Your office has requested that we provide a legal opinion on whether Tennessee would
recognize the validity of a Mexican divorce in the following factual scenario.
Vaughn A~ and Margie A~ were married on October 1, 1938, in Towns County, Georgia.
In 1966, both parties were residing in Olive Springs, Tennessee, but were separated
due to marital difficulties. Mr. A~ states that he went to Mexico in the spring of
1966 for the sole purpose of obtaining a quick divorce. Both parties state that they
never resided in Mexico. Mrs. A~ was to have been notified of the divorce by the Mexican
attorney but states she was not notified. However, she states that she was shown a
copy of the divorce by Mr. A~ when he returned from Mexico. Mr. A~ remarried in Clintwood,
Virginia, on June 13, 1966. Mrs. A~ has not remarried.
There are some statements in the file indicating that Margie A~ filed an action in
Tennessee in 1969 and the Mexican divorce was upheld. No copies of court documents
to support this contention were made available.
Previous precedent from this office has established that the courts of Tennessee would
not recognize the validity of the Mexican divorce on the grounds of comity. See, M~ , Clarence O.- ~ -RAIV [C~] - to PC, B'ham., 05/22/61; M~ , Clarence O.- ~ - -RAIV [C~] - to PC, B'ham. 03/02/61 (citing Hamm v. Hamm, 30 Tenn.App. 122, 204 S.W.2d 113). In contrast an interested local attorney had
presented a memorandum opinion citing the case of Hyde v. Hyde, 562 S.W.2d, 194 (Tenn. 1978) where the Tennessee court implicitly recognized the
validity of a Haitian divorce. Consequently, you have requested our advice as to whether
Tennessee would recognize the validity of the A~ divorce.
We have reviewed our previous opinions in this area and also the Hyde v. Hyde case cited by the attorney. Of initial note is the obvious factual distinction between
the divorce in the Hyde case and the A~ divorce. In Hyde, both parties submitted to the jurisdiction of the Dominican Republic court - Mrs.
Hyde appeared in person with an attorney and Mr. Hyde was represented by his attorney by virtue of a power of attorney. Both parties asserted
that the divorce was valid and neither raised a question as to the jurisdiction of
the Dominican Republic court. The Tennessee action was for a declaratory judgment
affirming the validity of the Dominican Republic divorce decree under the doctrine
In recognizing the validity of the Dominican Republic divorce in Hyde, the Tennessee court noted on page 197 that:
"We would, of course, deny comity to a foreign nation decree if its lack of jurisdictional
requirements equivalent to our own resulted in prejudice to any citizens of this state.
It is clear that in this case the difference between Tennessee's jurisdictional requirements
and those of the Dominican Republic have in no sense prejudiced the immediate parties.
To the contrary, they contend that they have relied upon the validity of the Dominican
Republic decree since its rendition more than three (3) years ago and will be prejudiced
if we withhold comity."
The court further noted at 198 that:
"... While Tennessee is not, as a matter of law, required to grant comity to any foreign
decree, the decision to grant comity in a given situation is nevertheless purely a
question of Tennessee law."
While the parties in the Hyde case were in accord with respect to the divorce and jointly submitted to the jurisdiction
of the court, the claimant and her husband did not seek a divorce jointly in Mexico
and it is not clear as to whether the Mexican court had any jurisdiction over either
party. There is also the question of service and notice with respect to the claimant
prior to the divorce.
However, given the statements and information contained in the file, it is our opinion
that absent an affirmative showing that the Mexican court lacked jurisdiction, the
Tennessee courts would not disturb the Mexican divorce decree obtained by Mr. A~.
See, C~, Quentin W~ - ~ RAIV [B~] - to ARC, RSI, 10/09/79. Even if the court did not
honor the divorce decree on the basis of the doctrine of comity, we feel that a Tennessee
court may very well conclude that Mrs. A~ waived her rights to complain of the divorce
and remarriage, and would be estopped to contest the divorce and subsequent remarriage
of Mr. A~. Almost twenty years have passed since the divorce and Mrs. A~ decided not
to take any legal action when she was given notice of the decree after consulting
with an attorney. She made her decision stating that she felt the Mexican divorce
was legal. Consequently, it is our opinion that the Tennessee courts would not allow
Mrs. A~ to challenge the validity of the Mexican divorce under the doctrine of laches
and estoppel. See, Hamm v. Hamm, 614 S.W.2d 366 (Tenn.App. 1980). See, also, - ~ - RAVI [S~] - to RCPC, 07/05/63.