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Law School Case Brief

Williams v. North Carolina - 317 U.S. 287, 63 S. Ct. 207 (1942)

Rule:

Each state, by virtue of its command over its domiciliaries and its large interest in the institution of marriage, can alter within its own borders the marriage status of the spouse domiciled there, even though the other spouse is absent. There is no constitutional barrier if the form and nature of the substituted service meet the requirements of due process.

Facts:

A man and woman, who were residents of North Carolina, were tried and convicted of bigamous cohabitation under N.C. Code § 4342. The couple, previously married to other people, filed a divorce action in a Nevada court and were later married to each other in Nevada. Thereafter, they returned to North Carolina where they lived together until the indictment was returned. 

Issue:

Did the state supreme court err in ruling that North Carolina was not required to recognize the Nevada divorce decrees under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution in Art. IV, § 1?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of the United States held that the state supreme court erred in ruling that North Carolina was not required to recognize the Nevada decrees under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution in Art. IV, § 1, by reason of Haddock v. Haddock, 201 U.S. 562. The Court expressly overruled Haddock insofar as it stood for the proposition that a decree of divorce granted under such circumstances by one state need not be given full faith and credit in another. The Court noted that there was no authority that lent support to the view that the full faith and credit clause compels the courts of one state to subordinate the local policy of that state, as respects its domiciliaries, to the statutes of any other state.

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