Faith and Credit Clause precludes their attacking it in the courts of a sister State. P. 340 U. S. 589.

301 N.Y. 13, 92 N.E.2d 44, reversed.

An order of the New York Surrogate's Court sustaining the validity of an election by petitioner to take as surviving spouse the statutory share of a decedent's estate was affirmed by the Appellate Division, 275 App.Div. 848. The Court of Appeals reversed on constitutional grounds. 301 N.Y. 13, 92 N.E.2d 44. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 874. Reversed, p. 340 U. S. 589.

Page 340 U. S. 582

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