Husband and wife, who had businesses in both United States and India, were in the middle of the divorce proceeding. A restraining order was put in place to preserve the marital property. Husband sent an email to a bank in India to request a freeze on the wife's business account, and the bank complied although the husband was not listed as a holder for the account.
The district court found the husband in criminal contempt of the court, having violated the restraining order. The appellate court affirmed. Both the district court and the appellate court found that freezing assets is a type of "alienation" of property prohibited in the restraining order.
Transnational matrimonial actions are always interesting, because they often highlight the issues that are not commonly seen in transnational commercial cases.
Legally, this case is not all that novel. It is well established that freezing a bank account is a type of alienation of property, and it is likewise well established that the courts may control extraterritorial actions of a party under its jurisdiction. But this case is notable for its fact pattern, which is rather typical of a transnational case. The defendant attempted to gain leverage in the U.S. court by taking informal actions to pressure the plaintiff, in violation of the U.S. court's provisional relief.
This occurs, in part, because there is no international cooperation system as to provisional reliefs. (My forthcoming paper is regarding this topic.) In the absence of such a system, the best that a party could do is to ensure that she has legal representation in all countries in which she may find herself litigating. Certain an expensive proposition, but currently the only practical way a party could protect his interest.
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