The threshold issue presented to this court for decision is whether Israeli judgments for child support, distribution of marital assets and counsel fees are enforceable in New Jersey.
Plaintiff, wife, and defendant, husband, were married in Tel Aviv, Israel in June of 1984. There was one child born of the marriage, Yaron Zik, who is age 7. The child is in the custody of his mother and resides with her in Isreal. The parties separated in 1987.
In June of 1987 the Regional Rabbinical Court in Tel Aviv ordered the defendant to pay to the plaintiff for the maintenance and care of the child $400 new sheckels monthly. The court order also provided that the amount of support would be linked to any cost of living allowances paid to salaried employees and that any amount not paid on the due date would bear interest as prescribed by law. Although the defendant husband was not at the hearing, he was represented at the hearing by counsel and the court found that the defendant husband was aware of the proceeding).
Thereafter, on December 4, 1990, the Tel Aviv District Court on an appeal by the plaintiff wife ordered the defendant to pay to her the fair market value of items of personalty taken by the defendant and the value of certain other items destroyed by the defendant. In addition, the defendant husband was ordered to pay $5,000 new sheckels to the plaintiff as counsel fees. During the appeal both parties were represented by counsel.
The defendant at a time unknown to the plaintiff left Isreal and commenced living in the United States. The plaintiff, having undertaken an investigation which gave her reason to believe the defendant was residing in New Jersey, instituted an action seeking enforcement of the judgment entered in Israel. Personal service was effectuated on the defendant by personally serving him with a copy of the summons, verified complaint and order to show cause in Collingswood, New Jersey.
The defendant asserts that the Israeli judgments are not enforceable in New Jersey. He contends that only those foreign states which have reciprocal enforcement agreements under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.24 to -30.64 (URESA) are entitled to have their judgments enforced. URESA requires the Administrative Director of the New Jersey Courts to maintain a list of those foreign States which have jurisdiction under URESA. N.J.S.A. 2A:40-30.40(2). It is undisputed that Isreal is not on the list of States with URESA Jurisdiction. Consequently, the defendant argues that support orders entered by Israeli courts are not enforceable in New Jersey.
The defendant misinterprets the purpose and function of URESA. The statutory purpose of URESA is to "improve and extend by Reciprocal Legislation the enforcement of duties of support". NJSA 2A:4-30.24. The Statute endeavors to provide an efficient method to enforce support orders entered in a different jurisdictions. Zelek V. Brosseau, 47 NJ Super 521, 136 A.2d 416 (APP. DIV. 1957). To achieve this goal the act provides that if the state of New Jersey is the initiating state the County Welfare Agency will, at the request of the court, represent the obligee in any proceeding under the Act. NJS 2A:4-30.36. Similarly the act provides that when New Jersey is the responding State it shall, after receiving a copy of the complaint, docket it and thereafter the county welfare agency will prosecute the action on behalf of the obligee. NJSA 2A:4-30.41 Moreover the act delineates a procedure by which a support judgment in a foreign state may be registered. NJSA 2A:4-30.60.
Although URESA sets forth a framework by which support orders from different jurisdictions may be uniformly enforced there is nothing to suggest that it is the exclusive method by which support orders from other jurisdictions may be enforced. Indeed the Act declares that the remedies provided are in addition to, and not in substitution for, other available remedies. NJSA 2A:4-3.27.
In ZELEK V. BROSSEAU, supra, a plaintiff obtained a Vermont judgment fixing arrears owed for support. Thereafter she initiated an action in the county court in New Jersey seeking enforcement of the Vermont judgment. The county court determined that Vermont had jurisdiction over the parties, that there was no fraud in procuring the judgment and that enforcement of the Vermont judgment would not be against the governmental policy of New Jersey. Accordingly, the county court enforced the judgment.
The defendant appealed. Among the points argued by the defendant on the appeal was that the Vermont judgment should not be enforced because the plaintiff had not availed herself of the procedures outlined under URESA. The court ruled that although URESA provides an efficient method for enforcing support orders it was not the exclusive method. The plaintiff was free to follow an alternative method for enforcing her support order. The court concluded by determining that the county court had ruled appropriately by enforcing the Vermont Judgment.
The fact that Israel is not on the Registry of Foreign States or Countries which have enacted URESA, is not fatal to the plaintiff's claim. It merely means that the plaintiff may not avail herself of the procedures outlined under URESA.
To determine whether or not the Israeli judgments are enforceable in New Jersey, principles of comity must be examined. In Fantony V. Fantony 21 NJ 525, 533, 122 A.2d 593, (1956), the New Jersey Supreme Court delineated ...