Cook v. Cook

342 U.S. 126, 72 S. Ct. 157, 96 L. Ed. 146 (1951)

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Cook v. Cook

United States Supreme Court
342 U.S. 126, 72 S. Ct. 157, 96 L. Ed. 146 (1951)

Facts

Virginia residents Arthur Cook (plaintiff) and Florence Cook (defendant) married in February 1943. However, shortly after the wedding, Arthur discovered that Florence was already lawfully married to Albert Mann. Arthur and Florence agreed that Florence would travel to Florida and obtain a divorce from Mann so that Arthur and Florence could remarry. Florence brought an action against Mann in Florida court to obtain a divorce decree. Florence obtained the decree, and Arthur and Florence remarried in December 1943. Arthur and Florence eventually decided to separate, and Florence obtained a separation-and-maintenance decree against Arthur. Arthur then brought an action against Florence in Vermont state court, seeking to have both the February 1943 and December 1943 marriages declared null and void. Arthur contended that under Florida law, to have lawfully obtained a divorce decree in a Florida court, Florence would have needed to have an intention to live and remain in Florida. However, Florence did not intend to live and remain in Florida because she planned to return to Virginia to remarry Arthur. Arthur thus asserted that Florence had lied to the Florida court about her domicile to obtain the divorce decree. Florence’s lawyer told the trial court that Mann had appeared in the Florida proceeding, but neither the Florida divorce decree nor any stipulation about the decree was entered into the trial court record. Following a trial, the Vermont trial court annulled the February 1943 marriage but dismissed Arthur’s petition with respect to the December 1943 marriage. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the annulment of the February 1943 marriage but reversed the judgment of dismissal and held that the December 1943 marriage was also null and void. In reaching its decision, the Vermont Supreme Court recognized that judgments from other states are typically entitled to full faith and credit but stated that the question of Florence’s domicile could be reopened in the Vermont proceeding if Mann had not appeared or been served with process in the Florida action. The court noted that the trial court had not made any findings that Mann had appeared or been served. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Douglas, J.)

Dissent (Frankfurter, J.)

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