Thursday, September 24, 2009


This problem has come up several times so let's begin slowly with the law. A New York judgment of divorce is obtained. One ex-spouse moves away to another state. What happens? Here first is a discussion from which accurately describes the issue of a sister state recognizing the divorce decree of another state:

"All states treat a divorce decree as valid as long as one spouse fulfilled the state law requirements in the state where that spouse filed for divorce. Usually that means that the spouse must have been a resident of the state for a certain period of time prior to filing for divorce. Sister states must recognize a divorce decree as valid when it is based on the Full Faith and Credit Clause, but they may also treat a decree as valid based on the legal principle of comity.

Full Faith and Credit
Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, a state must recognize the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state. It requires that any final judgment entered by the courts of a state acting consistent with state laws and with constitutional requirements, must be recognized and enforced in every other state.

Even if the Full Faith and Credit Clause does not apply to a divorce case, such as when it is proven that the spouse who filed for divorce had not met the residency requirements of the state where the divorce decree was granted, a sister state court may give recognition to the judgment of another state as a matter of comity. Comity is where a court recognizes a sister state court order, as a matter of courtesy, when it is not compelled to do so.

For example, divorce decrees entered in states allowing for jurisdiction on the basis of mere residence may be recognized elsewhere as a matter of comity. A decree given recognition as a matter of comity can have the same effect as one given full faith and credit."

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