New York Court Explains Grounds for Vacating a Default Judgment of Divorce

Generally, a judgment of divorce issued by a New York court dissolves a marriage and determines the rights and obligations of the formally married couple. In some instances, though, justice requires that such judgments be set aside. For example, as explained in a recent New York ruling issued in a divorce action, if a default judgment issued in dissolution proceedings is the product of fraud or deceit, there may be grounds for vacating it. If you have questions about how you can protect your rights in dissolution proceedings, it is smart to confer with a New York divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

Case History

It is reported that the parties married in 2008 in Queens County, New York. They had one child during their marriage. In 2022, the husband initiated a divorce action in Kings County despite the fact that neither party resided there. The trial court granted a default judgment of divorce in March 2022, citing an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for over six months with resolved ancillary issues. In February 2023, the wife (filed an order to show cause seeking to restore the case to the court’s calendar, alleging that the divorce was based on false information and perjury by the husband.

Grounds for Setting Aside a Default Divorce Judgment

The court conducted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the divorce judgment should be set aside and whether sanctions should be imposed on the husband. Further, the court explained that CPLR 5015(a)(3) allows a party to be relieved from a judgment due to fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct.

In the subject case, the wife testified that she only learned of the divorce in January 2023 when seeking spousal and child support, and the husband had claimed in Family Court that they were no longer married. She claimed that she was never served and disputed the information on the divorce documents, particularly the assertion that there were no children born of the marriage. The court found her testimony credible.

The husband, representing himself, testified that he had assistance in preparing the divorce papers but admitted that he didn’t question the inaccuracies in the documents, including the absence of information about their child. He didn’t call the individuals who helped him prepare the documents, making it unclear if they knew about the child’s existence.

The court stated that in matrimonial cases, there is a more liberal approach to favor dispositions on the merits, considering the state’s interest in marital issues and child support, and determined that the wife had a meritorious defense regarding child support and that the divorce should be vacated. As such, it restored the case to the contested matrimonial calendar. Further, the court imposed a $500 sanction on the husband for frivolous conduct for submitting false statements in the divorce papers.

Meet with a Trusted New York Attorney

While a default judgment is appropriate in some divorce actions, in most cases, there will be disputed issues that must be resolved through litigation. If you intend to end your marriage, it is important to talk to an attorney about what measures you can take to protect your interests. Ksenia Rudyuk is a dedicated New York child support lawyer who can advise you of your options and aid you in pursuing a favorable outcome. You can contact Ms. Rudyuk via the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a meeting.

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