Beware of Foreign Actions if You Reside in New York

The following is meant as a general statement of the law and should not be relied upon in any specific situation which may differ depending upon the specific facts and circumstances. You may contact Cox Padmore Skolnik & Shakarchy LLP for advice relative to your particular situation.

Rulings of foreign courts are generally recognized by New York courts, unless they offend public policy of this State. This rule can wreak havoc for unsuspecting individuals who think that getting relief from a foreign court is cheaper and faster. Once the foreign court enters a decision in the foreign case, New York may be left without jurisdiction. The plan to resolve one issue in the foreign court and then litigate other issues in New York may backfire and leave New York with nothing to litigate. When a couple living in New York has connections to a foreign country, problems can arise during the parties' divorce. As an example, if one party goes to the foreign country and seeks a divorce there, while a family court action is pending in New York, rulings by the foreign court MAY affect the family court action in New York and may result in a dismissal of the family court action in favor of the foreign court. While the individual who went to the foreign country may lose New York as the forum, the other party may still go to New York and try to attack the validity of the foreign judgment in a collateral proceeding in New York. (Remember - a New York court might choose to abide by a foreign order or judgment even if the defendant in the foreign action failed to participate in the foreign action.) This could have serious ramifications in international child abduction cases involving countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. If a parent takes a child from the United States in a manner that violates the Hague Convention, an order of the foreign court, granting custody to the abductor, might be recognized by a New York court as valid if the non-abductor participated in the foreign court proceeding. Before agreeing that a foreign court may assume jurisdiction in a divorce matter, a litigant should consider whether actions taken in the foreign court might impact negatively on issues of child custody or equitable distribution in America.

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