Cook County Requires Biological Father to Support Triplets Who Were Conceived Through a Method of Assisted Reproduction in Thailand

A court in Thailand entered a judgment that adjudicated respondent Harlow H. to be the biological father of triplets conceived by gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and imposed child support obligations on him. Thereafter, the mother, Wipaporn T., a/k/a Chirathip T., petitioned the Circuit Court of Cook County to, inter alia, recognize and enroll the Thai judgment under the principles of comity.

Harlow moved to dismiss the petition, arguing the Thai judgment was not entitled to comity because it was contrary to Illinois public policy as expressed in a statutory provision addressing sperm donors and artificial insemination. The circuit court denied Harlow’s motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Harlow filed an answer and affirmative defenses, asserting, inter alia, that comity could not be extended to the Thai judgment because Wipaporn obtained it by fraud and Harlow was denied a full and fair hearing in Thailand. Pursuant to Wipaporn’s motion, the circuit court struck and dismissed Harlow’s answer with prejudice and enrolled the Thai judgment.

Harlow argued that he never married Wipaporn and the Parentage Act prevented her from making a sperm donor responsible for support.  However, the Thai court and this Court, found that Harlow was more than a sperm donor.  Although he was married to a woman in the United States, he engaged in a sexual relationship with Wipaporn.  Harlow ad Wipaporn engaged in a wedding ceremony in 2004, Harlow signed documentation demonstrating that he consented to the GIFT procedure and allowed the doctor to take his sperm to used in such treatment, and DNA test results established Harlow was the biological father of the three boys.  The Circuit Court here found that he was more than a sperm donor and that the Parentage Act did not intend to allow biological fathers to skirt their responsibilities in such an instance.

The Thai court had reviewed the Parentage Act, and Harlow was represented there by counsel.  The court here found that Wipaporn did not obtain her judgment in another country by fraud.

This court has defined the doctrine of comity as a “ ‘recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to the international duty and convenience and to the rights of its own citizens who are under the protection of its laws.’ ” In re Marriage of Kohl, 334 Ill. App. 3d 867, 880-81 (2002) (quoting Clubb v. Clubb, 402 Ill. 390, 399-400 (1949)). Under the doctrine of comity, courts may defer to the laws or interests of a foreign country and decline to exercise jurisdiction that is otherwise properly asserted. Generally, the decision to grant or deny comity by a trial court will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of Kohl, 334 Ill. App. 3d at 881; In re Marriage of Pearson, 236 Ill. App. 3d 337, 349 (1992) (an abuse of discretion occurs when no reasonable person would adopt the view taken by the trial court). ¶ 18 Recognition of a foreign judgment may be withheld where it is contrary to the public policy of the state where the recognition is sought, the country in which the decree was rendered does not recognize American decrees, or the judgment was obtained in bad faith, by fraud or by taking advantage of the foreign law. Hager v. Hager, 1 Ill. App. 3d 1047, 1051 (1971). Illinois courts have also considered whether the rendering court had jurisdiction over the person and the No. 1-13-3703 – 7 – subject matter, and whether the party was given timely notice and an opportunity to present a defense. In re Marriage of Murugesh, 2013 IL App (3d) 110228, ¶ 41; In re Marriage of Silvestri-Gagliardoni, 186 Ill. App. 3d 46, 51 (1989). Courts considering whether to give comity to a foreign judgment should also consider whether the foreign court “can do complete justice to those affected by the decree.” Codo, Bonds, Zumstein & Konzelman, P.C. v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., 148 Ill. App. 3d 698, 703 (1986).

Our Appellate Court based its review of Illinois public policy and the repealed Parentage Act, and concluded that the Thai judgment was not contrary to Illinois public policy, and thus the circuit court neither erred by denying Harlow’s motion to dismiss Wipaporn’s petition nor abused its discretion by extending comity to the Thai judgment. For the same reasons, the circuit court did not err by striking and dismissing Harlow’s answer and affirmative defenses that relied on his erroneous interpretation of section 3(b) of the Parentage Act.

Harlow is the father of triplets!

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