The United States Supreme Court has held that full faith and credit must be given to a foreign divorce decree where only one spouse was domiciled in the foreign state and the other spouse never lived there due to the foreign state’s high interest in the marital status of its domiciliaries. The Court did required that service on the absent spouse meet due process standards and be reasonably calculated to give the absent spouse actual notice and opportunity to be heard. The Supreme Court did not view dissolution proceedings as in rem actions or as mere in personam actions. According to the Court, the domicile of one spouse within the forum state gave that state the power to dissolve the marriage regardless of where the marriage occurred.
Later Supreme Court precedent developed the divisible divorce doctrine, holding that a state could change the marital status of those domiciled within its boundaries, but could not wipe out the absent spouse’s claim for alimony under a foreign state’s judgment. This doctrine recognizes a court’s limited power when the court has no personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse.
Based on this precedent this court concludes that jurisdiction to grant dissolution of marriage proceedings is not to be tested by the minimum contacts standard. Domicile continues to be the basis for a court’s jurisdiction to grant a dissolution of marriage decree.
Fumi contends that even if minimum contacts is not the standard, Ken did not establish that he met the residency requirements. To do so Ken had to establish that he resided in Iowa for at least one year prior to filing the petition and that his residence was in good faith and not just for the purpose of obtaining a marriage dissolution. To establish residence one must have a fixed habitation with no intention of leaving it. A new domicile is established if: 1) the former domicile is abandoned; 2) there is an actual removal to, and physical presence in the new domicile; and 3) there is a bona fide intention to change and to remain in the new domicile permanently or indefinitely. Ken has established these residency requirements, and a foreign citizenship does not bar a person from establishing a domicile or residence in such cases.
Fumi finally contends that the district court should have declined jurisdiction based on forum non conveniens, arguing Japan is the more convenient forum and the nation with the most significant contacts. To establish forum non conveniens, the moving party must show that the relative inconveniences are so unbalanced that jurisdiction should be declined on equitable basis. Whether to apply the doctrine lies within the sound discretion of the district court. Although Japan has a variety of ways to dissolve a marriage, it has been suggested that obtaining a nonconsensual divorce is difficult, if not impossible. Based on the relative jurisdictions, the court was well within its discretion to deny Fumi’s request to decline jurisdiction.