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Yarborough v. Yarborough

Citation. Yarborough v. Yarborough, 290 U.S. 202, 54 S. Ct. 181, 78 L. Ed. 269, 90 A.L.R. 924 (U.S. Dec. 4, 1933)
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Brief Fact Summary

Father (Defendant), a resident of Georgia, contested the support award made by the South Carolina court to his daughter (Plaintiff), a domiciliary of South Carolina, on the ground that a Georgia judgment, pursuant to his divorce, was satisfied and has freed him of all further obligations to the child (Plaintiff).

Synopsis of Rule of Law

A state must give full faith and credit to a final judgment of another state, even though the prior judgment has a bearing on the internal affairs of the state not foreseen at the time of the original judgment.


The daughter (Plaintiff) brought suit against her father through her grandfather as guardian ad litem in South Carolina.  Sadie (Plaintiff), the daughter, asked for support for education and maintenance, claiming that without the support she would have to depend on charity.  Jurisdiction was obtained over the father (Defendant) and over some of his property in South Carolina.  The plaintiff father argued that a prior Georgia judgment in a divorce suit with the Plaintiff’s mother had determined his entire obligation to his daughter (Plaintiff), and this obligation having been satisfied was res judicata and entitled to full faith and credit.  Plaintiff argued that the Georgia judgment should not be res judicata because

  1. she was not a party to that suit,
  2. she was not a domiciliary of Georgia at the time of the judgment,
  3. she was now a domiciliary of South Carolina which had its own laws of support,
  4. she had a need now which her father (Defendant) could afford to and should be obligated to meet and, finally,
  5. the Georgia court had not intended to bar other interested states from acting in the future but had only litigated the question concerning its own interests, under its own laws.  The trial court found for Sadie, the child (Plaintiff), and ordered plaintiff father’s property in South Carolina to be held as security for performance of its support order.  The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s award of $50 monthly to be paid to the grandfather as trustee for Sadie’s (Plaintiff) education and support plus attorney fees.  The U.S. Supreme Court reversed on appeal and held for the father (Defendant).


Must a court give full faith and credit to a judgment of a sister state’s court where that judgment affects vital interests of that second state that were not in existence at the time of the judgment?


(Brandeis, J.)  Yes.  Full faith and credit must be given to the Georgia judgment, and that judgment is res judicata between the parties, despite the present interest of South Carolina in the welfare of its domiciliary, the child (Plaintiff), whose rights were determined by that prior judgment.  The court found that Plaintiff, although not a party to the Georgia divorce, was still bound by the decree under Georgia law concerning her right to support from her father (Defendant).  In addition, the court found that Sadie’s (Plaintiff) domiciliary was Georgia at the time, according to the rule that a minor takes the domicile of her father, which was Georgia until the divorce decree was final, regardless of the fact that she was not living there at the time.  Reversed.


(Stone, J.)  The Georgia judgment is final as far as Georgia’s interest in the case is concerned, but that judgment should not be allowed to dictate events in the future outside of Georgia boundaries.  The internal interests of South Carolina entitle it to make the new judgment for the welfare of its domiciliary and the Full Faith and Credit Clause does not demand that South Carolina uphold the Georgia judgment in this case as a bar to its own action.  The Supreme Court should be able to limit the operation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause to allow South Carolina to take into account the present needs of the child that might justify an additional award against the father, who is still domiciled in Georgia.  To give the Georgia judgment the effect given it by the majority is to expand it beyond the reasonable demands of the constitutional requirement of full faith and credit.


The Yarborough case left open the question of whether the result would have been the same if the father (Defendant) had also changed his domicile.  However, in Elkind v. Byck, 68 Cal. 2d 453, 67 Cal. Rptr. 404, 439 P.2d 316 (1968), the court held that the Yarborough decision would not control where the father had changed his home state and moved to California since the earlier decree.  Therefore, Justice Stone’s dissent, which sought to limit the effect of the Full Faith and Credit Clause where a judgment rendered by one state later impinged on the internal affairs of another, was echoed in later decisions.  Courts have found that an earlier judgment was not meant to foreclose another state with a compelling interest from acting upon changes in circumstances at a future date, particularly in the area of support where the parties to the original judgment have changed domicile.

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