That a couple once spent summers and long weekends together in Sag Harbor has proven to be sufficient grounds to keep their divorce action in Suffolk County—90 miles away from the Manhattan primary residences of both the husband and wife.
"It seems as if the Sag Harbor home was used by both parties, during the marriage, as a summer home and a ‘long weekend home.’ Notwithstanding using the home only in these capacities during the marriage, this use constitutes some degree of permanency," Acting Supreme Court Justice James Quinn in Suffolk County (See Profile) wrote on Feb. 26 in M.R. v. J.R., 6090/2012, denying the wife’s bid to move the action to Manhattan.
Matthew and Jennifer Rosenblum married in April 1992 and now have six children ranging in age from under 2 to almost 12. They moved to Manhattan in 2001 and in 2004 purchased a home in Sag Harbor but separated around 2010.
Ms. Rosenblum said she spent much of summer 2010 there, along with weekends during summer 2011 when the parties attempted reconciliation. However, she said that her husband spent only several hours there in 2012.
Mr. Rosenblum said he and his wife once thought about raising the family on Long Island and spent about half their time in Sag Harbor between 2004 and 2008.
Since the separation, both have lived in Manhattan. However, Mr. Rosenblum chose to file for a no-fault divorce in February 2012. Ms. Rosenblum subsequently moved for a change of venue.
She argued that neither she nor her husband resided in Suffolk County, and the venue was inconvenient for witnesses, under CPLR §503(a) and §510(3).
In his ruling, Quinn observed that CPLR §503(a) states, "the place of trial shall be in the county in which one of the parties resided when it was commenced."
He also pointed to case law holding that residence "is not generally synonymous with ‘domicile,’ and that it is not necessary to show an intent to make a place a permanent home in order to establish residence."
Here, Quinn said, Ms. Rosenblum said she spent most of summer 2010 and a portion of summer 2011 at the house as the couple tried to reconcile. The divorce filing came just months later in early 2012, he noted.
"Notwithstanding the fact that [Ms. Rosenblum] and her children moved into an apartment in Manhattan subsequent to the parties separation, she still continued to use the Sag Harbor home, which evidences not making it her permanent home, but using the home with some degree of permanency and for some length of time sufficient enough to constitute ‘residence,’" Quinn wrote.
He also denied without prejudice Ms. Rosenblum’s attempt to change venue based on inconvenience for witnesses.
Such motions must name the witnesses, summarize the facts to which they would testify, prove the witnesses were willing to testify and demonstrate that they would be inconvenienced if the motion was not granted.
But Ms. Rosenblum’s motion said only that all the potential witnesses live or work in Manhattan, and bringing them to Central Islip "would be extremely inconvenient for them, as well as costly"—which Quinn called "devoid of any of the four requirements."
Mr. Rosenblum is an entrepreneur in the alternative energy business, according to his attorney, Michael Stutman of Mishcon de Reya.
Stutman said he anticipated a "struggle" over the valuation of Mr. Rosenblum’s business assets and as to what Ms. Rosenblum, the non-owner, was entitled.
He said his client opted to bring the divorce in Suffolk County based on nuanced distinctions between the law of the Appellate Division, First Department, governing Manhattan courts, and that of the Second Department, governing Long Island courts.
"From the owner’s standpoint, the owner tends to believe they get a fairer shake, or that their position is held in higher regard, in the Second Department than the First Department," he said.
Furthermore, Stutman said dockets for Suffolk County judges handling divorces are "less congested" than those of their colleagues in Manhattan.
Whereas Manhattan Supreme Court has four full-time judges handling prejudgment divorce matters and one hearing post-judgment matters, Suffolk County has 11 judges in its matrimonial part.
Stutman noted that in New York state, venue for divorces can lie in more than one county and "if you pick venue properly, it’s unusual for a judge to decline it."
Richard Zalk of Manhattan, who represented Ms. Rosenblum, declined to comment.
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