Jiminez v. De La Cruz

CourtSuperior Court of Connecticut
Decision Date05 September 2017
Docket NumberFA156058052
PartiesOcasina Jiminez v. Martin De La Cruz

Ocasina Jiminez

Martin De La Cruz

No. FA156058052

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of New Haven, New Haven

September 5, 2017



Kenneth L. Shluger, J.

Memorandum of Decision Re Motion to Open and Set Aside Judgment #134.10 and 134.20

The question presented is whether the 2017 Connecticut divorce judgment of the parties is invalidated by a 2013 divorce proceeding in the Dominican Republic?

A review of the record reveals that the parties were married on January 2, 1987 in the Dominican Republic. There are 3 children, issue of the marriage born 1989, 1996, and 1997.

The parties were divorced on January 13, 2017 pursuant to an agreement in the New Haven judicial district providing for the care and custody of the children, alimony, and property distribution. Now comes the defendant, seeking to open and set aside said judgment claiming that the parties were previously divorced in the Dominican Republic on April 22, 2013 and, therefore, this court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to have entered a judgment of dissolution thereafter. A hearing was held before the undersigned on July 11, 2017.

The court has fully considered the applicable statutes as well as the evidence, applicable case law, the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses, and arguments of counsel in reaching the decisions reflected in the orders that issue in this decision.


The court finds that the following facts were proven by a preponderance of the evidence:

1. The parties were married on January 2, 1987 in the Dominican Republic
2. There are 3 children, issue of the marriage born 1989 1996 and 1997
3. Beginning in 2011, the parties were having financial difficulties, particularly as it pertained to their home mortgage
4. In 2011, the parties entered into a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy reorganization in an effort to reduce the home mortgage debt.
5. Thereafter, the parties were still having financial problems with their home mortgage and the wife proposed that they get divorced just so she could refinance the mortgage at a lower rate, with her qualifying as a single mother. The husband quit claimed his interest in the marital residence to the wife on October 15, 2012.
6. The parties participated in a divorce through paperwork filed in the Dominican Republic on March 23, 2013. The decree itself was rendered on April 22, 2013.
7. Soon thereafter, the wife was able to qualify for a mortgage modification.
8. The Dominican Republic divorce judgment (exhibit B) recites that both parties are " respectively domiciled and residents in the United States of North America and accidentally in this city of Bonao [Dominican Republic]."
9. The Dominican Republic divorce judgment purports to enter a dissolution and establish custody of the children but makes no disposition of assets or debts, life insurance, health insurance, nor does it reference alimony or child support.
10. The parties continued to live together as husband and wife, raising their children as a family, paying their bills as a family and engaging in all aspects of their marital relationship without change until 2015. In 2014, the husband gave to the wife $10, 000 so she could start a business with her sister.
11. Both parties have resided continuously and been domiciled in Connecticut from at least 2012 to the present time. At no time in 2013 was either party ever present in the Dominican Republic.
12. On October 22, 2015, the wife instituted dissolution proceedings in the judicial district of New Haven and the husband vacated the marital residence.
13. The husband filed an appearance, a cross complaint and numerous pleadings in the protracted litigation, which lasted for 15 months.
14. At no time during the litigation or during the hearing at which time the dissolution agreement was entered did either party make any reference to a previous divorce in the Dominican Republic.
15. The parties were divorced on January 13, 2017 pursuant to an agreement in the New Haven judicial district.
16. From January 13, 2017 until recently, the husband abided by the terms and conditions of the New Haven judgment. It was not until the wife filed a motion for contempt on March 31, 2017 did the husband raise the question of the validity of their divorce.

The central question presented is whether the Dominican Republic divorce proceeding in which the parties participated in 2013 is recognized and binding under Connecticut law.


" The full faith and credit clause of the constitution of the United States does not apply to a divorce obtained in a foreign country. Courts of the United States are not required by federal law to give full force and effect to a judgment granted in a foreign nation. Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113, 16 S.Ct. 139, 40 L.Ed. 95 [1895]; Rosenbaum v. Rosenbaum, 309 N.Y. 371, 130 N.E.2d 902 [1955]; Caldwell v. Caldwell, 298 N.Y. 146, 81 N.E.2d 60 [1948]; Christopher v. Christopher, 198 Ga. 361, 31 S.E.2d 818 [1944]; 33 Fordham L.Rev. 449; 32 U.Chi.L.Rev. 802. On the other hand, judgments of courts of foreign countries are recognized in the United States because of the comity due to the courts and judgments of one nation from another. Such recognition is granted to foreign judgments with due regard to international duty and convenience, on the one hand, and to rights of citizens of the United States and others under the protection of its laws, on the other hand. This principle is frequently applied in divorce cases; a decree of divorce granted in one country by a court having jurisdiction to do so will be given full force and effect in another country by comity, not only as a decree determining status, but also with respect to an award of alimony and child support. The principle of comity, however, has several important exceptions and qualifications. A decree of divorce will not be recognized by comity where it was obtained by a procedure which denies due process of law in the real sense of the term, or was obtained by fraud, or where the divorce offends the public policy of the state in which recognition is sought, or where the foreign court lacked jurisdiction. 24 Am.Jur.2d, Divorce and Separation, § 964." Litvaitis v. Litvaitis, 162 Conn. 540, 544-45, 295 A.2d 519 (1972).


In terms of whether the court of the Dominican Republic had jurisdiction, " [a] divorce judgment is a judgment in rem. Vogel v. Sylvester, 148 Conn. 666, 670, 174 A.2d 122 [1961]. If a divorce judgment is pronounced by a tribunal which does not have jurisdiction to do so, it may be attacked collaterally on that ground in this country; comity will not demand its recognition. Thus, ordinarily, our courts will not recognize a divorce obtained in a foreign country if neither spouse had a [domicile] in that country. The rule that a [domicile] of at least one of the spouses is essential to give the court jurisdiction to grant a divorce applies to decrees of foreign nations as well as to decrees entered within the United States, even though a [domicile] is not required by the laws of the jurisdiction which grants the divorce. 24 Am.Jur.2d, Divorce and Separation, s 965; see Rice v. Rice, 134 Conn. 440, 445, 58 A.2d 523 [1948], aff'd, 336 U.S. 674, 69 S.Ct. 751, 93 L.Ed. 957 [1949]; State v. Cooke, 110 Conn. 348, 351, 148 A. 385 [1930]; Gildersleeve v. Gildersleeve, 88 Conn. 689, 692, 92 A. 684 [1914]. The traditional requisite for subject-matter jurisdiction in matrimonial proceedings has been [domicile]. Rice v. Rice, supra . 'Under our system of law, judicial power to grant a divorce . . . is founded on [domicile].' Williams v. North Carolina, 325 U.S. 226, 229, 65 S.Ct. 1092, 1095, 89 L.Ed. 1577 [1945]. Regardless of its validity in the nation awarding it, the courts of this country will not generally recognize a judgment of divorce rendered by the courts of a foreign nation as valid to terminate the existence of a marriage unless, by the standards of the jurisdiction in which recognition is sought, at least one of the spouses was a good faith domiciliary in the foreign nation at the time the decree was rendered. Note, 13 A.L.R.3d 1419; see Wells v. Wells, 230 Ala. 430, 161 So. 794 [1935]; Estate of Nolan, 56 Ariz. 361, 108 P.2d 388 [1940]; Bethune v. Bethune, 192 Ark. 811, 94 S.W.2d 1043 [1936]; note, 192 Ark. 811, 94 S.W.2d 1043, 105 A.L.R. 817." Litvaitis v. Litvaitis, supra, 162 Conn. 545-46. See also, Juma v. Aomo, 143 Conn.App. 51, 57-58, 68 A.3d 148 (2013), wherein the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court because, inter alia, the trial court found that the divorce obtained by the defendant in Kenya was not entitled to recognition on the basis of comity because neither party was domiciled in Kenya when the divorce was filed.

It is noted, that in Spalding v. Spalding, 171 Conn. 220, 224-28, 368 A.2d 14 (1976), the court stated that Rice v. Rice, supra, 134 Conn. 441, was " a case involving the recognition of a Nevada divorce decree . . . [and that the language of Rice v. Rice, supra ] . . . equated [domicile] on the date of the decree with the proper jurisdiction for recognition under the full faith and credit clause. It must be read, however, in the light of the fact that the state referee in that case found that the complainant in the Nevada action had never acquired [domicile] in Nevada. Furthermore, in the later case of White v. White, 138 Conn. 1, 8, 81 A.2d 450 [1951], the court looked to [domicile] at the date the action in the other state began . . . Rice v. Rice, supra, is inconsistent with both Baker v. Baker, supra, [166 Conn. 476, 488, 352 A.2d 277 (1971)], and White v. White, supra, and, to the extent of the inconsistency, it is overruled. The court in the present action properly looked to...

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