Sosna v. Iowa
419 U.S. 393, 95 S.Ct. 553, 42 L.E.2d 532 (1975)
- Carol and Michael were married
in New York and lived together for 3 years. Carol moved to Iowa with the
kids and filed for divorce.
- Michael went to Iowa and
made a special appearance to contest Iowa's jurisdiction.
- The Iowa Trial Court dismissed
the divorce petition. Carol appealed.
- The Iowa Trial Court found
that they did not have jurisdiction because Michael was not an Iowa
resident, and Carol had not lived in Iowa for one year.
- Iowa has a jurisdictional
residency requirement that says you
have to live there fore one year before you can file for divorce. This
is separate from the requirement that you be domiciled in Iowa.
- A person can establish a domicile in a State very quickly, as long as they can
show that the live there and they have intent to remain there.
- The Iowa Supreme Court
affirmed. Carol appealed.
- Carol argued that the Iowa
law was unconstitutional for two reasons:
- First, it establishes two
classes of people and discriminates against those who recently moved to
- The courts had previously
held the residency requirements were unconstitutional with regards to
being able to collect State benefits and registering to vote.
- Second, it denies a person
the right to make an individualized showing or residency and so denies
them the ability to get a divorce, so it was a denial of due process.
- Basically, since Carol was
domiciled in Iowa, if she
couldn't get a divorce there, she couldn't get a divorce anywhere.
- The US Supreme Court affirmed.
- The US Supreme Court noted
that 48 States had a residency requirement of some length.
- The Court did a balancing
test and found that the legitimate State interests outweighed the
inconvenience to Carol.
- The Court noted that she
wasn't being denied the ability
to divorce, it was only being delayed.
- Therefore it wasn't a due
- The Court found that there
were consequences to the State in issuing divorce decrees, and so they
had an interest in having a residency requirement.
- Unlike the voting and
welfare benefits cases where the courts found that the only interest
the State had was budgetary considerations and administrative