Parents, Partners, and Personal Jurisdiction
Rhonda Wasserman   |   1995 U. Ill. L. Rev.

Generally speaking, a state court can compel a person to appear and defend a civil suit only if the defendant has minimum contacts with the state such that the assertion of jurisdiction over her would be fair and reasonable. In divorce and child custody actions, however, state courts often assert jurisdiction over defending spouses or parents who lack such contacts. Courts justify such assertions of jurisdiction by arguing that a state must have power to determine the civil status of its citizens (regardless of whether others who may have an interest in that status are within the court's jurisdiction). In her article, Professor Wasserman challenges the appropriateness of this status exception in both the divorce and child custody contexts. The article carefully explores the rationales that have been offered, historically and presently, to justify the status exception. The article then critiques each rationale in turn, demonstrating that in the vast majority of divorce and child custody cases, due process requires that the defending party have some connection to the forum state.

* Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law. A.B. 1980, Cornell University; J.D. 1983, Yale Law School.