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Kulko v. Kulko

Citation. 436 U.S. 84 (1978)
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Citation. 436 U.S. 84 (1978)

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff sued Defendant in California to establish her Haitian divorce decree and increase Defendant’s child support obligations. Defendant argued California did not have personal jurisdiction.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A defendant must purposefully avail themselves of the benefits and protections of the forum state for the state to exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant.


Sharon Kulko (Plaintiff) and Ezra Kulko (Defendant) separated in 1972. Defendant stayed in New York with their children and Plaintiff moved to California. Plaintiff later obtained a divorce decree in Haiti and remarried. Defendant and Plaintiff agreed to modify their separation agreement so that their daughter would reside in California with Plaintiff during the school year, while their son stayed in New York. Plaintiff then filed suit in California to establish the Haitian divorce and increase Defendant’s child support obligations. Defendant argued that California did not have personal jurisdiction.


Did the Defendant purposefully avail himself to the benefits and protections of California, for purposes of exercising personal jurisdiction?


No, California does not have personal jurisdiction over the Defendant. The decision of the California Supreme Court is reversed.


The Court determined that Defendant agreeing to his daughter spending nine months a year in California was insufficient to establish minimum contacts with the state for purposes of personal jurisdiction. The Court further considered the fact that Defendant did not have any commercial connections to California, the separation agreement at issue was entered into in New York, and fairness to Defendant outweighed any interest California had in the litigation.

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