The Court of Appeal of the State of California (4th Appellate District – Division 3) issued an unpublished opinion on April 24, 2020 in Kwon v. Park (G057226) addressing a variety of issues in a couple’s multi-jurisdictional divorce.
Ms. Kwon and Mr. Park are embroiled in divorce litigation in both Korea and California. To get a fuller picture of the multi-jurisdictional interplay, one needs to also review the briefs in this case.
The spouses in this case are both Korean nationals who had a residence in Irvine, CA. The parties separated in mid-2017 and Ms. Kwon filed a petition for dissolution in California shortly thereafter. In her petition, she listed the marital assets of which she was aware, but noted a need for pre-trial discovery to fully understand all the assets. Ms. Kwon then proceeded to serve Mr. Park with a variety of CA pleadings, including subpoenas duces tecum, letters rogatory to discover assets in Mexico, and a preliminary declaration of disclosure. Approximately 1 1/2 months after the CA case was initiated, and shortly after Ms. Kwon served certain discovery on Mr. Park, Mr. Park filed a Korean divorce action. The Korean court learned of the CA case, and expressed concerns of conflicting judgments. Ultimately, the Korean court held its case in abeyance, waiting for some resolution in the CA case.
Mr. Park chose not to participate in the CA case, and a default judgment was entered. Mr. Park then filed a series of motions, none granted, trying to set aside the CA action and quash the discovery attempts by Ms. Kwon.
This case holds interest for the international practitioner and gives a glimpse into forum-shopping in divorce proceedings. It underscores the differences between the disclosures that are usual in a court case in Korea versus California. It also gives the reader a sense of judicial cooperation, with the Korean judge expressing concern over conflicting judgments.
Above all, the opinion underpins the genuine need for legal counsel in both countries early in the case to ensure a full examination of all the pertinent issues and to address any forum-shopping.