Should Decades Old Divorce Yield to Another State’s Later Voiding of Previous Divorce?

From the Concord (NH) Monitor:

Back in the 1980s, a New Hampshire judge awarded a husband to pay his (second) wife a sum of money as a property settlement in their divorce.

As sometimes happens, the husband never complied with the New Hampshire court order.

Fast forward to 1999 in Connecticut, where the husband brings suit challenging the validity of his Mexican divorce from his first wife and, as a result, his subsequent marriage and New Hampshire divorce from his second wife.

The Connecticut court ruled that the Mexican divorce was invalid.

Thereafter, a New Hampshire judge apparently refused to modify its prior divorce judgment to conform to the Connecticut court’s subsequent ruling. And the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld him.

The husband then brought suit in federal court in Connecticut to enforce the Connecticut state court ruling nationwide, apparently intending to use it to his advantage in New Hampshire. The federal case was dismissed.

Fast forward to 2006. New Hampshire legislators bring something called a bill of address to remove the New Hampshire judge from the bench – because of his failure to honor the Connecticut ruling.

While the law does sometimes work in mysterious ways, in this particular case, one might speculate that other forces are working in mysterious ways.

Granted, the doctrine of full faith and credit generally requires states to honor valid judgments previously entered in sister states. But in this case, the Connecticut judgment was entered years after the New Hampshire judgment.

And, based on the limited information contained in the article, it is difficult to see the basis for the Connecticut court’s jurisdiction to enter a valid order.

This case illustrates an important real world observation: legal cases may be fought in a courtroom based on the law and the facts at hand but, under the right circumstances, the outside world and non-legal considerations may intrude – even if it takes years.