Appeal, No. 186, March T., 1955 From judgment of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, April T., 1954, affirming order of County Court of Allegheny County, 1946, No. C 39, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Marion C. McVay v. Herbert C. McVay. Judgment affirmed.
Judd N. Poffinberger, Jr., with him John K. Tabor and Kirkpatrick, Pomeroy, Lockhart & Johnson, for appellant.
Ruth Cooper, with her Dane Critchfield, and Critchfield, Bowman & Cooper, for appellee.
Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HORACE STERN
In these proceedings to terminate a support order and vacate a judgment for arrears due thereon, the principal question is the faith and credit to be given to a decree of divorce which was obtained in a Nevada court. We allowed an appeal from the decision of the Superior Court on that question reported in 177 Pa. Superior Ct. 623, 112 A.2d 649.
The parties were married in Pittsburgh in 1926 and resided there continuously until they separated in 1945. In January, 1946, the wife, Marion C. McVay, obtained
in the County Court of Alleghency Cunty a support order of $100.00 a month, reduced in July, 1947, to $80.00 a month, against her husband, Herbert C. McVay. In November, 1946, the respondent went to Florida and there, in the following February, instituted proceedings for divorce. In April, 1948, the court dismissed his complaint and at the same time allowed the wife's counterclaim for alimony, awarding her the same sum, $80.00 per month, as had been granted her by the County Court of Allegheny County. On January 16, 1949, respondent went to Las Vegas, Nevada, and on March 5, 1949, filed there a complaint in divorce. Service was made by publication but the wife did not enter an appearance in the action. On April 18, 1949, the Nevada Court granted respondent an absolute divorce. He then discontinued all payments on the support order; he was not in arrears up to that time. On January 10, 1950, he left Nevada and moved to California where he still resides. On April 14, 1953, the County Court of Allegheny County, on the wife's petition, ordered the arrearages of $2,960 then due on the support order reduced to judgment, of which notice was immediately given to respondent in California. He thereupon obtained a rule to show cause why the judgment should not be vacated and the support order terminated. The court, after hearing, discharged the rule; respondent then appealed to the Superior Court which affirmed the order of the County Court.
If the Federal Constitution requires that the Nevada divorce be recognized in this Commonwealth, respondent's obligation to support his wife ceased automatically when the divorce was granted; conversely, if the constitutional mandate of full faith and credit does not compel such recognition the support order continued in force and the judgment for the arrears was properly entered.
A decree of divorce is a conclusive adjudication of everything involved therein except the jurisdictional facts on which it is founded, and domicile, of course, is a jurisdictional fact. The bona fides of the domicile is subject to collateral attack in any other State by the spouse who did not appear in the court where the decree of divorce was granted. The full faith and credit clause of the Constitution requires that prima facie validity be accorded the divorce decree of a sister State, but the presumption of the existence of ...