On June 30, 2021, the Court of Appeals of Iowa affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Ms. Pitcairn’s petition for marriage dissolution on the basis of forum non conveniens. Ms. Pitcairn and Mr. Renaud married in France in 2005, lived most of their marriage in France, Mr. Renaud is French and Ms. Pitcairn and their children are dual nationals, and most of the parties’ assets are outside of the United States. The parties also signed a French prenuptial agreement, governed by French law. Mr. Renaud commenced a divorce suit in France on February 24, 2020. Ms. Pitcairn commenced a divorce suit in Iowa on August 18, 2020. Mr. Renaud sought the Iowa suit’s dismissal, which was granted on the ground that Iowa is an inconvenient forum.
When two jurisdictions may be appropriate forums to resolve a matter, the court will look at the relative inconveniences, and assess whether they are so unbalanced that it should decline to hear a case on an equitable basis. The court reviewed a variety of factors, such as: access to evidence, cost and ease of trial attendance, enforceability of the final judgment, and other practical issues that may make a trial in a particular jurisdiction easier, quicker, and less expensive. The fact that this couple had significant assets in France and neighboring European countries meant that the valuation of those assets would be difficult for an Iowa court to coordinate or compel, and an Iowa court order disposing of those assets would be difficult to enforce. Any witnesses that would inevitably need to testify as to the value of assets would be found closer to the French court than the Iowa court. Documents related to the value of assets would all need to be translated from French to English for the Iowa court. The trial judge did not err in finding that Iowa is an inconvenient forum.