The third of four decisions this month with an international context was decided by New York County Supreme Court Justice Manuel J. Mendez.
In Bond v Lichtenstein (pdf), decided July 15, 2014, Justice Mendez granted a mother summary judgment in lieu of complaint under C.P.L.R. §3213 domesticating a $570,110.05 Hong Kong judgment for child support arrears.
The parties lived together for approximately one year beginning in April of 2006. The mother is a citizen of the United Kingdom and the father is a citizen of the United States. Not long after the mother found out she was pregnant, the relationship fell apart, and by April of 2007, the parties had separated.
On August 31, 2007, their female child was born in England. The mother currently resides with the daughter in Hong Kong and with another man.
On November 21, 2008, the mother commenced child support and paternity proceedings in England. There was a trial and resulting December 3, 2010 Support Order from the High Court of England.
The parties then entered into a consent summons for the purpose of obtaining a “mirror order” in Hong Kong reflecting the support obligations obtained by the mother in England and vacating the English Order. In November of 2012, the father submitted to jurisdiction in Hong Kong for obtaining the “mirror order” and resolving other related issues.
In May of 2013, the proceeding brought before the High Court of Hong Kong resulted in a four-day trial concerning child support. The father appeared for the trial by video. He submitted evidence and was represented by attorneys. On June 28, 2013, the High Court of Hong Kong, by Deputy High Court Judge, Bebe Pui Ying Chu, rendered an 87-page Opinion.
This action was commenced by the mother to enforce the December 2, 2013 judgment obtained in Hong Kong for child support arrears from July 2013 through December 2013, in the amount of $4,418,352.90 (Hong Kong) at 8% interest per annum (which the mother calculated to convert to $570,110. 05 in U.S. dollars [more than $80,000.00 per month]) and to obtain attorneys fees, costs and expenses.
The father opposed the current New York County motion for summary judgment contending that the mother’s judgment was obtained by fraud. Specifically, he argued that money provided the mother by her paramour of several years was clearly a “gift” and not a “loan” as the mother and paramour claimed.
However, Justice Mendez held that the father’s assertions of fraud were not sufficient to prevent enforcement of the Hong Kong judgment under the doctrine of comity. The father did not establish that the fraud alleged was “extrinsic fraud,” or that the issue of fraud was not addressed by the High Court of Hong Kong. Indeed, the June 28, 2013 Hong Kong Opinion referred to the father’s assertion of fraud on this ground that was raised during the trial.
Moreover, Justice Menez also rejected the father’s argument that the Hong Kong judgment was repugnant to New York’s public policy as voiced by the Child Support Standards Act (C.S.S.A.) The father had been represented by counsel and was provided the opportunity to fully present his case. The Hong Kong opinion found that the mother was unemployed and had no steady source of income. The father failed to establish that the C.S.S.A. guidelines were violated. His finances and the mother’s finances were both taken into consideration. The mother, with her limited resources, was also found responsible for supporting the child. The Hong Kong opinion even provided for a future downward modification upon the mother’s obtaining employment or any other change in financial circumstances as the child got older.
Finally, Justice Mendez found that the mother was entitled to attorney fees relating to this motion seeking enforcement of the judgment obtained in Hong Kong. The father did not establish fraud or that enforcement of the judgment was repugnant to public policy. He also willfully refused to pay the December 2, 2013 judgment in an attempt to prolong litigation.