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Gruszczynski v. Twarkowski

Supreme Court, New York County

October 26, 2017

Andrzej Gruszczynski, Plaintiff,
Wiktor Jerzy Twarkowski, Defendant.

          For Plaintiff: Livius Ilasz, Esq.

          Matthew F. Cooper, J.

         Papers and exhibits considered in review of this Motion for an Order Placing this Action on the Uncontested Matrimonial Calendar:

         Plaintiff's Motion, Affirmation, Affidavits of the Parties, Memorandum of Law and Exhibits 1

         Plaintiff's Supplemental Affidavit 2

         Defendant's Supplemental Affidavit 3

         On July 24, 2011, New York became the sixth state in our nation to permit same-sex marriage. By so doing, New York joined a small group of jurisdictions extending the right to marry to all people, irrespective of sexual orientation. Four years later, the rest of the country was required to follow suit when the United States Supreme Court, in Obergefell v Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584 (June 26, 2015), declared same-sex marriage to be the law of the land.

         New York's embracement of the equal right to marry helped to make New York City, especially Manhattan, the marriage capital of the world. The Manhattan Marriage Bureau, on Worth Street directly across from the New York County Courthouse and grandly refurbished in 2009 by famed interior decorator Jamie Drake, was already a preferred venue for couples to obtain their wedding license and have a civil ceremony conducted by an official from the Office of the City Clerk. But the advent of legalizing same-sex marriage only increased the allure of being married in New York City, the acknowledged center of the universe. On that red-letter date of July 24, 2011, 484 same-sex couples married at the five city marriage bureaus, with 293 of those ceremonies being conducted at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau.

         What was not lost on city officials was that almost a quarter of the couples married that day were not from New York State; they were from other states or countries, most of which did not permit same-sex marriage. This gave rise to a concerted effort by New York City, through marketing campaigns like NYC I DO, to promote New York City as a same-sex wedding destination. The results were spectacular, with then Mayor Michael Bloomberg issuing a statement in July 2012 announcing that the flood of same-sex couples traveling to New York to marry - and, in turn, spending money on hotels, restaurants and entertainment - had added more than a quarter of a billion dollars to the City's economy.

         The plaintiff and the defendant are two people who accepted New York's invitation to come here to marry. A same-sex male couple from Warsaw, Poland, they had been together since 1999, but recognized that the chances of ever being able to marry in their native country were minimal. In the face of Poland's strongly entrenched opposition to same-sex marriage, but desirous of formalizing their relationship in the same manner available to heterosexual couples, the parties flew to New York on December 3, 2013, solely for the purpose of marrying. Three days later, on December 6, 2013, they were married by the City Clerk at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. Immediately thereafter, they returned to Warsaw.

         Unfortunately, the fate of same-sex married couples is no different from that of heterosexual ones: All too often people who marry in love end up at some later point falling out of love. That is what happened to the parties here. A few years after returning home to Poland, they mutually decided that they did not want to remain married to one another. But because Poland does not recognize same-sex marriage in any form, the parties could not turn to their local courts to obtain a divorce. Consequently, they were advised by counsel, who has offices in both Warsaw and New York, that they should file for divorce in New York, the place where they entered their same-sex marriage and a jurisdiction that grants same-sex divorces.

         In September 2016, plaintiff commenced the New York divorce action. The complaint alleges that there are no children, no assets to divide, and no request by either spouse for spousal maintenance. The sole relief sought is the dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship (Domestic Relations Law "DRL" Section 170[7]). The complaint further states that both parties reside in Poland.

         Because the action was unopposed by defendant, plaintiff's counsel attempted to place the action on the uncontested matrimonial calendar for the granting of the divorce. The papers, however, were rejected by the Matrimonial Clerk. The Clerk entered the following notation on the file: "Cannot file in NYS. Both parties reside in Poland. Residency requirement not met."

         Following the Clerk's rejection of the papers, plaintiff moved for an order from this court permitting the uncontested divorce to proceed despite neither party ever having ever resided in New York State. The motion papers were later augmented with affidavits from both plaintiff and defendant describing how they traveled to New York City specifically to avail themselves of this state's right to marry, a right not afforded to them by their own country. They also set forth their need to avail themselves of New York's no-fault divorce law so that they can dissolve a marriage that neither party wishes to ...

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