V.L. v. E.L.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: March 7, 2016
  • Case #: 15-648
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam
  • Full Text Opinion

When a state court has jurisdiction over an adoption judgement, the Full Faith and Credit clause requires recognition of that adoption by another state.

Petitioner and Respondent are two women who raised three children together. Respondent is the birth parent and Petitioner is the legal co-parent by adoption, granted by a court in Georgia. When Petitioner and Respondent later separated while living in Alabama, the Alabama Supreme Court refused to grant petitioner custody and visitation rights claiming that the Georgia court lacked subject matter jurisdiction in granting Petitioner’s adoption of the children, and Alabama was therefore not required to grant full faith and credit. The full faith and credit clause of the Constitution requires that states grant decisions of foreign states’ courts full faith and credit, but this does not extend to decisions where the foreign state court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the case. Alabama relies on a statute claiming that third parties may not adopt children without the natural parents relinquishing their rights, and another that demands the statute be strictly construed, and claims that the Georgia court exceeded its jurisdiction by not strictly construing the law.

Georgia law grants jurisdiction over adoptions to Superior Courts. The Supreme Court states that the decision not to strictly construe a statute is not a jurisdictional issue and that it must therefore be challenged on the merits. Alabama erred in not enforcing the Georgia decision under the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

REVERSED AND REMANDED

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