August 2, 2006
Case Law Development: Third-Party Standing to Attack the Validity of Divorce
The Alabama Supreme Court has issued one of many opinions generated by an ex-Husband's suits and appeals regarding his 33-year marriage. Husband and Wife married in 1968. When Wife filed for divorce in 1999, Husband fought and appealed the divorce in Texas (including arguing that their marriage, though licensed and solemnized, was purely ecclesiastical, so that the trial court violated his Free Exercise and Establishment Clause rights under the First Amendment when it asserted jurisdiction over their marriage). Waite v. Waite, 150 S.W.3d 797 (Tex. App. 2004)(web opinion).
This action grows out of Husband's repeated attempts to have Wife's 1960 divorce to her first husband declared void, presumably to then invalidate his own marriage to her. His declaratory judgment actions alleged that she had not been a resident of the state for twelve months preceeding the divorce. In this opinion, the Alabama Supreme Court noted that third parties lack standing to attack a divorce decree unless it is void on its face. The court reviews the caselaw interpreting the requirements for establishing jurisdiction in divorce actions (caselaw developed in an age of migratory divorces) and concludes that, because first husband and Wife had submitted to the court's jurisdiction, Wife need only have alleged and proven domicile for the court to have jurisdiction. Because Wife had alleged and there was evidence to support her allegations that she was a resident of the state at the time of filing the action, the court concluded that the decree was not void on its face. Thus, the court held that Husband did not have standing to bring an independent challenge to the validity of the 1960 divorce decree.
Waite v. Waite, 2006 Ala. LEXIS 186 (July 28, 2006) bgf
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