New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook by Joel R. Brandes is available in Bookstores and online in the print edition at the Bookbaby Bookstore, Amazon Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other online book sellers. It is also available in Kindle ebook editions and epub ebook editions for all ebook readers in our website bookstore. The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook is divided into five parts: (1) Preliminary Matters Prior to the Commencement of Trial, Conduct of Trial and Rules of Evidence Particularly Applicable in Matrimonial Matters; (2); Establishing Grounds for Divorce, Separation and Annulment and Defenses; (3) Obtaining Maintenance, Child Support, Exclusive Occupancy and Counsel Fees; (4) Property Distribution and Evidence of Value; and (5) Trial of a Custody Case. There are thousands of suggested questions for the examination and cross-examination of witnesses dealing with very aspect of the matrimonial trial. Click on this link for more information about the contents of the book and on this link for the complete table of contents.

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was reviewed by Bernard Dworkin, Esq., in the New York Law Journal on December 21, 2017. His review is reprinted on our website at http://www.nysdivorce.com with the permission of the New York Law Journal.

Joel R. Brandes, is the author of Law and The Family New York, 2d (9 volumes) (Thomson Reuters), and Law and the Family New York Forms (5 volumes) (Thomson Reuters). Law and the Family New York, 2d is a treatise and a procedural guide. Volume 4A of the treatise contains more than 950 pages devoted to an analysis of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. It contains a complete discussion of the cases construing the Convention which have been decided by the United States Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts of Appeal, the District Courts, and the New York Courts.


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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Singh v Pierpont, 2014 WL 6471374 (D. Hawaii)[Canada] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Res Judicata]




In Singh v Pierpont, 2014 WL 6471374 (D. Hawaii) Singh and Pierpont were married on March 12, 2010. They were living in Honolulu, Hawaii at the time, and Singh was a musician with the Honolulu Symphony. W.R.P. was born in Hawaii‘i in July 2010. Singh auditioned for and was offered a position in the Winnipeg Symphony. In September 2010, the family moved to Winnipeg, Canada, where they lived in a rental property.  In August 2011, while the family was in Hawaii‘i, Pierpont served Singh with divorce papers. Pierpont filed the divorce action in the State of Hawaii‘i Family Court of the First Circuit. Pierpont filed a pre-decree motion seeking temporary sole legal and sole physical custody of W.R.P. Hawaii Family Court Judge Paul T. Murakami orally awarded Singh temporary sole physical custody and ordered joint legal custody. The ruling allowed Singh to return to Winnipeg with W.R.P., subject to certain conditions. On February 4, 2013, Hawai‘i Family Court Judge Na‘unanikinau Kamalii issued the Decree Granting Absolute Divorce and Awarding Child Custody.  Judge Kamalii, inter alia, awarded Singh sole physical custody, subject to Pierpont’s right to reasonable visitation. The Divorce Decree stated: Hague Convention, Jurisdiction and Venue.The court finds that the child [sic] habitual residence for the purposes of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction is the United States of America. Neither party shall have the ability to change the habitual residence of the child without the written consent of the other in the form of a stipulated order or further order of the court, and no action of either parent other than entering into a stipulated written order adopted by this court as an order shall suffice to establish consent to or acquiescence in a change of the child’s habitual residence in any other nation. It is the intention of the court that the habitual residence shall remain in the United States of America and that any foreign travel to or stay in any foreign country shall be temporary in nature and not result in a change of habitual residence. Hawaii will also retain child custody modification jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), so long as the child or at least one of the parties resides in Hawaii and venue shall remain in Honolulu, so long as at least one parent resides in Honolulu.

Pierpont filed a number of post-decree motions. Singh was represented by counsel at the hearing, but Singh herself did not appear. Judge Souza found her in default. After hearing testimony from Pierpont, receiving exhibits from both parties, and hearing counsel’s arguments, Judge Souza orally made findings that there had been a material change in W.R.P.’s circumstances and that it was in W.R.P.’s best interest to award sole physical custody to Pierpont, effective thirty days from the date of the hearing. The 4/4/14 Hawai‘i Order memorialized Judge Souza’s oral findings and orders at the March 12, 2014 hearing. Judge Souza found that he had continuing exclusive jurisdiction to make custody and visitation orders regarding W.R.P., pursuant to the UCCJEA, Haw.Rev.Stat. § 583–202, because the Hawai‘i Family Court issued the last order regarding custody and visitation, and Pierpont resided in Hawai‘i since that time.  The 4/4/14 Hawai‘i Order stated that, if Singh failed to return W.R.P. to the City and County of Honolulu on or before April 12, 2014,  then [Pierpont] shall be entitled to go to his residence in Winnipeg, Canada, or wherever else the child may be found, and take possession of him. In that regard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Winnipeg Police Service, and any other law enforcement officer or agency wheresoever located, are authorized, requested and directed to assist [Pierpont] to safely and securely regain immediate possession of the child.... 

On April 4, 2014, Singh filed an Application Under: The Child Custody Enforcement Act in the Queen’s Bench (Family Division), Winnipeg Centre (“the Canada Family Court”), seeking an order granting her primary care and control of W.R.P. On April 11, 2014, the Canada Family Court held a hearing on the Canada Application. Pierpont did not appear at the hearing, but he was represented by counsel. On May 6, 2014, the Canada Family Court filed an Interim Order granting Singh interim custody of W.R.P. and ordering that he remain in Winnipeg, in the Province of Manitoba, until further order of the court . On May 5, 2014, after an April 16, 2014 proceeding during which Pierpont appeared by telephone, the Canada Family Court signed an Interim Order stating that Pierpont was to have care and control of W.R.P. from May 5, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. until May 21, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., except for certain overnight periods specified in the order. Pierpont’s counsel signed the order, approving its form and content. Pierpont took W.R.P. from Canada to Hawai‘i in May 2014.  W.R.P. had been living with Singh in Canada until that time. W.R.P. had remained with Pierpont in Hawai‘i since May.

Pierpont moved to dismiss or for summary judgment. In his motion, Pierpont argued that he was entitled to dismissal of, or in the alternative, summary judgment because: the divorce decree expressly found that the United States was W.R.P.’s habitual residence; W.R.P.’s habitual residence had never changed since then; and Pierpont’s act of returning W.R.P. to his habitual residence was not a violation of either the Hague Convention or ICARA, regardless of the Canada Family Court’s orders.

  The district court held that as threshold matter, it had to determine where W.R.P.’s habitual residence was at the time Pierpont removed him from Canada. Pierpont emphasized that the Divorce Decree was the only court order that addresses the issue of W.R.P.’s habitual residence, and he argued that the Court must accept Judge Kamalii’s finding that the United States was W.R.P.’s habitual residence under the res judicata, i.e. claim preclusion, doctrine. It observed that the Ninth Circuit, however, has held that ordinary principles of claim and issue preclusion do not apply to claims under ICARA and the Convention. See Holder v. Holder, 305 F.3d 854, 863–64 (9th Cir.2002). It  noted in Holder that 42 U.S.C. § 11603(g)  provides that federal courts adjudicating Hague Convention petitions must accord full faith and credit only to the judgments of those state or federal courts that actually adjudicated a Hague Convention claim in accordance with the dictates of the Convention and ICARA. Gaudin v. Remis, 415 F.3d 1028, 1034 (9th Cir.2005). In this case the Divorce Decree did not order or deny the return of W.R.P., pursuant to the Hague Convention, and there was no evidence in the record that either Singh or Pierpont raised a Hague Convention/ICARA claim during the divorce proceedings. Thus, there was no genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether the Hawai‘i Family Court actually adjudicated a Hague Convention/ICARA claim during the divorce proceedings. The Court concluded that, as a matter of law under Gaudin, it was not bound by the habitual residence finding in the Divorce Decree.

The Court noted that the parties had been disputing where W.R.P. was to reside since the filing of the divorce action. Thus, their last shared, settled intent regarding his residence, if they had one, was formed prior to the filing of the divorce action. This Court finds that the determination of W.R.P.’s habitual residence at the time of removal depended upon the issue of whether, at any point before Pierpont filed for divorce, Singh and Pierpont had a shared, settled intent to abandon their habitual residence in the United States in favor of an indefinite stay in Canada.  In considering Pierpont’s Motion, there was evidence in the record that supported Pierpont and some evidence that supported Singh. The Court noted that it’s ruling on the issue of whether Singh and Pierpont had a shared, settled intent to make Canada the family’s habitual residence may depend upon a credibility determination. Making credibility determinations is inappropriate in a motion for summary judgment. The Court found that there were genuine issues of material fact as to the question of whether, at any time before Pierpont filed for divorce, Singh and Pierpont ever had a shared, settled intent to make Canada the family’s habitual residence. This necessarily meant that there were  genuine issues of material fact as to the question of what W.R.P.’s habitual residence was when Pierpont removed him from Canada. It denied the motion for summary judgment.

Pliego v Hayes, 2014 WL 6674560 (W.D.Ky.)[Turkey] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Expert Testimony][Privilege]




In Pliego v Hayes, 2014 WL 6674560 (W.D.Ky.)   Amanda Leigh Hayes and Mario Luis Gonzales Pliego were married on July 11, 2009 in Spain. Their child, ALG, was born in 2011 and was three years old. Hayes was a citizen of the United States, and Pliego was a citizen of Spain. Hayes  filed for divorce and custody in Kentucky, while Pliego filed for divorce and custody in Spain. In July 2012 they moved to Ankara, Turkey. Pliego was still living in Ankara. Hayes and Pliego agreed that Hayes and ALG would travel to Kentucky to visit extended family on April 6, 2014. The date of returnwas to be May 4, 2014. Instead, Hayes told Pliego that she would not be returning intended to keep ALG with her in Kentucky. Hayes and ALG were residing in Kentucky pending resolution of this action, subject to agreed conditions.  Pliego  filed motions seeking to exclude the testimony of two proposed witnesses: John Higgins, based on the standard for admissibility of expert testimony, and Ann Guler, based on the psychotherapist-privilege. 

The district court observed that the admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Rule 702 provides:  A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience,  training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:  (a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help  the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;  (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;  (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and  (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of  the case.  It pointed out that in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.,"the Supreme Court established a general gatekeeping obligation for trial courts to exclude from trial expert testimony that is unreliable and irrelevant." In performing its gatekeeping function, the Court must determine whether evidence proffered under Rule 702 "both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597. A key consideration is "whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is sufficiently valid." The Supreme Court advises that the inquiry is "a flexible one," and that "[t]he focus ... must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions they generate." A testifying expert must "employ[ ] in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field." Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 152.    While there is no "definitive checklist or test" for meeting the standard of Rule 702, Daubert laid out a number of factors that typically "bear on the inquiry," including: whether the theory or method in question "can be (and has been) tested," whether it "has been subjected to peer review and publication," whether it has a "known or potential rate of error," and whether the theory or technique enjoys "general acceptance" in the "relevant scientific community."Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94. Although Daubert addressed scientific evidence, the Supreme Court in Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael held that a trial court may consider the Daubert factors for all types of expert evidence.  Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 150. Thus, the Daubert factors are nonexhaustive and may not be pertinent in cases where "the relevant reliability concerns ... focus upon personal knowledge or
experience."

     John Higgins was a parish priest. He held a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work from the University of Central England in 1975 and a Social Science Ph. D. from the University of Birmingham, England from 2007.  He worked as a Guardian ad litem for the courts of Staffordshire from 1981-1990 and the county of Cumbria from 1991-2000.  Hayes regularly attended the St. Nicolas Church and taught Sunday School there for approximately two years, beginning in April 2011. During this time, she met with Higgins for pastoral support and spiritual guidance. Additionally, Hayes allegedly showed him bruises that she claimed resulted from domestic violence. Pliego objected to allowing Higgins testify as an expert in the following areas of proposed testimony: "1) general knowledge about bruising and domestic violence; 2) Turkish and American domestic law; and 3) diplomatic family relations." The Court found that Higgins did not have the relevant education or experience, medical or otherwise, needed to opine about the cause of the bruising, or to determine that the bruising could not have been self-inflicted. Nor had he demonstrated use of any reliable methodology for determining the cause of the bruises. Therefore, the Court did not permit Higgins to testify regarding the bruises that he saw, but not about their cause, and held the other issues in abeyance.

The Court observed that the Federal Rules of Evidence establish that "the privilege of a witness, person, government, State, or political subdivision thereof shall be governed by the principles of the common law as they may be interpreted by the courts of the United States in the light of reason and experience." Fed.R.Evid. 501. The United States Supreme Court recognizes a psychotherapist-patient privilege. Jaffee v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1, 9-10 (1996). Specifically, "confidential communications between a licensed psychotherapist and her patients in the course of diagnosis or treatment are protected from compelled disclosure...."   Dr. Guler  was a psychologist who counseled Hayes in Ankara, Turkey and telephonically after Hayes returned to Kentucky.  The two had at least 38 counseling sessions together. Pliego attended 14, starting in June 19, 2013, "for the purpose of addressing and remediating issues raised in Amanda's counseling regarding parent conflict and violence."   Pliego argued that Guler could not disclose communications made between her and her patients unless all involved patients waive the privilege.  He argued that he was a patient and that he participated fully in 14 sessions. The court observed that to be protected from compelled disclosure, a statement must be a confidential communication, between a licensed psychotherapist and her patient, made in the course of diagnosis or treatment.  Jaffee, 518 U.S. at 15. The Court found that Pliego was a participant in the sessions, and that his statements were made in the court of diagnosis or treatment. Therefore, the Court held that the psychotherapist-privilege applied to the statements Pliego made during counseling sessions with Gerber. It rejected Hayes argument that the privilege was waived because the litigation was between the parties who participated in the joint sessions. The Court held that Guler could testify as to statements made by Hayes, but not as to any statements made by Pliego.

Jacksic v Serif, Not Reported in F.Supp.3d, 2014 WL 6685375 (D.Ariz.)[Serbia] [Rights of Custody] [Petition denied]




          In Jacksic v Serif, Not Reported in F.Supp.3d, 2014 WL 6685375 (D.Ariz.) on October 1, 2005, Jaksic and Serif were married in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On March 1, 2006, their son M.J. was born in the Republic of Serbia.  On March 23, 2011, Jaksic and Serif's marriage was dissolved by the First Basic Court of Belgrade, Republic of Serbia ("Belgrade Court") based on the parties' mutual consent to dissolution and their signed agreement on the exercise of their parental rights related to M.J. The parties agreed that M.J. would live with Serif, and Serif would independently exercise parental rights over M.J. for care, guardianship, and upbringing. The parties also agreed on the manner of maintaining contact between Jaksic and M.J., which was that Jaksic would see M.J. when Serif agreed and Jaksic had time. The parties did not agree to any schedule or minimum time for Jaksic's personal contact with M.J. The parties' agreement did not establish a procedure for Jaksic to obtain personal contact with M.J. without Serif's agreement. The Belgrade Court determined that the parties' agreement on parental rights was in the best interest of the minor child and accepted the agreement. The March 23, 2011 judgment ordered that the marriage is dissolved, the minor child M.J. is entrusted to his mother Serif "who will exercise the parental right on her own," Jaksic is obligated to pay monthly child support directly to Serif, and the parties "shall regulate the manner of maintaining personal relations with the minor child with his father by mutual agreement."After the divorce, Serif permitted Jaksic to see M.J. in Belgrade and to take M.J. out of Serbia to visit Jaksic's parents and other family members.  On August 15, 2011, Serif married Esad Serif, who was a United States citizen. Subsequently, Serif applied for visas for M.J. and her to move to the United States.


      On January 5, 2012, Jaksic initiated a lawsuit in the Belgrade Court to modify

the judgment regarding custody of M.J. His complaint described the dissolution judgment as entrusting the custody of M.J. for care and protection to Serif, "who shall independently perform her parental rights."The complaint alleged that during the consensual divorce the parties had agreed that significant decisions regarding M.J., including change of residence, would be decided in a consensual, agreeable manner, but Serif was excluding Jaksic from such decisions. The complaint also stated that Jaksic had concluded that Serif intended to leave the country with M.J. and her current spouse, an American citizen, and to immigrate to America. Jaksic requested that the child custody provision of the March 23, 2011 judgment be modified to provide joint parental rights. A few days after Serif received notice of the Belgrade Court lawsuit, she had a telephone conversation with Jaksic during which Jaksic strongly opposed Serif taking M.J. to the United States and used foul language. Serif perceived Jaksic as possibly threatening her physically. Serif forbade Jaksic from seeing M.J. for at least six months and notified the court social worker and the police about their conversation.  On June 9, 2012, during a court proceeding, Jaksic said he would amend his complaint because he did not want to modify the child custody decision; he wanted only to organize his contact with M.J. to have a more precise schedule for visitation. But he did not amend his complaint.  On September 19, 2012, Serif signed a statement giving her consent that M.J. could travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Srpska, from September 20, 2012, to September 25, 2012. Jaksic took M.J. to Bosnia and Herzegovina so that M.J. could see his grandparents and cousins.    On October 23, 2012, a psychologist for the City of Belgrade reported to the Belgrade Court investigative findings and recommendations regarding custody of M.J. On October 30, 2012, Serif appeared at the scheduled hearing on Jaksic's complaint, but Jaksic did not appear and did not justify his absence. The Belgrade
Court ordered that Jaksic inform the court whether he wanted to continue the
lawsuit, and if he did, he should submit a motion to amend the complaint. The
Belgrade Court warned Jaksic that if he failed to comply with an order of the
court, the complaint would be deemed withdrawn. On February 1, 2013, the Belgrade
Court ordered that Jaksic's complaint was withdrawn and informed Jaksic that he
could appeal the ruling within 15 days. Jaksic did not appeal the ruling.

     On August 21, 2013, the United States issued immigrant visas to Serif and M.J.

On September 2, 2013, both visas were endorsed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Both Serif and M.J. were issued U.S. permanent resident status as of September 2, 2013. On September 3, 2013, Esad Serif posted photographs online of Serif and M.J. on an airplane, apparently near South Bend, Indiana. On September 3, 2013, Jaksic tried to call Serif and could not reach her. Jaksic then called Serif's father, who told Jaksic that Serif and M.J. had departed for the United States. The Court found that Serif removed M.J. from Serbia on September 2, 2013.    After Serif and M.J. moved to the United States, Jaksic had conversations with M.J. via Skype about once a month, but Serif did not talk to Jaksic. During a January 2014 Skype conversation, however, Serif told Jaksic that her work schedule had changed and they needed to change Jaksic's Skype contacts. Jaksic called Serif bad words in front of M.J., and thereafter Serif did not permit Jaksic to have any Skype conversations with M.J.   On June 16, 2014, Jaksic submitted an Application Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to the U.S. Department of State for the return of M.J. On September 3, 2014, Jaksic initiated the present action, alleging that the September 2, 2013 removal of M.J. from Serbia breached Jaksic's custody rights.

The district court found that  the removal took place on September 2, 2103, and the parties agreed that immediately prior to the removal, M.J. was habitually resident in Serbia. It observed that as  a condition for any relief under the Hague Convention, Jaksic had  establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the removal of M.J. from Serbia was in breach of his custody rights and at the time of removal Jaksic was exercising those rights. See Convention, Art. 3. The dissolution judgment of the Belgrade Court did not expressly grant Jaksic any right of custody or unconditional right of access. It ordered that Serif will independently exercise parental rights and Jaksic will have contact with M.J. only when Serif permits it. Jaksic did not provide any Serbian legal authority or expert testimony showing that the dissolution judgment, which incorporated the agreement on parental rights, would 
be interpreted by the Belgrade Court as granting Jaksic greater rights than those actually stated. At the time of the dissolution, Jaksic may have believed that Serif agreed he was guaranteed access to M.J. and participation in decisions about M.J.'s care, education, and residence, but that is not what the court documents stated. Jaksic had opportunity to have the Belgrade Court modify the dissolution judgment if it was incorrect, incomplete, or unfair, but he abandoned his lawsuit before the Belgrade Court. Jaksic frustrated the very proceedings that might have given him rights of custody inconsistent with Serif's immigration to the United States with M.J. He knew Serif claimed and intended to exercise that right.
Therefore, he cannot show this Court that he is entitled to greater parental rights than those provided by the dissolution judgment.  Because Jaksic had not established by a preponderance of the evidence that the removal of M.J. from Serbia was in breach of his custody rights and at the time of removal Jaksic was exercising those rights, the Court did not decide additional issues raised by the parties.