Coe v. Coe
334 U.S. 378 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Coe v. Coe, 334 U.S. 378 (1948)

Coe v. Coe

No. 37

Argued October 14, 1947

Decided June 7, 1948

334 U.S. 378

Syllabus

In a suit between residents of the state, a Massachusetts court granted a wife separate support and denied her husband a divorce. The husband went to Nevada and sued for divorce there as soon as he had been there the six weeks required by Nevada law. The wife appeared personally and by counsel, filed a cross-complaint for divorce, admitted the husband's Nevada residence, and participated personally in the proceedings. After full opportunity to try the jurisdictional issues, the Nevada court found that it had jurisdiction and granted the wife a divorce, which was valid and final under Nevada law. The husband then married again and returned to Massachusetts, whereupon his ex-wife petitioned the Massachusetts court to adjudge him in contempt for failing to make payments for her separate support under its earlier decree. She also moved that the support decree be modified so as to award her a larger allowance. The husband defended on the ground of the Nevada divorce. The Massachusetts court held the Nevada divorce void for want of jurisdiction and increased the first wife's allowance for separate support. Its opinion contained no intimation that, under state law, the decree for separate support would survive if the Nevada divorce were valid.

Held: by subjecting the Nevada decree to collateral attack, the Massachusetts court denied it full faith and credit, contrary to Art. IV, § 1 of the Constitution and the Act of May 26, 1790, 28 U.S.C. § 687. See Sherrer v. Sherrer, ante, p. 334 U. S. 343. Pp. 334 U. S. 379-384.

320 Mass. 295, 69 N.E.2d 93, reversed.

A Massachusetts probate court denied a divorce to a resident of that state and granted separate support to his wife. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed. 313 Mass. 232, 46 N.E.2d 1017. He went to Nevada and sued for a divorce. His wife appeared personally and filed a cross-complaint. The Nevada court found that it had jurisdiction, and granted the wife a divorce. Upon the husband's return to Massachusetts,

Page 334 U. S. 379

the wife petitioned the probate court there to adjudge him in contempt for failure to make payments for her support under its earlier decree. She also moved for an increase in her allowance under the support decree. Upon proof of the Nevada divorce, the probate court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts reversed. 316 Mass. 423, 55 N.E.2d 702. After hearings on the issue of domicile, the probate court held the Nevada divorce void for want of jurisdiction and increased the wife's allowance for support. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed. 320 Mass. 295, 69 N.E.2d 793. This Court granted certiorari. 330 U.S. 814. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 384.

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