New York’s Top Court Rules Against Divorce Forum Shopping
Over the years, some New Yorkers who have a second home within the state have chosen to file for divorce away from their primary residence because they believe it will give them a legal advantage. Bringing the case in the Hamptons or Adirondacks might also present financial or transportation challenges that make their ex more likely to consider a settlement. However, New York’s Court of Appeals issued a decision aimed at narrowing the definition of “residency” when it comes to filing for divorce.
The decision in Fisch v. Davidson stems from the divorce of a couple who lived primarily in Manhattan, but also owned a vacation home in Southampton. When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March, 2020, Rachel Davidson and her immunocompromised adult daughter spent more time at the family’s vacation home. In August, Ms. Davidson’s husband, Mark Fisch, filed for divorce in the Supreme Court, Suffolk County. Soon after, Ms. Davidson sought to change the venue of the case to Manhattan, which was the location of the couple’s primary residence and more convenient to her job as a Superior Court judge in Newark, New Jersey.
Mr. Fisch and Ms. Davidson owned substantial assets, including an art collection worth well over $100 million dollars. It is not uncommon for high net worth individuals to bring their matrimonial case outside New York City where judges might not be as familiar with complex divorces. Some parties and lawyers think that courts in other parts of the state are more reluctant to give large property and alimony awards to spouses who primarily relied on their partner’s income. This case also raises the question of a more sinister motive for moving a divorce case out of town. An out-of-town divorce might be especially inconvenient for one party, especially one that has less access to assets previously shared by the couple.
However, New York’s Court of Appeals rejected Mr. Fisch’s forum-shopping attempt as the couple’s income tax returns and voter registration clearly identified the parties as Manhattan residents. Neither the occasional vacations nor the pandemic stay were deemed sufficient for establishing Suffolk County as a suitable venue for the divorce. The Court reversed the prior venue decision and shifted the Fisch/Davidson case from Suffolk to New York County.
If you own multiple homes, need to divide substantial marital assets or have other complex issues associated with your divorce, Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. can help. We are the Long Island leader in divorce representation and can discuss your options in a free consultation if you call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online.