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What Is the Full Faith and Credit Clause?

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What Is the Full Faith and Credit Clause?

The Full Faith and Credit Clause is an important part of the U.S. Constitution. Found in Article IV, Section 1, the clause requires that all decisions, public records, and rulings from one state be honored in all the other U.S. states. That is, each U.S. court must give "full faith" and "credit" to the decisions rendered by other courts. Without the Full Faith and Credit Clause, conflicts might arise between states, and the legal system would be entangled in various overlapping rulings.

Does the Full Faith and Credit Clause Apply to Family Law Rulings?

Yes, aside from public records and legislative issues, the Full Faith and Credit Clause requires courts to recognize various family law rulings coming in from other states. For instance, the clause may require courts to uphold out-of-state rulings regarding:

  • Protection orders
  • Marriage issues (such as interracial marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc.)
  • Birth certificates
  • Child custody and visitation (in particular, relocation out of state is a major issue in these cases)
  • Child support determinations

What If a Person Attempts to Violate the Clause?

Thus, a person cannot simply relocate to another state simply for the purpose of obtaining a different ruling on child custody or other family law issues. Instead, what will happen is that the court in the new state will examine records from the previous rulings in the other state, and will institute findings based on these records.

Purposely finding fault with a particular court, or going from place to place looking for a suitable venue is generally prohibited by laws of civil procedure. Abuses of the Full Faith and Credit Clause can lead to consequences for the plaintiff, such as a contempt order or a court fine.

On the other hand, if the court violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause by not honoring a ruling from another court, it could lead to a re-determination of the case or an appeal in a different court.

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

Dealing with constitutional laws can often be very challenging. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need help with any type of constitutional law or with any procedural matters. Your attorney can guide you to the proper solution for your issue, and can represent you in court if you need to file a legal claim.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-23-2015 09:46 AM PDT

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