Kovacs v. Brewer

LOCATION: West Los Angeles Police Station

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)

CITATION: 356 US 604 (1958)
ARGUED: Apr 03, 1958
DECIDED: May 26, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for Kovacs v. Brewer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 03, 1958 in Kovacs v. Brewer

Earl Warren:

Number 200, Aida S. Kovacs versus George A. Brewer.

Mr. Haimoff, you may proceed and we understand that there is no one here on the bottom side is that correct?

Louis Haimoff:

That is correct, Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice, if the Court please.

This case is here on certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of North -- North Carolina.

The judgment involved is a judgment of the Supreme Court in North Carolina which denied the petition of the petitioner here, Mrs. Kovacs, to enforce in North Carolina an award of the New York Court which had -- which had awarded to her the custody of her child.

The child was then eight years of age, a little girl.

The case comes here on the following facts.

The parties were married originally in New York where they resided.

The marriage occurred in 1945.

The child was born in New York in 1946.

In 1950, the husband brought an action against the wife for divorce in New York and after a trial, judgment was rendered in favor of the husband against the wife.

With respect to custody, the court held that while it would not have ordinarily taken the child from his mother really by reason of the misconduct which had been found in the case, nevertheless, the Court did so for the reason that he found that the mother's financial situation and circumstances with such as not to promote the interest and welfare of the child.

There was another problem with respect to custody because the husband was then in the navy and has been throughout this proceeding.

William O. Douglas:

This is where?

Louis Haimoff:

In the navy.

He was enlisted, a man in the navy.

William O. Douglas:


Louis Haimoff:

If he is, Your Honor, in the navy.

For that reason, the court ultimately decided to award the custody of the child to the paternal grandfather who was a resident of North Carolina.

And accordingly the child, he went to North Carolina and remained there with her grandfather.

William O. Douglas:

The child is still in North Carolina?

Louis Haimoff:

So far, as the record is concerned, yes Your Honor.

In 1951 and again in 1952, Mrs. Kovacs made application to the Supreme Court in New York to modify the order which has been made and both of these applications were denied.

The court presumably finding that there has been no sufficient change in her circumstances as to warrant any change of custody.

In 1954, however, she married Joseph Kovacs who has been named as correspondent in the original divorce action and she went to live with him in Riverdale, New York.

Based upon this change in her circumstances, a new application was made, came on to be heard, the Brewers, the grandfather, the father and son appeared by counsel submitted affidavits and upon the basis of the evidence submitted, the court modified its earlier order and awarded custody of the child to Mrs.Kovacs.

With this order, the petitioner here attempted to obtain custody of the child.

The Brewers however refused voluntarily to surrender the child.

William O. Douglas:

Who appeared in that New York proceeding?