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A little ditty about Jack and Diane

The 2015 Virginia bar exam is in the books. As this column noted last week, 1,143 lawyer wannabes took the exam in Roanoke the week of July 27. Here is one of the essay questions from the actual exam. How would you fare, if you had to answer this today?

Jack and Diane married in 1982 and resided in Lebanon, Virginia. In late 2013, Jack began having an affair with another woman and eventually left Diane and moved in with the other woman. In 2014, Jack decided to file for divorce from Diane.

To avoid attorney’s fees, Jack turned to a “do-it-yourself” divorce Internet website, where he obtained forms for a “Complaint for Divorce” and a “Summons.” In a blank space in the form Complaint in which the “grounds of divorce” were to be stated, Jack typed, “I wish to divorce Diane because the thrill of our marriage is gone.”

After completing the forms, Jack filed the documents with the local circuit court clerk and delivered file-marked copies of the summons and complaint to the sheriff’s office to be served on Diane. The deputy sheriff serving the documents went to Diane’s home in Lebanon; however, Diane was not there, and her seventeen-year-old daughter, who also lived in Diane’s home, answered the door. The sheriff handed the documents to Diane’s daughter, explained their importance, and told her to give them to her mother when she got home. When Diane got home, her daughter gave her the documents, and Diane promptly retained an attorney to represent her in the divorce proceedings.

Diane’s attorney moved to quash the service of process on her due to defective service. The judge denied the motion to quash. Immediately thereafter, Diane’s attorney filed a demurrer requesting the court to dismiss Jack’s Complaint on the ground that the Complaint failed to state a proper ground for divorce and therefore failed to state a claim. The judge overruled the demurrer. Without objection from Diane’s attorney, a hearing ensued in which Jack was granted a divorce from Diane. At the same hearing, the marital assets of Jack and Diane were divided between them, and Diane was granted sole custody of their children.

A final order memorializing the judge’s decisions was entered on December 1, 2014.

In the spring of 2015, Diane found out that Jack had lied about his financial status when he testified at the divorce hearing and that he had hidden marital funds in several offshore bank accounts. On April 1, 2015, Diane’s attorney filed with the court a request for leave to file a bill of review. In the request, Diane’s attorney stated the sole ground for the request was that, after entry of the court’s final order, Diane had for the first time discovered new evidence, i.e., the hidden offshore accounts, which were substantial and would have altered the judge’s division of property. The judge denied the request for leave, ruling that it had been untimely filed, and, in addition, that the grounds asserted for a bill of review were inadequate.

(a) Did the judge err by denying Diane’s motion to quash service? Explain fully.

(b) Did the judge err by overruling Diane’s demurrer? Explain fully.

(c) Did the judge err in her ruling concerning Diane’s bill of review? Explain fully.

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