The Anastasis (who were not
married but were living together) broke up. Ms. Anastasi sued in New
Jersey State Court, claiming that Mr. Anastasi had breached his agreement
"to provide plaintiff with all her financial support and needs for
the rest of her life."
Mr. Anastasi had the case
removed the Federal Court on diversity jurisdiction.
Ms. Anastasi made a motion to
get the case sent back to the State Court.
Ms. Anastasi argued that the
action was a domestic relations
action, which are an exception to Federal jurisdiction and must be heard
in State Court.
The Federal Trial Judge
initially found that the case could be heard in Federal Court.
The Federal Trial Judge
found that since the two weren't married, their situation was more like a
contract dispute than a domestic relations dispute, and therefore could
be heard in Federal Court.
The New Jersey Supreme Court,
in a totally different case (Crowe v. DeGioia (430 A.2d 251 (1981)), decided that New Jersey
Courts were required to hear palimony cases.
Upon hearing this, the Federal
Trial Judge reversed and remanded the case to New Jersey State Court.
The Judge now found that New
Jersey announced a significant State interest in consensual live-in
relationships. To protect that interest, the courts must basically treat
these relationships the same way they treat married couples.
Therefore, the trials will
be more similar to domestic relations
actions than contract actions, and should be heard in State court.
The domestic relations
exception comes from the old case of Barber
v. Barber (62 U.S. 582 (1858)), which said that, "We
disclaim altogether any jurisdiction in the courts of the United States
upon the subject of divorce..."
Basically, Federal courts
will not hear divorce, alimony, or child custody cases, even if they
otherwise meet the requirements to get into Federal court.
It is a State law issue, not
a Federal law issue.
One reason for this is that
the Federal courts can only address the subject from a contract
standpoint, they don't have the experience and historical background to
rule on domestic matters and equity matters.
Also see Ankenbrandt v.
Richards (504 U.S. 689 (1992)),
which held that the domestic relations exception can be
justified because the Federal courts only have jurisdiction over things
that Congress says they have jurisdiction over (see Article III ¤8), and Congress never said that the Federal
courts could hear domestic relations cases.