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In re Marriage of Lyustiger

September 29, 2009

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF NATALIJA AND NIKOLAI SOLOMON LYUSTIGER.
NATALIJA LYUSTIGER, RESPONDENT,
v.
NIKOLAI SOLOMON LYUSTIGER, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Yolo County, Kathleen M. White, Judge. Reversed. (Super. Ct. No. CV06-296).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholson, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

In this action based on the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act (Act), Natalija Lyustiger (Wife) seeks to enforce two orders of a British domestic relations court requiring Nikolai Solomon Lyustiger (Husband) to pay a total of 50,000 pounds for Wife‟s attorney fees. After a trial in this enforcement action, the court determined that enforcement of the British orders was proper under the Act and entered judgment accordingly. We reverse. The Act specifically excludes from its scope the enforcement of "support in matrimonial or family matters," and it applies a broad definition of "support." The award of attorney fees was, for purposes of the Act, in the nature of "support"; therefore, the trial court erred by enforcing the award of attorney fees.

UNIFORM FOREIGN MONEY-JUDGMENTS RECOGNITION ACT

Wife brought this action pursuant to the Act. (Code Civ. Proc., former § 1713 et seq. Further unspecified statutory references are to the Code of Civil Procedure.) Therefore, a summary of that law is in order.

In 1962, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) drafted the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act. The Act was adopted in California in 1967 as sections 1713 through 1713.8 of the Code of Civil Procedure. (Stats. 1967, ch. 503, § 1, pp. 1847-1848.)

The provisions of the Act most pertinent to this case are as follows:

A "foreign judgment is enforceable in the same manner as the judgment of a sister state . . . ." (Former § 1713.3.)

""Foreign judgment‟ means any judgment of a foreign state granting or denying recovery of a sum of money, other than . . . a judgment for support in matrimonial or family matters." (Former § 1713.1, subd. (2).)

The Act "applies to any foreign judgment that is final and conclusive . . . ." (Former § 1713.2.)

"A foreign judgment need not be recognized if [¶] . . . [t]he judgment conflicts with another final and conclusive judgment . . . [or] [¶] . . . [t]he proceeding in the foreign court was contrary to an agreement between the parties under which the dispute in question was to be settled otherwise than by proceedings in that court . . . ." (Former § 1713.4, subds. (b)(4) & (b)(5).)

In 2005, the NCCUSL approved changes to the Act. In particular, the Act was amended to provide: "This [act] does not apply to a foreign-country judgment, even if the judgment grants or denies recovery of a sum of money, to the extent that the judgment is . . . [¶] . . . a judgment for divorce, support, or maintenance, or other judgment rendered in connection with domestic relations." (Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act of 2005, § 3(b)(3).)

The 2005 amendments to the Act were enacted in California in 2007, with an effective date of January 1, 2008. (Stats. 2007, ch. 212, § 2.) The amendments apply only to actions initiated after the effective date. (§ 1724.) Therefore, this action, commenced in 2006, is subject to the 1962 Act and not to the amendments enacted in 2007.*fn1

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. Marriage and Separation

Both Husband and Wife were born in Russia and lived there for some period of their young lives. Husband moved to the United States and gained citizenship here, while Wife moved to Germany and became a German citizen. Wife later moved to London to study law.

Husband and Wife met in London in April 2001, and they were married in the United States in August 2002. Their daughter, Lillian Sarah Lyustiger, was born in Yolo County in September 2003.

After that, Husband and Wife lived, for awhile, in Russia. Eventually, in February 2005, Wife, along with Lillian, returned to London where she trained with a ...


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