Stanton v. Stanton
421 U.S. 7 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U.S. 7 (1975)

Stanton v. Stanton

No. 73-1461

Argued February 19, 1975

Decided April 15, 1975

421 U.S. 7

Syllabus

When appellant wife and appellee husband were divorced in Utah in 1960, the decree, incorporating the parties' stipulation, ordered appellee to make monthly payments to appellant for the support of the parties' children, a daughter, then age seven, and a son, then age five. Subsequently, when the daughter became 18, appellee discontinued payments for her support, and the divorce court, pursuant to a Utah statute which provides that the period of minority for males extends to age 21 and for females to age 18, denied appellant's motion for support of the daughter for the period after she attained 18. On appeal the Utah Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting appellant's contention, inter alia, that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Held:

1. The support issue is not rendered moot by the fact that appellant and the daughter are now both over 21, since, if appellee is obligated by the divorce decree to support the daughter between ages 18 and 21, there is an amount past due and owing. Nor does appellant lack standing because she is not of the age group affected by the statute; another statute obligates her to support the daughter to age 21. Pp. 421 U. S. 11-12.

2. In the context of child support, the classification effectuated by the challenged statute denies the equal protection of the laws, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Reed v. Reed,404 U. S. 71. Notwithstanding the "old notions" cited by the state court, that it is the man's primary responsibility to provide a home, that it is salutary for him to have education and training before he assumes that responsibility, and that females tend to mature and marry earlier than males, there is nothing rational in the statutory distinction between males and females which, when related to the divorce decree, results in appellee's liability for support for the daughter only to age 18, but for the son to age 21, thus imposing "criteria wholly unrelated to the objective of that statute." Pp. 421 U. S. 13-17.

30 Utah 2d 315, 517 P.2d 1010, reversed and remanded.

Page 421 U. S. 8

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and DOUGLAB, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 421 U. S. 18.

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