Zitkene v. Zitkus
The Connecticut Supreme Court explained in the 1972 case of Litvaitis v. Litvaitis that, subject to certain exceptions and qualifications, "a decree of divorce granted in one country by a court having jurisdiction to do so will be given full force and effect in another country by comity…" The plaintiff, Birute Zitkene, and the defendant, Romualdas Kitkus, were married in Lithuania in 1963. They relocated to the U.S. and, thereafter, separated. The plaintiff moved back to Lithuania and commenced dissolution proceedings there. Following extensive negotiations, the parties entered into a settlement agreement under which the plaintiff received the greater share of the marital property including a residence and hotel in Lithuania. In exchange, she agreed to make certain payments to the defendant. After making two payments, the plaintiff appealed claiming, in effect, financial hardship. The Lithuanian appeals court found no merit to her claims and dismissed the appeal. The plaintiff then commenced a dissolution action in the Connecticut Superior Court and claimed that the Lithuanian decree was invalid due to fraud, duress and misrepresentation by the defendant. Granting the Lithuanian decree comity, the trial court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the action. The plaintiff appealed claiming that the court improperly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff argued that the trial court abused its discretion in applying principles of comity given her fraud allegation. The defendant appended to his pleadings a sworn affidavit and copy of the Lithuanian appellate court decision, making such findings as that the settlement agreement was "concluded by common agreement" and both parties informed the dissolution court they entered into it of their own free will and understood its terms. The plaintiff raised no allegation of fraud, duress or misrepresentation by the defendant in that appeal; she simply alleged she was financially unable to meet her obligation. The defendant's evidence provided an ample basis for the trial court to grant comity to the Lithuanian dissolution judgment. Because the trial court, in its discretion, properly could grant comity to the Lithuanian judgment of dissolution based on the undisputed facts in the defendant's affidavit and Lithuanian appellate court decision, it was free to dismiss the action as jurisdiction was lacking.