Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Divorce Decree Enforceable Even When Parties Were Never Married

Johnson v. Johnson, 2010 UT 28, (Utah Supreme Court May 7, 2010).

Wife filed for divorce claiming the parties were married.  Husband admitted the same in his answer.  A decree of divorce was entered.  Later, Husband moved to set aside the decree for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the parties were never married.  The trial court denied the motion to set aside even when Wife admitted the parties had never married.  The Supreme Court Affirmed the trial court’s denial of the motion to set aside, and found that the trial Court had subject matter jurisdiction over the Johnson’s relationship regardless if it was truly marital or not.  It further had  jurisdiction because Husband admitted that the parties were married.  “Just as a court adjudicating a contract dispute has authority to determine that no contract exists without losing subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute, a court has authority to adjudicate a divorce claim even if the court later determines that no marriage ever existed.”

1 comment:

Scott Wiser said...

While I agree with the court's ultimate conclusion, I'm surprised the court did not simply hold that the Husband was estopped to deny the validity of his original divorce decree and the court's attendant jurisdiction to enter that order given the fact he was a party to the proceeding, had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of jurisdiction and validity of the marriage, and failed to do so or raise the question after perfecting a timely appeal.


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