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Hsieh v. I-Ting Sun

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai'i

November 19, 2015

SHERMAN SHIH-LUNG HSIEH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
I-TING SUN aka KATHERINE SUN, Defendant-Appellee

As Amended January 12, 2016.

Page 1020

APPEAL FROM THE FAMILY COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT. (FC-D. NO. 11-1-2036).

On the briefs: Robert Ling Sung Nip, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Stephanie A. Rezents, Thomas E. Crowley, for Defendant-Appellee.

NAKAMURA, C.J., LEONARD and GINOZA, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1021

[137 Hawai'i 92] GINOZA, J.

Plaintiff-Appellant Sherman Shih-Lung Hsieh (Husband) appeals from an order granting summary judgment (Order) in favor of Defendant-Appellee I-Ting Sun, aka Katherine Sun (Wife), filed on January 17, 2013, in the Family Court of the First Circuit (family court).[1] In the Order, the family court dismissed Husband's Complaint for Divorce (Complaint) based on its determination that Husband and Wife had previously divorced in Taiwan and that the family court lacked subject matter jurisdiction in this case. The Order also awarded reasonable attorney's fees to Wife.

On April 16, 2013, the family court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law (FOF/COL) in support of the Order, and further ordered that " [a]ll items of property that were not expressly finally awarded by the [Taiwan] Divorce Agreement were thereby implicitly finally awarded to their legal owner(s)." The FOF/COL also explained that attorney's fees were awarded to Wife because Husband's declaration submitted in opposition to Wife's summary judgment motion was made in bad faith or solely for the purpose of delay, in violation of Hawai'i Family Court Rules (HFCR) Rule 56(g).

On appeal, Husband contends the family court erred in issuing the Order and FOF/COL because: (1) the family court did not properly evaluate whether recognition of the non-judicial Taiwan divorce was appropriate on the basis of comity; (2) there are genuine issues of material fact regarding the domicile of the parties at the time of the Taiwan divorce, such as to preclude summary judgment recognition of the Taiwan divorce based on comity; (3) Husband should not be estopped from challenging the validity of the Taiwan divorce; (4) even if the Taiwan divorce is recognized, the family court has jurisdiction to divide property and debts located in Hawai'i; (5) Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 580-47 (Supp. 2014) and § 580-56 (2006) do not apply to the Taiwan divorce to preclude the family court from addressing Husband's issues raised in this case; and (6) Husband's declaration did not violate HFCR Rule 56(g) and thus the family court improperly awarded attorney's fees to Wife.

The issues raised by Husband address three fundamental questions in this appeal:

Page 1022

[137 Hawai'i 93] (a) did the family court properly grant summary judgment to Wife recognizing under principles of comity a non-judicial divorce agreement between the parties that was signed and registered in Taiwan; (b) does the family court have jurisdiction to divide property and debts located in Hawai'i; and (c) did the family ...


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