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Plaintiff Seeks to Convert Judgment from Dominican Republic to New York


A New York Family Lawyer said in a proceeding to convert a judgment of divorce from the Dominican Republic to a New York judgment, the plaintiff wife appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County, which denied her application for leave to file the judgment from the Dominican Republic as a New York judgment.

A New York Custody Lawyer said that the plaintiff commenced an action for a divorce in the Supreme Court, New York County. She and the defendant subsequently entered into a separation agreement, which, among other things, provided for child support for their three children.

After the separation agreement was signed, the parties apparently decided against pursuing the New York County matrimonial action any further. With the plaintiff’s consent, the defendant went to the Dominican Republic and obtained a bilateral judgment of divorce. This judgment recited that the parties expressly consented to the jurisdiction of the Dominican Republic. The New York separation agreement was incorporated by reference, but not merged, in the judgment.

The record reflects subsequent litigation resulting from the defendant’s failure to make child support payments. Thereafter, the plaintiff commenced an action in the Supreme Court, Nassau County, to enforce the support provisions in the separation agreement. This action resulted in the entry of a money judgment for counsel fees, costs, and disbursements.

A Long Island Family Lawyer said the plaintiff believed that her cause would be advanced if the judgment of divorce from the Dominican Republic were converted to a New York judgment of divorce. She therefore moved the Supreme Court for this relief. Her first motion was denied with leave to renew, and, upon renewal, the court again declined to convert the judgment from the Dominican Republic to a New York judgment.

In an order, the Supreme Court, Nassau County, stated that although the plaintiff “may be entitled to recognition and enforcement of the provisions of the Dominican Republic judgment”, the judgment could not be “converted” because (1) it did not meet the definition of a money judgment from a foreign country, and (2) it was not entitled to the same treatment as a judgment of another state–that is, it could not be accorded full faith and credit.

A Long Island Child Custody Lawyer said that after this motion was denied, the plaintiff and the defendant entered into a stipulation, in which the defendant agreed to pay child support arrears and gave the plaintiff the right to file the judgment from the Dominican Republic as if it were a judgment of New York. Thereafter, the plaintiff moved to incorporate certain items of the separation agreement into a court order “per the stipulation of the parties” so as to enable the plaintiff to enforce those provisions as if they were part of a New York judgment or order, to compel the defendant to post security in the amount of $25,000, and for reasonable attorneys’ fees.

The plaintiff submitted a proposed order, which among other things, directed that the judgment from the Dominican Republic be filed in Nassau County and have the same force and effect as a New York State judgment of divorce, in accordance with the parties’ stipulation. The motion was not opposed.

In the order appealed from, the court denied the application. It stated that plaintiff was, in essence, asking the court to “so order” the parties’ stipulation and, referring to its earlier order, held that it lacked the subject matter jurisdiction to convert the Dominican Republic judgment into a New York judgment. The Court agreed.

Both the bilateral Dominican Republic judgment and the separation agreement incorporated therein are entitled to recognition, and the plaintiff thus can look to the New York courts to enforce any of their provisions. Indeed, the defendant himself was instrumental in obtaining the judgment and has never challenged its validity.

He now would be hard pressed to object to enforcement on the ground that the judgment should not be recognized. However, under the common law, the courts of this State had no jurisdiction over matrimonial matters, and the power of the Supreme Court over such a matter is thus derived solely by virtue of statutory grants of authority. The Court agreed with the Supreme Court that neither CPLR article 53 nor CPLR article 54 provides the authority to file, and thereby convert, a judgment of divorce from a foreign country to a New York judgment. Since the court lacked the statutory power to act on the plaintiff’s application, it was constrained to deny it, notwithstanding the consent of the adverse party. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction is not curable by waiver, consent, estoppel, or laches. Accordingly, the order appealed from is affirmed.

Divorce is the proper remedy for irreconcilable difference among couples. With this remedy, the parties will be separated from each other and start a new life. Here in Stephen Bilkis and Associates, our Nassau County Divorce lawyers will file a petition for divorce in order to help a party who is no longer happy with his/her marriage. Considering the pertinent grounds for divorce, our Nassau County Family attorneys will help the couples to severe their relationships. At the same time, we will also help their children by advising the couples of what proper remedy to avail in order to protect the interests of their children.

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