Anastasi v. Anastasi
544 F.Supp. 866 (1982)

  • The Anastasis (who were not married but were living together) broke up. Ms. Anastasi sued in New Jersey State Court, claiming that Mr. Anastasi had breached his agreement “to provide plaintiff with all her financial support and needs for the rest of her life.”
  • Mr. Anastasi had the case removed the Federal Court on diversity jurisdiction.
  • Ms. Anastasi made a motion to get the case sent back to the State Court.
    • Ms. Anastasi argued that the action was a domestic relations action, which are an exception to Federal jurisdiction and must be heard in State Court.
  • The Federal Trial Judge initially found that the case could be heard in Federal Court.
    • The Federal Trial Judge found that since the two weren’t married, their situation was more like a contract dispute than a domestic relations dispute, and therefore could be heard in Federal Court.
  • The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a totally different case (Crowe v. DeGioia (430 A.2d 251 (1981)), decided that New Jersey Courts were required to hear palimony cases.
  • Upon hearing this, the Federal Trial Judge reversed and remanded the case to New Jersey State Court.
    • The Judge now found that New Jersey announced a significant State interest in consensual live-in relationships. To protect that interest, the courts must basically treat these relationships the same way they treat married couples.
    • Therefore, the trials will be more similar to domestic relations actions than contract actions, and should be heard in State court.
  • The domestic relations exception comes from the old case of Barber v. Barber (62 U.S. 582 (1858)), which said that, “We disclaim altogether any jurisdiction in the courts of the United States upon the subject of divorce…”
    • Basically, Federal courts will not hear divorce, alimony, or child custody cases, even if they otherwise meet the requirements to get into Federal court.
    • It is a State law issue, not a Federal law issue.
    • One reason for this is that the Federal courts can only address the subject from a contract standpoint, they don’t have the experience and historical background to rule on domestic matters and equity matters.
    • Also see Ankenbrandt v. Richards (504 U.S. 689 (1992)), which held that the domestic relations exception can be justified because the Federal courts only have jurisdiction over things that Congress says they have jurisdiction over (see Article III ¤8), and Congress never said that the Federal courts could hear domestic relations cases.