No. 1989 October Term, 1978, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County, Entered on June 9, 1978, at No. 78-821-10-6.
Robert F. Ruehl, Doylestown, for appellant.
David Weinstein, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Van der Voort, Hester and Wieand, JJ.*fn*
[ 274 Pa. Super. Page 447]
In this appeal by Marvin A. Rosen from an order which dismissed his complaint seeking to annul a marriage to Gloria Sitner, a/k/a Gloria Rosen, we are asked to determine the validity of a prior divorce decree procured by his wife in Mexico. The lower court, after taking extensive testimony from the parties and Mexican officials, decided that the Mexican divorce was valid and that consequently the later marriage contracted by appellant and appellee was also valid.
[ 274 Pa. Super. Page 448]
From depositions and evidence at trial, the facts appear as follows: Gloria Lipschitz and Arthur Sitner, both domiciliaries of New York, were married in New York in 1950. Seven years later, a separation occurred and Mrs. Sitner, together with her two daughters, moved into the home of her parents, who also lived in New York. In July, 1963, she travelled to Juarez, Mexico, where she procured a divorce from Arthur Sitner. Although not present in Juarez, Sitner entered an appearance pursuant to power of attorney, submitted to the court's jurisdiction, and did not contest the divorce. Mrs. Sitner remained in Mexico for approximately one month, after which she returned to the home of her parents. Several months later, appellee began dating Marvin Rosen, a resident of New Jersey. The two were married in New Jersey on January 28, 1970. Mrs. Rosen continued to reside in New York but travelled to New Jersey on weekends to be with her husband. Six months later they moved their residence to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There they lived together until July 8, 1977, when appellant left the common home. Appellant's complaint seeking an annulment was filed on January 30, 1978, and dismissed on June 9, 1978.
Appellant's annulment action was based on the contention that appellee's prior marriage to Arthur Sitner had not been validly terminated by the Mexican divorce decree. Inasmuch as neither appellee nor Mr. Sitner had been domiciliaries of Mexico at the time of the divorce action, he contended, the Mexican Court lacked jurisdiction.
The lower court, in an able opinion, concluded that the laws of New York applied to determine the validity of the Mexican decree because both appellee and Sitner had been domiciliaries of New York at all times pertinent to the divorce proceedings. We agree. At the time when the Sitners obtained their divorce in Mexico, only the State of New York had an interest in their marriage. Its contacts with the parties exceeded those of any other jurisdiction, and its law, therefore, must be held controlling. The marital status of the parties was of great social significance, which should not be permitted to vary from state to state.
[ 274 Pa. Super. Page 449]
The courts of Pennsylvania, therefore, will apply New York law in determining the validity of the Mexican decree. Accord, Commonwealth ex rel. Ingram v. Ingram, 82 York 74 (1968).
The landmark decision in New York is that rendered by the Court of Appeals of New York in Rosenstiel v. Rosenstiel, 16 N.Y.2d 64, 262 N.Y.S.2d 86, 209 N.E.2d 709 (1965), cert. denied 383 U.S. 943, 86 S.Ct. 1197, 16 L.Ed.2d 206 (1966). In that case, the husband, a New York domiciliary, had travelled to Juarez, Mexico, to procure a divorce. The wife appeared through an attorney and submitted to the court's jurisdiction. Subsequently, the wife remarried; her second husband, after several years of marriage, sought an annulment, alleging invalidity of his wife's Mexican divorce decree. The Court recognized that when dealing with decrees from foreign countries, as opposed to decrees from other states, validity must be determined by rules of comity and not according to the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. It held that since both parties had voluntarily appeared in Mexico and the minimal residency requirements had been met, "a balanced public policy now requires that recognition of the bilateral Mexican divorce be given rather than withheld, and such recognition as a matter of comity offends no public policy of [New York]." Rosenstiel v. Rosenstiel, supra at 74, 262 N.Y.S.2d at 91, 209 N.E.2d at ...