Quicky Divorce.. What Happens In Vegas Stays in Vegas?
A rather interesting case was just decided in Broward County regarding the validity of a divorce in Nevada and the effect of the divorce upon inheritance rights in Florida.
In Kelley, III v. Kelley and Northern Trust, a grandfather, Gordon Kelley, created an irrevocable trust (the Kelley Trust) in 1956 for the benefit of his children and grandchildren. At the date of death of Gordon Kelley, Jr. (the “Father”), Father had a power to appoint his share of the Kelley Trust to his descendants, spouses of his descendants, his spouse and certain charities. Father appointed the principal to his wife, Joanna. Father’s son, Gordon, III (the “Son”), brought an action against the trust alleging that the exercise of the power of appointment was invalid because Joanna was not Father’s legal spouse.
Father had been married to another individual prior to marrying Joanna. Father had obtained a divorce in Nevada which Son argued was invalid because the prior spouse did not meet the Nevada residency requirement of 6 months. Generally, the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution requires each state to honor other state court final decisions. Son argued that this Florida court did NOT have to honor the Nevada divorce decree because the Nevada residency requirement was not met and thus, the divorce decree was invalid. Because the divorce was invalid, Father could not have married Joanna or he would be committing bigamy, clearly against the law. If Father was not married to Joanna, then Father could not have appointed the Kelley Trust property to Joanna.
Section 125.185 of the Nevada Statutes provides that “[n]o divorce ….granted… by the State of Nevada, which divorce is valid and binding upon each of the parties thereto , may be contested or attacked by third person not parties thereto. ” This statute was enacted, among other reasons, to establish Nevada as a premiere divorce destination.
Both parties participated in the divorce and agreed to be bound by the Nevada divorce decree (neither party was contesting the divorce). Thus, the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution prevented a third party, the Son, from collaterally attacking the divorce decree.
ADVICE: When preparing documents be careful to consider possible divorces, marriages, etc. in the drafting and planning stages. There should be flexibility in the documents to define a spouse, children, and lineal descendants. This is a good reminder of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. If you are dealing with out of state judgments it is unlikely that you will overturn those judgments and if you are trying to do so consult an attorney in that jurisdiction.
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