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Simons v. Miami Beach First National Bank
United States Supreme Court
381 U.S. 81, 85 S. Ct. 1315, 14 L. Ed. 2d 232 (1965)
The wife of a New York married couple obtained a New York separation agreement that included an award of monthly alimony. Thereafter, the husband moved to Florida, where he obtained an ex parte divorce. The wife, who had only constructive notice of the Florida divorce proceeding, did not enter a personal appearance. After the husband died, the executor of his estate offered the husband’s will for probate in a Florida probate court. The wife appeared in the Florida probate proceeding and elected to take her dower share under Florida law instead of taking under the will, which made no provision for her. The executor contested the dower claim and argued that because the couple was divorced when the husband died, the wife had no dower interest under Florida law. The wife argued that the Florida divorce decree—as it pertained to her dower rights—should be set aside because she did not appear in that action, so the court lacked personal jurisdiction over her to make any ruling about her marital rights beyond her marital status. The Florida trial and appellate courts rejected her argument, and the Florida Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal. The wife then appealed to the United States Supreme Court and argued that the lower court decisions unconstitutionally denied her dower claim.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)
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