The parties, U.S. citizens, were married in 1998 in Pennsylvania, and later moved to the UK. On December 16, 2009, a court in the UK dissolved their marriage, and incorporated their November 19, 2009 consent order into its final judgment. The consent order was a separation agreement, which divided the parties’ property and provided for the payment of spousal and child support. In 2010, both parties moved back to the United States. Plaintiff, Ex-Wife, moved to Connecticut. Defendant, Ex-Husband, moved to New York. On April 5, 2010, the Ex-Wife filed the UK divorce decree in CT. On January 25, 2011, she filed a motion to enforce their divorce judgment and approve two QDRO’s to divide retirement assets in the U.S. On March 7, 2011, the court, by agreement of the parties, granted her request and entered the two QDRO’s. In May 2011, the Ex-Wife then filed a motion to modify alimony based on a change in Defendant’s income. On July 5, 2012, the Defendant then likewise sought a modification of spousal support in the same CT court, based on Plaintiff’s cohabitation with another person. On October 4, 2013, the court denied both requests to modify alimony. It did so because of a failure to provide supporting evidence, and not because it determined it lacked jurisdiction. On August 19, 2019, the Ex-Husband filed a new motion to modify alimony on the basis of Plaintiff’s cohabitation. On September 11, 2019, the Ex-Wife filed her own motion to modify alimony and child support. On January 23, 2020, five days before the hearing on their motions, the Ex-Wife filed a motion to dismiss the Ex-Husband’s motion, arguing for the first time that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. On February 21, 2020, the court concluded it did not have subject matter jurisdiction based on its belief that the UK had “continuing, exclusive jurisdiction” over the issue of alimony. It stated that “under the United Kingdom’s Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Order 2007 (REMO) the courts of the United Kingdom keep exclusive jurisdiction over all maintenance orders.” On appeal, the court concluded that to assess whether there is subject matter jurisdiction, the court must look to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). The appellate court concluded that the trial court was wrong and that the court had subject matter jurisdiction under UIFSA to modify the alimony order issued by the UK court.
In exploring UIFSA, the court concluded that CT courts would not have subject matter jurisdiction if the UK courts retained exclusive jurisdiction to modify the in-question spousal support order. So, the key question revolved around whether the UK courts retained that exclusive jurisdiction. In answering this question, the court looked at REMO. The court’s plain reading of REMO appeared to confer concurrent, but not exclusive, jurisdiction over modification of the UK spousal support order in the UK courts. The CT appellate court made note that the Ex-Wife failed to provide evidence to the appellate and trial courts about UK law or how she determined that the UK had exclusivity to modify the order. In other words, because the appellate court determined that the plain reading of REMO did not confer exclusive modification jurisdiction on a UK court, then CT had subject matter jurisdiction to modify the alimony order. The court was clear to point out that the Ex-Wife provided little in terms of evidence, and so it is unclear as to whether hiring an expert in the applicable law, or providing more substance, may have actually caused a different outcome.