Arguments Over Divorce Jurisdiction

Tracey Hejailan-Amon’s husband Maurice Amon filed for divorce in Monaco in October of 2015. Tracey then filed for divorce in New York. About a year and a half later, the parties are still arguing over which court has jurisdiction over their divorce. Why? Because Monaco’s divorce law allows spouses to take back gifts that were given while married. It appears that New York law, on the other hand, provides that gifts stay with the receiving spouse even after divorce. And the Amon’s divorce is not your typical one. The “gifts” that the parties are fighting over amount to about $70 million dollars!!

If either you or your spouse do not live in California, or you live in different counties within California, there may be multiple courts with jurisdiction over your divorce. This could lead to a jurisdictional challenge. While an extreme example, the Amon’s case with $70 million dollars at stake demonstrates why one spouse may want to have the divorce decided in one jurisdiction versus another. Because divorce laws vary from state-to-state and country-to-country, the laws of one jurisdiction may be much more beneficial to one spouse or the other than the alternative possible jurisdiction.

As another example, say there is a woman living in California who is married to a man who moved to Texas for a high paying job 6 months ago. The wife works part time in California, making significantly less that the husband. After living in different states for 6 months, the couple decided it was time to divorce. The wife wants to file for divorce in California and the husband adamantly wants to file in Texas. Why? Because Wife believes that she will fare significantly better under the laws of California, especially when it comes to spousal support. Husband, feeling the same, wants to be in the Court that will order him to pay the least amount of money. Husband believes that the Texas court will order him to pay less. (Note that we make no representations regarding the laws in Texas!) Now, the parties may get caught up in a jurisdictional mess before they are even able to address the issues in their divorce.

The residency requirements to get divorced in California are pretty simple. You must meet the following requirements: You OR your spouse must have lived in California for the past 6 months, and you must have been in the specific county where you will file for the past 3 months. In New York, unless both spouses are residing there at the time of divorce, the state’s laws require a residency period of one to two years before a divorce can be filed there.  In the Amon’s case, Mauricio interestingly enough used pictures of Tracey’s Monaco closet and extensive shoe collection to show that she resided in Monaco rather than New York. He argued that no one would have so many shoes in a place that they did not live for most of the time!

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding property division and trust accounts. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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