Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree, Court Order or Contract
A U.S. Court will recognize a foreign divorce decree under the doctrine of comity so long as the party has established domicile in the foreign country. As discussed in Hilkmann v. Hilkmann, [c]omity is a recognition which one nation extends within its own territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another. It is not a rule of law, but one of practice, convenience, and expediency. Although more than mere courtesy and accommodation, comity does not achieve the force of an imperative or obligation…Comity should be withheld only when its acceptance would be contrary or prejudicial to the interest of the nation called upon to give it effect. 2003 PA Super 25 (2005). A U.S. Court will invoke comity by its discretion and will usually look at two factors: whether the foreign court had jurisdiction, and whether fair procedures were used.
A U.S. Court will look to domicile as a basis for establishing jurisdiction. In Commonwealth v. Doughty, the court held “[i]t is an established and familiar principle that judicial power to grant a divorce is founded on domicile. In the absence of domicile by at least one of the parties to the action, the Court has no jurisdiction over the cause and its decree will consequently, not be endowed with extraterritorial effect.” 187 Pa. Super. 499 (1958). Accordingly, “[a]n absolute prerequisite to judicial recognition of an out-of-state divorce is that the plaintiff must have resided in the state or country for a minimum period of residency as determined by local authority and that the residency be accompanied by domiciliary intent, i.e., an intent to remain the foreign jurisdiction.” Sargent v. Sargent, 225 Pa. Super. 1 (1973). These principles extend beyond divorce and hold the same for other family law court orders as well as contracts.