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Peterson v. Goldberg – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Peterson v. Goldberg, 180 AD2d 260, 585 N.Y.S.2d 439 [2 Dept.,1992]; lv to appeal dismissed 81 NY2d 835, 611 N.E.2d 298, 595 N.Y.S.2d 397 [1993], the wife-plaintiff commenced an action for divorce and ancillary relief in New York in 1986.

In 1987, the husband-defendant obtained a judgment of divorce in Florida and moved in New York for summary judgment dismissing the wife-plaintiff's complaint.

The New York court granted the husband-defendant's motion to the extent of dismissing the cause of action for a divorce but converted the action to one, inter alia, for equitable distribution following a foreign judgment of divorce pursuant to Domestic Relations Law 236(B)(2).

Thereafter, the wife-plaintiff died.

The Appellate Division, Second Department held in Peterson v. Goldberg that "the husband's procurement of an ex parte judgment of divorce dissolved the parties' marital status. The wife's right to equitable distribution vested at the time of the entry of the foreign judgment of divorce. That right, which the wife asserted in her action for divorce and equitable distribution, did not abate upon her death. Accordingly, the Supreme Court correctly denied the husband's motion to dismiss the cause of action for equitable distribution."

The Appellate Division, Second Department detailed that it was of "no consequence" that defendant obtained the foreign judgment of divorce after plaintiff commenced the New York divorce because the New York court "clearly had jurisdiction over equitable distribution pursuant to Domestic Relations Law 236(B)(2) and (5), which expressly confer upon the court the authority to distribute property equitably following a foreign judgment of divorce" (Peterson, 180 AD2d at 266).