Johnson v. Muelberger

340 U.S. 581

 

RULE:

When a divorce cannot be attacked by parties for lack of jurisdiction in the rendering state, it cannot be attacked by those parties anywhere else in the United States.

FACTS:

The plaintiff (decedent's daughter) attacked the validity of her deceased father's Florida-rendered divorce decree. The New York Surrogate determined that the daughter could not attack the wife's status as surviving spouse on the basis of the alleged invalidity because the decree was valid and final in the state of Florida and not subject to collateral attack in the courts of New York. The appellate division affirmed, but the court of appeals reversed. The wife appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUE:

Could plaintiff could attack the Florida-rendered divorce decree in New York?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The Supreme Court reversed the New York Court of Appeals. The Court held that Florida would not permit the plaintiff to attack the Florida decree of divorce between her father and his second wife as beyond the jurisdiction of the rendering court. When a divorce could not be attacked for lack of jurisdiction by parties actually before the court or strangers in the rendering state, it could not be attacked by them anywhere in the United States.

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