A.W. (plaintiff), a native of Germany, and Pauline W. (defendant), a native of Canada, married in Canada in 1960. They became American citizens in 1962. Between 1960 and 1979, the couple moved numerous times to multiple countries on several continents, never staying in one place for a long period. They lived in the United States at three points: in Texas from 1960 to 1962, in Maryland for a time beginning in 1970, and at an unspecified U.S. location at one other time during the 1970s. In 1979, the couple settled in the Swiss municipality of La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 1984, on account of marital problems, Pauline went to live with a relative in Germany. In 1986, A.W. filed for divorce in the Family Court for the district of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Pauline opposed the divorce but asked for compensation or alimony if it were granted. In 1990, the Family Court granted a divorce and ordered A.W. to pay alimony. Two appeals by A.W. were unsuccessful. Ultimately, he appealed to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, arguing that under the Swiss Private International Law Act (SPIL), Texas law rather than Swiss law should apply to the divorce proceedings.