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Pennsylvania’s interest in the divorce of an immigrant couple residing here supersedes that of their native country, the Superior Court has ruled. Even though both the husband and wife are Indian citizens who married in that country, and even though the husband filed the initial petition for divorce in India, the three-judge panel still held that the employment and residency of both parties in this state effectively grant the local courts appropriate jurisdiction in the matter. “Analyzing the jurisdictional question under conflict of laws interest analysis, we respectfully hold that Pennsylvania’s interest in husband and wife’s divorce is superior to India’s interest, and affirm [the trial court's decision],” Senior Judge Peter Paul Olszewski, joined by Senior Judge James R. Cavanaugh and Judge Robert A. Graci, wrote in Sinha v. Sinha. The case stems from two conflicting petitions for divorce, one filed by Rituparna Sinha in Montgomery County in April 2000; the other, by her husband, Indrajit Sinha, in Alipore District Court in Calcutta, India, in February 2000. According to the opinion, the Sinhas were wed in December 1995 in Calcutta, and are both Indian citizens. Indrajit had previously resided in Montgomery County since 1988. The couple has a daughter, 6 years of age, who was born in the United States Both Indrajit and Rituparna have green cards permitting them to live in this country. In October 1999, the family traveled to Hong Kong, where Indrajit, who Rituparna’s attorney said is a tenured management professor at Temple, was guest lecturing. They then flew to Calcutta to visit his family. But in December 1999, the couple parted after having an argument, and Indrajit returned to the United States in January 2000. Rituparna left India to return to Pennsylvania in March of that year. Before Rituparna left India, Indrajit had a divorce complaint filed in Calcutta. Rituparna, after eventually establishing her own residence in Montgomery County, filed for divorce in that county’s common pleas court in April. Rituparna’s counsel, solo practitioner Elaine Smith of Philadelphia, said that her client had been unaware of Indrajit’s petition for divorce, as she had left Calcutta after their fight and did not informed him of her whereabouts. The opinion cited the trial court decision as stating that it believed Rituparna’s claim that she knew nothing of Indrajit’s pending action in India. When Rituparna learned of her husband’s India action, the trial court noted, she hired representation in India to block those proceedings. At about the same time ,an Indian court issued an injunction prohibiting Rituparna from continuing with her U.S. divorce action. In response to Rituparna’s U.S. petition for divorce, Indrajit filed a May 2000 motion to dismiss, arguing lack of jurisdiction and a pending identical action in India. The trial court denied that motion, finding that jurisdiction properly lay in Montgomery County. Indrajit appealed to the Superior Court in April 2001. “Husband’s position is that the Montgomery County court should defer to the action in India because of comity,” Olszewski wrote. “We disagree.” The panel found that, despite appropriate jurisdiction for the divorce petitions in both venues pursuant to comity of nations, the commonwealth’s interest in the Sinhas’ future matrimonial situation outweighs the Indian court’s interest in the matter. “Husband and wife’s connections with India are heavily weighted towards the past,” Olszewski wrote, “while their connections with Pennsylvania concern the present and the future.” Smith said that Rituparna, who works as a supervisor at a Friendly’s restaurant, intends to file for U.S. citizenship. Indrajit’s attorney, Joseph London of the Law Offices of Joseph London in Philadelphia, said that his client insisted upon the divorce being granted in India as a “matter of tradition.” “Our main concern was that this lady had an injunction preventing her from [filing for divorce] in America, and she did it anyway,” London said. “Basically, she’s a citizen of India subject to their laws. Their courts said, Don’t proceed with this [in the U.S.] . . . Our issue was, Why aren’t we bound by the laws of our own country?” London noted that the case went before the Indian Supreme Court, but was remanded to an intermediate court. Smith said she was concerned with Rituparna’s divorce being adjudicated in India because Indrajit’s father is a retired justice of the Indian Supreme Court. As for the citizenship issue, Smith argued that the couple had opted for U.S., rather than Indian, citizenship for their daughter. “There was absolutely no reason in the world for these people to get a divorce in India,” Smith said, “except that the husband wanted it that way.” (Copies of the 11-page opinion inSinha v. Sinha , PICS No. 03-1552, are available fromThe Legal Intelligencer . Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Serviceat 800-276-PICS to order or for information. Some cases are not available until 1 p.m.)

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