Former Top Women’s Tennis Player Wins Right to Litigate Divorce Case in Florida
What happens when spouses file competing divorce lawsuits in different courts? In this situation, Florida judges will apply what is known as the principles of priority and comity. “Priority” means that when two courts in the same state have jurisdiction over the same parties and legal claims, the court that acquired that jurisdiction first will hear the case.
“Comity” is a bit more complicated. This refers to a situation where competing claims are pending in different states–or even different nations. In this situation priority does not apply. If a Florida court has jurisdiction over a divorce case, it does not have to yield to a court in another state or country. But the judge may nevertheless elect to defer or “stay” proceedings because the foreign court is in a better position to dispose of the issues involved.
Court: Comity Does Not Apply When Foreign Court Is Unable to Address Key Issues in Divorce
The Florida Third District Court of Appeal recently addressed the principles of priority and comity in a high-profile international divorce case. The parties are Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, the world’s former top professional women’s tennis player, and her estranged husband, Jose Santacana Blanch.
Vicario and Blanch are both Spanish citizens who reside in Florida. In January 2018, Blanch filed a divorce petition in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. A few weeks later, on February 3, Blanch filed a second, competition petition in a Spanish civil court. Blanch then dismissed his Florida divorce case.
Five hours after Blanch dismissed his petition, Vicario filed her own divorce lawsuit in Miami-Dade County before the same judge. Blanch then moved to dismiss this new petition, arguing that the Florida judge should stay the case in favor of the Spanish court, which he maintained now had priority.
The circuit court agreed with the husband, finding the “court in Spain had first exercised jurisdiction over the parties” on all issues related to the divorce except for child custody. Vicario appealed this ruling to the Third District, which reversed in her favor.
The main issue here, the Third District said, was that the Spanish court “lacks the authority or the jurisdiction to fully adjudicate all the issues involved” in this particular divorce case. Under Spanish law, only Vicario and Blanch may be involved as parties, which means the civil court there cannot address matters involving most the couple’s business interests, which involve various corporate entities. The Spanish court cannot also dispose of the couple’s Florida properties. Finally, the Third District noted that while the parties maintain “strong ties to Florida” they currently have “significantly limited” ties to their native Spain.
Under these circumstances, the appeals court concluded, the trial court’s reliance on comity was misplaced, as the Spanish court could do little more than order the marriage dissolved.
Get Help from a Florida Divorce Attorney Today
Divorce should never be viewed as a “race to the courthouse.” Indeed, in many Florida divorce cases the parties are able to amicably resolve their differences before even stepping foot in court. If you are looking for a Board-certified Boca Raton family lawyer who can help you consider all of your options, contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, today at 561-488-7788 to schedule a consultation.