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SHERRER V. SHERRER, 334 U. S. 343 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sherrer v. Sherrer, 334 U.S. 343 (1948)

Sherrer v. Sherrer

No. 36

Argued October 13-14, 1947

Decided June 7, 1948

334 U.S. 343


A wife went from her Massachusetts home to Florida and sued for divorce in a court of that State a few days after the expiration of the 90-day period of residence required by Florida law. Her husband appeared generally and denied all the allegations in the complaint, including that of the wife's Florida residence. At the hearing, the wife introduced evidence to establish her Florida residence, and the husband, though present in person and by counsel, did not cross-examine or proffer evidence in rebuttal. The court found that the wife was a bona fide resident of Florida, and granted her a divorce. The husband did not appeal. The wife married again, and subsequently returned to Massachusetts. Her former husband then instituted proceedings there collaterally attacking the Florida decree. Although there was no indication that the decree would have been subject to such an attack under Florida law, the Massachusetts court found that the wife was never domiciled in Florida, and held the divorce void.

Held: the Massachusetts judgment denied full faith and credit to the Florida judgment, contrary to Art. IV, § 1 of the Constitution and the Act of May 26, 1790, 28 U.S.C. § 687. Pp. 334 U. S. 344-356.

(a) The husband had his day in court in Florida with respect to every issue involved in the litigation, and there is nothing in the concept of due process which demands that he be given a second opportunity to litigate the existence of the jurisdictional facts. P. 334 U. S. 348.

(b) The requirements of full faith and credit bar a defendant from collaterally attacking a divorce decree on jurisdictional grounds in the courts of a sister State where there has been participation by the defendant in the divorce proceedings, where the defendant has been accorded full opportunity to contest the jurisdictional issues, and where the decree is not susceptible to such collateral attack in the courts of the State which rendered the decree. Davis v. Davis, 305 U. S. 32, followed. Williams v. North Carolina, 325 U. S. 226, distinguished. Pp. 334 U. S. 348-352.

(c) Insofar as the rule of Andrews v. Andrews, 188 U. S. 14, may be said to be inconsistent with the judgment herein announced, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 334 U. S. 344

it must be regarded as having been superseded by subsequent decisions of this Court. Pp. 334 U. S. 352-353.

(d) If the application of the full faith and credit clause to cases of this nature requires that local policy be subordinated, that is a part of the price of our federal system. That vital interests are involved in divorce litigation makes it a matter of greater, rather than lesser, importance that, under the circumstances of this case, the litigation end in the courts of the State in which the decree was rendered. Pp. 334 U. S. 354-356.

320 Mass. 351, 69 N.E.2d 801, reversed.

After a wife had obtained a divorce in Florida, and had returned to her former home in Massachusetts, a probate court in Massachusetts found that she was never domiciled in Florida, and held the divorce void. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed. 320 Mass. 351, 69 N.E.2d 801. This Court granted certiorari. 330 U.S. 814. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 356.

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