Full Faith and Credit Clause in the Constitution

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Is The Full Faith And Credit Clause?

Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution is known as the “Full Faith and Credit Clause.” In short, it requires that states honor the court judgments of other states.

An example of this would be if a defendant in New Jersey ran a red light and hit your car as you crossed an intersection, and a New Jersey judge awarded you $50,000 in damages. The defendant, however, lives in Texas and refuses to pay you. Texas will assist in enforcing the judgment and collecting your damages according to the Full Faith and Credit clause.

In general, Full Faith and Credit is used to enforce the following:

  • Documents proving the validity of marriage and divorce, such as marriage and divorce certificates;
  • Child custody rulings;
  • Restraining orders;
  • Money judgments; and
  • Criminal convictions.

All fifty states must apply the same standard under the Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, if the Full Faith and Credit Clause conflicts with the state’s public policy, it may not be enforced.

An example of this would be how California permits transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates and state I.D. cards to reflect their current gender.

In contrast, New Mexico does not permit the same changes and does not recognize their public benefit. Due to this, New Mexico is not required to allow transgender people to change their gender identifier on their birth certificates or state identification cards per the full faith and credit clause.

Where Is the Full Faith and Credit Clause Found in the Constitution?

The Full Faith and Credit Clause can be found in the U.S. Constitution in Article IV, Section 1. The original framers of the Constitution included it to help promote unification. As a result, the clause ensures that another state court won’t ignore a state court decision.

The Full Faith and Credit clause also helps prevent “forum shopping.” The purpose is to escape judgment from a previous judgment by seeking a venue in a different state or multiple different locations.

What Does the Full Faith and Credit Clause Cover?

It ensures that any judicial decision in one state is recognized in every other U.S. state. When a court renders a judgment, it is to be honored to the same extent as it was in the state where it was rendered.

When a party moves from one state to another, it can enforce a judgment from the previous state in the new state. It is unnecessary to litigate the same issues anew; instead, the second court must recognize the previous court’s decision.

Generally, the Full Faith and Credit Clause applies to most civil decisions, legislation, and public records. State public records, not just court decisions, must also be honored by other states.

In recent years, the clause has been interpreted as applying to various family law determinations, such as protection orders, divorce rulings, and child custody rulings.

What Full Faith and Credit Means

When the United States backs a bond with full faith and credit, the government must find a way to repay the bond. Full-faith-and-credit bonds include Ginnie Mae bonds and other treasury securities.

Municipalities may attach full faith and credit to bonds they issue, but this is not as valuable as the federal government’s backing.

Court decisions in one state are respected in other states due to the Constitutional clause regarding full faith and credit. In most cases, the clause is used to enforce judgments.

Family Law Application

Various types of orders of protection have been subject to the Full Faith and Credit Clause, including orders of protection, which are invoked by the Violence Against Women Act, and child support orders, for which the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act explains how the clause can be enforced. (28 U.S.C. § 1738B)

Until the Supreme Court struck down all laws prohibiting interracial marriage in 1967, several states prohibited interracial marriage and refused to recognize marriage certificates issued in other states. No state ever used the full faith and credit clause to force a marriage it did not wish to recognize.

Whether the clause applies to state-sanctioned same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships remains unclear, although marriage has been rendered moot.

In 1996 the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman for federal purposes. It allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Legal commentators debated whether the latter provision of DOMA violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Other legal scholars disagreed. According to some scholars, DOMA violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

After a lengthy hearing, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA violated the Equal Protection Clause and did not address the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

The Supreme Court ruled in V.L. v. E.L. that Alabama must recognize the adoption decree granted to a same-sex couple by a Georgia state court in 2007, regardless of how the court reached its decision.

What Is the Full Faith And Credit Clause for Child Custody?

An official child custody agreement is negotiated during child custody proceedings, and it outlines several guidelines for the arrangement, including:

  • Primary custody of a child;
  • Visitation; and
  • Other matters, such as arrangements for custody during school holidays.

The courts will generally honor an agreement created by parents if it is in their child’s best interests. The court may need to intervene if the parties cannot agree on their own.

A custody agreement is crucial to a child’s safety and well-being. It can be hard to determine whether a violation has occurred if there is no custody agreement in place, and one parent takes the child without the other’s permission or knowledge.

The Full Faith and Credit law requires every state to enforce child custody or visitation determinations that the court makes of another state. Maine authorities must enforce custody orders made in Oregon, for example, and abide by them. The rule applies to both permanent and temporary orders and modifications made to court orders in the state where the judgment was entered.

Child custody is affected by Full Faith and Credit because it allows child custody orders to be enforced equally across all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) requires states to enforce child custody judgments from other states.

Do I Need A Child Custody Lawyer?

If you are trying to enforce or modify custody of your child made by the home state, you should consult with a child custody lawyer. Your attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to the laws of your state and any other states involved. A lawyer can also represent you in court, if necessary.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with the Full Faith and Credit Clause?

The Full Faith and Credit Clause is a constitutional law that affects many legal and social issues. It is often difficult to understand them since they can be quite complex. You may wish to hire a government lawyer if you have any constitutional issues that need resolving.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause may apply to you if you are dealing with multiple jurisdictions. Your attorney can explain how such laws affect your claim and help you represent yourself.

Please consider using LegalMatch’s lawyer-matching services today if you have Constitutional law issues that need to be resolved.

Save Time and Money - Speak With a Lawyer Right Away

  • Buy one 30-minute consultation call or subscribe for unlimited calls
  • Subscription includes access to unlimited consultation calls at a reduced price
  • Receive quick expert feedback or review your DIY legal documents
  • Have peace of mind without a long wait or industry standard retainer
  • Get the right guidance - Schedule a call with a lawyer today!

16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer