In a March 2, 2020 opinion by the Supreme Court in New York County in Federbush v. Shah (2020 NY Slip Op 50300(U)), the court addressed a multi-jurisdictional divorce suit between a couple that had married in Thailand 8 years earlier. The couple had signed a prenuptial agreement on the same date as their wedding, which divided property by title, and Wife gave birth to a child about 2 months later. The family lived in Thailand until mid-2017 when they then relocated to NY. While Husband is American, the Wife’s nationality presented problems for her remaining in the United States for more than a set number of days at a time. Approximately 1 year after their arrival in NY, the parties separated while vacationing in Thailand.
The family was embroiled in 3 separate court cases. Wife filed a Hague return petition in NY that was denied, finding that NY had become the child’s habitual residence by agreement of his parents. Before this decision was rendered, Wife filed a divorce action in Thailand, which she later amended, requesting enforcement of their prenuptial agreement. A few months thereafter, Husband filed a divorce action in NY and did not appear or file any papers in the Thai action.
Husband asked the NY court to enjoin the Wife from proceeding in Thailand. The Thai proceeding is entitled to recognition as a matter of comity. The underlying issues that the Husband raises about the existence of a valid prenuptial agreement can be litigated in Thailand. He provided no evidence of fraud or prejudice, or any evidence why the Thai courts would not hold a “just” hearing. Husband further argued that the Thai courts were an inconvenient forum, however, most financial assets, documents, and witnesses were located primarily in Thailand, and the parties’ prenuptial agreement was signed in Thailand, under Thai law, when the couple resided in Thailand and were married there, and lived there for quite some time thereafter. The Husband’s request was denied, and further, the court declined to exercise jurisdiction over all causes of action filed in NY by the Husband, except for custody and child support. The remaining issues were stayed pending conclusion of the Thai divorce.