In Lynde v. Lynde, 162 N.Y. 405 56 N.E. 979, 48 L.R.A. 679, 76 Am.St.Rep. 332, the New York court held that the provisions of the federal Constitution which require full faith and credit to be given judicial proceedings of another state "relate to judgments, or decrees, which not only are conclusive in the jurisdiction where rendered, but which are final" therein.Summary of this case from Cooke v. Cooke
Argued February 14, 1900
Decided April 6, 1900
John H. Kemble and George S. Ingraham for defendant, appellant and respondent. James Westervelt, Henry B. Gayley and Matthew C. Fleming for plaintiff, respondent and appellant.
I think that the Appellate Division has very correctly decided the questions in the case and the opinion of Mr. Justice BARTLETT, speaking for that court, leaves little, if anything, to be added to its reasoning. With respect to the main question, whether the Court of Chancery of the state of New Jersey acquired jurisdiction over the defendant to render the final decree for the payment of alimony, it is argued, in his behalf, that the decree of divorce was invalid as to him and, therefore, afforded no support for the decree of alimony. That the decree of divorce was of no force as to him cannot be disputed. It is quite settled, at the present day, that no state can exercise jurisdiction and authority over persons, or property, without its territory. Its laws and the judgments of its tribunals can have no extra-territorial operation; except so far as the former may be allowed such by comity. The decree of divorce, which the plaintiff obtained in New Jersey, was effectual to determine her status as a citizen of that state towards the defendant; but as to him it effected nothing and was void for want of personal service of process, or of an appearance by him in the divorce proceedings. One, or the other, of these conditions was required to be shown to enable the court to proceed with jurisdiction in personam. As the service of process was constructive, by publication, however authorized by the laws of the state, it was ineffectual against the defendant for any purpose. ( People v. Baker, 76 N.Y. 78; Matter of Kimball, 155 ib. 62; Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714; Story's Conflict of Laws, sec. 539.)
This action, however, is upon a final decree of the chancery court of New Jersey, which rendered a money judgment in personam against the defendant in a proceeding in which there was a voluntary appearance on his part. Upon service of the order of the chancellor, directing him to show cause why the petition of the plaintiff for the amendment of the decree of divorce should not be granted, he appeared in the proceeding, without any reservation of record, and without making any objection to the jurisdiction of the court. Not only was that so, but in his affidavit, which was filed in the proceeding, he asserted that he had been divorced from his matrimonial relations upon the plaintiff's petition; that he had subsequently married again and his objections to the granting of the plaintiff's petition were carefully formulated. He alleged that "the decree for divorce * * * was purposely drawn without providing for, or reserving any alimony," etc.; that he was "financially unable to pay alimony," and "that the said decree of divorce having been made without reserving the question of alimony, and this defendant having been absolutely divorced from said petitioner by said decree, and having since formed new relations and matrimonial obligations, that it would be illegal, inequitable and unjust to now impose upon him the burden of alimony," etc. In short, he appeared and submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court, appealing to its consideration of the facts and not objecting to its power to proceed; not repudiating the divorce, but relying upon it. There cannot be the slightest question that his appearance was general. He was represented by counsel, until the order of the chancellor, which amended the decree of divorce by reserving to the petitioner the right to apply at the foot thereof for alimony and to the court the power to make any further order with respect thereto, had been affirmed by the Court of Errors and Appeals, upon his own appeal, and until the application for a reference to determine the amount of alimony. Is he, then, in a position to invoke the invalidity of the original decree of divorce? As he was not personally served and did not appear in the divorce action, the decree divorcing the plaintiff could not have given her any judgment in personam. It did not reserve the right to apply thereafter for alimony, when jurisdiction in personam was obtained of the defendant; but that was an unintentional omission, as the chancellor decided, which was due to the inadvertence of plaintiff's counsel and would be remedied by amending the decree. The affirmance of the order, in that respect, on defendant's appeal, settled the law of that state to be that the court may, upon petition, amend its enrolled decree, when the amendment is necessary to give full expression to its judgment and is matter which would, without doubt, have been incorporated in the decree when made, if attention had been called to it. ( Lynde v. Lynde, 54 N.J. Eq. 473.) The demand for alimony in a divorce suit is not an essential part of the cause of action; but is merely incidental to the action and the judgment. ( Forest v. Forest, 25 N.Y. 501; Galusha v. Galusha, 138 ib. 272, 281; Lynde v. Lynde, supra.) In Kamp v. Kamp ( 59 N.Y. 212), the question was not up as to whether the court might amend its judgment granting divorce, simpliciter, when the omission to reserve the question of alimony was shown to have been through inadvertence. The application there was for an order directing the payment of alimony, upon a judgment of divorce which was silent as to alimony, and it was held that the power to allow it in subsequent proceedings does not exist, in view of the legal presumption that the judgment had finally decided every question involved in the action; which would include the right of the plaintiff to claim alimony.
In my opinion, assuming, as we must, that the decree of the chancery court, which amended the original decree of divorce, expressed the law of the state of New Jersey, ( Laing v. Rigney, 160 U.S. at p. 542), jurisdiction was obtained over the defendant by his appearance, plea and submission, to so far cure the invalidity of the divorce decree as to render it effective as a basis for alimony proceedings. But whether its invalidity was cured, or not, in the subsequent proceeding to which the defendant was a party, a final decree was entered adjudging that he pay to the plaintiff a certain sum of money. The jurisdiction once obtained could not be divested by his refusal to appear in the later stages of the proceeding. He cannot now attack the final decree of the court collaterally, after having had his day in court. In Laing v. Rigney ( supra), after the wife had filed a bill against her husband in the Court of Chancery, in the state of New Jersey, alleging acts of adultery and the defendant had appeared and answered denying the allegations, the plaintiff filed a supplemental bill; wherein she alleged that the defendant had committed adultery with a person named, since the commencement of the suit, and prayed that she might have the same relief against the defendant as she might, if the facts had been stated in the original bill. Process upon the supplemental bill could not be served personally upon the defendant, who was a non-resident, and there was a substituted service by publication. He filed no answer to the supplemental bill, nor did he appear, and a final decree was rendered by the chancellor granting the divorce and awarding alimony, etc. An action was then brought in this state by the wife upon the decree, to recover against her husband the amount awarded for alimony and costs, and the question was whether the New Jersey court had jurisdiction to render the decree. In the Supreme Court of the United States, to which the case was taken from this court ( 127 N.Y. 408), by writ of error, it was held that, in affirming the dismissal of the plaintiff's complaint upon the trial, due effect had not been given to the provisions of article four of the Constitution of the United States, which require that full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the judicial proceedings of every other state. It was conceded that if the judgment of the Court of Chancery was not binding upon the defendant therein, personally, in that state, no such force could be given to it in the state of New York; but it was held that the law of the state of New Jersey must be deemed to be as declared by the chancellor, who had rendered a final decree, based upon the original bill, the process under which had been served upon the defendant within the state, and upon the supplemental bill, a copy of which, with the rule to plead, had been served upon the defendant without the state. It was said that "so long as this decree stands, it must be deemed to express the law of the state. If the defendant deemed himself aggrieved thereby, his remedy was by appeal." In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the New Jersey court having once acquired jurisdiction of the defendant in the action, whether it retained that jurisdiction, so as to render the final decree in the proceedings leading thereto, was a question depending upon the law of that state, which could not be attacked collaterally.
Laing v. Rigney is much in point; inasmuch as jurisdiction of the defendant, in this case, having been obtained in the proceeding, it was retained by the court until it made the final decree. The jurisdiction conferred the power to render the decree and it will be regarded as valid and binding until set aside in the court in which it was rendered. ( Kinnier v. Kinnier, 45 N Y p. 542.)
Ward v. Boyce, ( 152 N.Y. 191), has no application. The action was upon a promissory note, made by the defendant to the plaintiff's order, and the issue between the parties was as to the plaintiff's ownership. The defendant claimed that the record of a certain proceeding in a Justice's Court, in the state of Vermont, was conclusive evidence that the note was not her property, but was that of her husband. The proceeding in the Vermont court was by way of trustee process and was instituted by a creditor of Mr. Ward, this plaintiff's husband, against him and Boyce, the maker of the note, as his debtor. Ward was a non-resident, did not appear and judgment went against him by default. Boyce, the other defendant, appeared and stated that he gave the note to Mrs. Ward for cattle purchased and he asked that she be cited to appear. A citation was served upon her, in the state of Vermont, to show cause why the note should not be adjudged to be held as her husband's property by his creditor. She did not appear and judgment was rendered in conformity with the terms of the citation. We held that the judgment did not conclude Mrs. Ward; because she was not a party to the proceeding and was cited to appear at a stage of it, when she had no opportunity to litigate the fundamental issue. The principal fact had then been adjudged, that the indebtedness for the cattle, for which the note was given, was owing to the husband; and this in a special statutory proceeding, in which the court had acquired no jurisdiction by service of any process upon him, or upon his wife, who held the note. When she was cited, it was not that she might contest the validity of the judgment against her husband; but merely to show cause why the note she held should not be adjudged as her husband's property and to be held by his creditor. I can perceive no resemblance in the principle of the decision in Ward v. Boyce to that involved here.
I am satisfied, without further discussion, that the Court of Chancery in New Jersey had ample jurisdiction to render the final decree, now in question, against the defendant.
With respect to how far the Supreme Court of this state will enforce the final decree of the New Jersey court, I think the determination of the Appellate Division to be quite correct. The action was to recover upon a final decree of the court of another state, which, being rendered with jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, is to be deemed conclusive, in so far as it adjudged the defendant to be indebted to the plaintiff at the date of its rendition. The proceeding in chancery had terminated in an unconditional decree that the defendant must pay a definite sum of money, established as a debt against him, and, therefore, it had extra-territorial value and force. (Wharton Confl. Laws, § 804.) As a debt of record against the defendant the courts of this state should give it full credit and effect; but as to its other provisions for future alimony and for equitable remedies to enforce compliance, I do not think we should say that it falls within the rule of the Federal Constitution. I do not think that the courts of this state should give effect to the decree by enforcing any of the collateral remedies, which the prevailing party may be entitled to in New Jersey and which the subsequent order gave to her.
So far as it made provision for the payment of alimony in the future, it remained subject to the discretion of the chancellor and lacked conclusiveness of character. The chancellor's action was not final on the subject. As he observed in Lynde v. Lynde ( supra), referring to the law of New Jersey: "The statute exhibits an intention that the subject shall be continuously dealt with according to the varying condition and circumstances of the party." The provision of the Federal Constitution, which requires that full faith and credit shall be given to the judicial proceedings of another state, in my opinion, should be deemed to relate to judgments, or decrees, which not only are conclusive in the jurisdiction where rendered, but which are final in their nature. If they, once and for all, establish a debt, or other obligation, against a party, the record is available in other jurisdictions as a foundation for a judgment there.
The provisions of our Code for the enforcement of a direction, in a judgment of divorce, for the payment of alimony, by equitable remedies, pertain only to such judgments as are recovered here. (Art. IV, chap. 15.) The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of this state to dissolve a marriage is conferred solely by statute and its provisions upon the subject of alimony are not available to the plaintiff in aid of her decree.
The plaintiff's decree was, therefore, available to her as evidence in this action that the subject-matter of the proceedings leading to its rendition, viz.: the liability for alimony, had become a debt of record in the state of New Jersey, which could not be avoided but by plea of nul tiel record. ( M'Elmoyle v. Cohen, 13 Peters [U.S.], 312, 324.)
The case of Barber v. Barber (21 How. [U.S.] 582), cited by the plaintiff in support of her claim that the decree of the New Jersey court should be enforced in all its parts, was not parallel in its facts and the observations of Justice WAYNE, which are referred to, if intended as supposed, were not necessary to the decision of the particular question. In that case the wife had obtained a judgment of divorce from her husband in the Court of Chancery of this state and the final decree awarded her a sum of money representing alimony retrospectively due to her, for the interval between the filing of the bill and the rendition of the decree; directed execution therefor and, further, ordered the payment of permanent alimony in the future, during her life, in quarterly payments, which was "vested in her for her own and separate use and as her own and separate estate, with full power to invest the same * * * to dispose of the same by will, or otherwise, from time to time during her life, or at her death," etc. The husband then left this state and went to Wisconsin. A bill was filed there, in the United States court, by the wife, through her next friend, setting forth the proceedings had in the New York court and the decree; charging the husband with not having paid any part of the alimony adjudged to his wife and alleging that there was then due to her a certain amount of money on that account. In his answer, he admitted the rendering of a decree of divorce after contestation and that by it he "was subjected to the payment of alimony to the extent and in the way it is claimed in the bill," and alleged that, as he had obtained a divorce from his wife in Wisconsin, she thereby, "became a feme sole and being so, could not sue by her next friend," etc. The action resulted in a decree, adjudging that a stated amount of money "is due from the defendant upon the alimony sued for" and, upon his default in payment, ordering execution therefor. It will be observed that the situation of the parties was quite other than it is here; that the decree of the New York court was the basis of a bill in equity in the Federal court and that its finality as an adjudication with respect to alimony, past due and in the future — (in which latter respect it was made a vested estate in her for life) — was admitted by the answer to the bill. It will also be observed that the decree obtained in the United States court, in Wisconsin, merely adjudged a certain amount to be due complainant which the defendant must pay. The question in the case was stated to be, whether the wife might sue in another state "by her next friend, in equity, in a court of the United States, to carry into judgment the decree" and much of the discussion proceeded upon the jurisdiction in equity. As to the nature of a decree which awards alimony, it was remarked, in the course of the opinion, that when the court, having jurisdiction of the wife's suit for divorce, allows her alimony, "it becomes a judicial debt of record against the husband." As Mr. Justice BARTLETT very correctly suggests, in his examination of Barber v. Barber, Mr. Justice WAYNE, when he further observed in his opinion that the wife might sue her husband in another jurisdiction, "to carry the decree into a judgment there with the same effect that it had in the state in which the decree was given," could not have intended that she could carry with her judgment into another state the right to any particular remedies for its enforcement; because that would have been in conflict with the rule which he had laid down many years earlier in M'Elmoyle v. Cohen ( supra).
So far, therefore, as the final decree of the court in New Jersey adjudged moneys to be due and payable to the plaintiff from the defendant, it became a judicial debt of record, which the former was entitled to have enforced by the courts of this state, under the provisions of the Federal Constitution, and a judgment recovered thereupon could be executed only as our laws permit, ( Barber v. Barber, supra, at p. 324); which would not include the particular equitable remedies, provided by the statute in the chapter on matrimonial actions. So far as the plaintiff's decree provided for methods to enforce payment, its provisions were in the nature of execution and operative upon the defendant only as he, or property belonging to him, might be found within the jurisdiction of the courts of New Jersey.
The subsequent order, dated February 8th, 1898, and which is set out in the complaint, (but referred to as of March 24th, 1898), is not enforceable here; for it was merely an order which sought to carry the final decree into execution within the state by the equitable remedies of a receivership and of an injunction. No action will lie upon such an order. ( Sheehy v. P. Life Assur. Co., 2 C.B. [N.S.], at p. 256.)
I advise an affirmance of the judgment, without costs.
I concur in the opinion of GRAY, J., in overruling the defendant's appeal. I would go further and sustain the plaintiff's appeal. The plaintiff seeks such equitable judgment in this state as shall give full faith, credit and effect to a decree of the Court of Chancery of New Jersey awarding her alimony against her husband. The case embraces a Federal question, and the decisions of the United States Supreme Court become authoritative so far as they are applicable. The question is not whether the jurisdiction of the courts of this state to grant alimony is equitable or statutory, but whether a plaintiff who has obtained a decree for alimony in another state can in an equitable action in this state, upon sufficient allegations and proofs, not only obtain judgment upon such foreign decree, but also such means of enforcing it as are suited to periodical payments, and the peculiar duty incumbent upon the husband in respect of alimony, which means equity alone can give. Barber v. Barber (21 How. [U.S.] 582) holds that equity has jurisdiction in such a case. In Wood v. Wood ( 7 Misc. Rep. 579) the court refused to follow the decision, and the Appellate Division has adopted the refusal. But the case there was upon a French decree, and no Federal question existed, and the court was not bound by the authority of the Barber case. It is otherwise here. If equity has jurisdiction, then it can adapt its remedies to the exigencies of the case. This the Special Term did, and I think did right.
PARKER, Ch. J., HAIGHT and WERNER, JJ., concur; LANDON, J., concurs in memorandum; O'BRIEN, J., not voting; CULLEN, J., not sitting.