Monday, July 11, 2011
There are tens of thousands of same-sex married couples in the United States. A significant number of these couples, however, cannot divorce. First, many same-sex spouses cannot divorce in their home states because the relevant state law precludes recognition of same-sex marriages. Second, an anomalous jurisdictional rule makes it difficult for these spouses to divorce elsewhere. In contrast to the rules governing other civil actions, one of the spouses must be domiciled in the forum for a court to have jurisdiction over a divorce.
This Article considers the second hurdle – the domicile rule. Previously, divorce jurisdiction was a subject of intense interest to the Court and to legal scholars. But despite an ever increasing disjunction between divorce jurisdiction and general principles of state court jurisdiction, critical examination of the domicile rule has largely disappeared.
This Article responds to recent calls to challenge the myth of family law exceptionalism by critically analyzing the domicile rule. After considering the domicile requirement in the context of state court jurisdiction doctrine more generally, this Article contends the time has come to abandon the domicile rule. Abandonment of the rule alone, however, does not fully resolve the problem. Accordingly, this Article advances a set of normative proposals to ensure that all spouses have a forum in which to divorce.