Dissolution of Marriage Granted Despite Foreign Jurisdiction

by Joseph C. Maya on Jul. 03, 2017

Divorce & Family Law Divorce International  International Other 

Summary: A blog post about a case in which a Connecticut court granted a divorce to a couple who was married in Guatemala and one of the spouses had never stepped foot in Connecticut.

If you have questions about divorce, legal separation, alimony pendente lite, or alimony in Connecticut, please feel free to call the experienced divorce attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport today at 203-221-3100 or email Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Connecticut Superior Court granted a dissolution of marriage despite arguments on jurisdiction raised in respect to a pending case in the plaintiff’s home country.

Case Overview

The parties were married in Guatemala in 1993 and resided there together until the plaintiff moved to Connecticut on or about July 10, 2014. They have three children, only one of whom is a minor; he is seventeen years old and resides in Guatemala. To the knowledge of the plaintiff, the defendant has never set foot in the State of Connecticut.

The plaintiff described psychological abuse and threats which she endured throughout the marriage. When she asked her husband for a divorce in October 2012, he reacted in an angry and threatening matter. Unable to obtain his consent for a divorce, the wife filed an action for divorce in a Guatemalan court in May 2014. After the filing, the threats by her husband and by his father escalated to the point where the plaintiff feared for her life. As a result, she moved to the United States in July 2014 and applied for asylum on human rights grounds, claiming that her safety and even her life would be at risk if she were to return to Guatemala. Her asylum application is still in process. She has no desire or intention ever to return to Guatemala.

In the meantime, her divorce action has remained pending in the court of that country. The plaintiff’s understanding from discussions with her Guatemalan attorney is that the case there will not go forward unless she returns to Guatemala to pursue it in person, which she has no intention of doing. By the same token, her understanding is that there is no procedure available for her to withdraw her Guatemalan divorce action, at least not from Connecticut. Furthermore, it is unclear whether or when the court in Guatemala would dismiss the plaintiff’s action for her failure to prosecute it. In the meantime, the case remains pending indefinitely.

The Court’s Decision

The court granted the plaintiff’s motion. The plaintiff resided in Connecticut for 12 months before requesting a dissolution of marriage. The court found the defendant’s argument did not account for the court’s authority in some matters outside their traditional area of subject matter jurisdiction.

Even assuming the Guatemalan court possesses jurisdiction over the whole case, the court finds that there are private interest factors weighing against that forum. The plaintiff has a private interest in obtaining the dissolution of her marriage without returning to a place where she has reason to fear for her safety. To resume the litigation in Guatemala, the wife would have to return to that country, abandon her application for asylum and expose herself to the dangers which caused her to leave in the first place.

Furthermore, the court found the dissolution to align with the public’s interest. The court saw no reason for this case to remain suspended in “jurisdictional limbo” as a result of geographic location and an inability to withdraw the prior motion.

For a free consultation, please do not hesitate to call the experienced family law and divorce attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, CT at 203-221-3100. We may also be reached for inquiries by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Source: De Jiminez v. Monzon,  2016 Conn. Super. LEXIS 686 (Conn. Super. 2016).

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