Personal Jurisdiction to Terminate Pre-nuptial Agreements

In Estin v. Estin, 334 U.S. 541 (1948), the United States Supreme Court decided that a Nevada court had no power to terminate the obligations of the husband to pay support pursuant to a pre-nuptial agreement made in New York, because the Nevada court had acquired no personal jurisdiction over the wife. A similar issue arose in Vanderbilt v. Vanderbilt, 354 U.S. 416 (1957). There, a Nevada court, without having obtained personal jurisdiction over the wife, divorced the parties and decreed that the husband was released from all of his matrimonial obligations. A New York court, at the suit of the wife for alimony, seized property of the husband in New York. The husband in Vanderbilt sought to distinguish Estin on the ground that there was no pre-existing, prenuptial agreement in his case. The Court held that that was not a material difference. Id. at 418. "Since the wife was not subject to its jurisdiction, the Nevada divorce court had no power to extinguish any right which she had under the law of New York to financial support from her husband." Id. Consequently, "the Nevada decree, to the extent it purported to affect the wife's right to support, was void and the Full Faith and Credit Clause did not obligate New York to give it recognition." Id. at 419.