Boddie v. Connecticut,
401 U.S. 371 (1971)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971)

Boddie v. Connecticut

No. 27

Argued December 8, 1969

Reargued November 17, 1970

Decided March 2, 1971

401 U.S. 371


In view of the basic position of the marriage relationship in our society and the state monopolization of the means for dissolving that relationship, due process of law prohibits a State from denying, solely because of inability to pay court fees and costs, access to its courts to indigents who, in good faith, seek judicial dissolution of their marriage. Pp. 401 U. S. 374-383.

286 F.Supp. 968, reversed.

HARLAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 401 U. S. 383. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, post, p. 401 U. S. 386. BLACK, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 401 U. S. 389.

Page 401 U. S. 372

Primary Holding

Due process requires a state to waive court fees for an indigent person in a divorce case if that is the only way to get a divorce in that state.


An indigent individual named Boddie sought to start a divorce proceeding. The state of Connecticut declined to waive the $45 filing fee and the $15 fee for service of process. Boddie could not file for divorce as a result and claimed that this infringed on due process rights.



  • John Marshall Harlan II (Author)
  • Warren Earl Burger
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun

The courts are necessary when seeking a divorce in any state, even when both spouses agree to the divorce. The denial of a fee waiver to an indigent person thus can be equated with refusing that person the opportunity to be heard on the right to divorce. The state must show an important countervailing justification to deny this due process right, and the state in this case failed to do that.


  • Hugo Lafayette Black (Author)

The precedents on which the majority grounds its reasoning come from the criminal context. Lesser constitutional protections should be accorded to civil matters.


  • William Orville Douglas (Author)

Concurrence/Dissent In Part

  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)

Case Commentary

To waive the court fees, parties must demonstrate that they cannot afford them, not simply that it would be inconvenient or difficult. This very narrow decision applies so far only to divorce.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.