The circuit court had personal jurisdiction over husband and subject matter jurisdiction to enter the parties’ consent support order and award wife attorney’s fees.
The parties separated after a nine-year marriage. On Nov. 29, 2018, wife petitioned the Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for spousal and child support. The JDR court entered a temporary support order on Jan. 28, 2019. On Sept. 25, 2019, the JRD court entered a final support order, which husband appealed to the circuit court.
Husband’s counsel moved to vacate the order. Husband explained that on Sept. 28, 2018, he filed for a divorce in a Pennsylvania court. “Specifically, the Pennsylvania court ordered that ‘a Decree in Divorce shall hereafter be entered following resolution by the Permanent Master of all claims of record relating to equitable distribution of marital property, alimony, and counsel fees, costs and expenses and related claims under Divorce Code of 1980, as amended.’”
Husband argued the JDR court lacked jurisdiction to award spousal support. At a hearing, after considering briefs and arguments, the circuit court held that it had jurisdiction over husband and subject matter jurisdiction over temporary child support.
The parties negotiated and agreed husband would pay $2,500 in monthly spousal support and $1,500 per month in child support. The parties confirmed their agreement on the record after the court swore them in.
About a month later, husband’s counsel moved to withdraw for “ethical reasons.” At a hearing, the court entered the consent support order, which husband’s counsel endorsed as “Seen and Agreed.”
“The consent order further stated that wife waived her claim to alimony through the Pennsylvania divorce proceedings, ‘but such waiver shall be null and void should [husband] challenge the Suffolk Circuit Court’s subject matter or personal jurisdiction in this matter.’
“In a separate order, also entered on March 5, 2021, the circuit court awarded wife $1,818 for her attorney’s fees and directed husband to pay wife’s counsel within ninety days of the order. Husband’s counsel endorsed the attorney’s fees order as ‘Seen & Objected.’ The circuit court did not enter an order permitting husband’s counsel to withdraw.”
“Husband argues that the circuit court erred in ‘assuming it had personal jurisdiction’ over husband. We disagree. ‘A general appearance ‘is a waiver of process, equivalent to personal service of process, and confers jurisdiction of the person on the court.’ …
“Without challenging personal jurisdiction, husband appeared in the JDR court for the support hearings, noted his appeal of the JDR support order, and filed a motion to vacate in the circuit court. By invoking the circuit court’s jurisdiction himself, husband made a general appearance in the case and waived any objections to the circuit court’s jurisdiction over him. …
“Husband also contends that the circuit court erred by ‘not addressing competing orders for spousal support between Pennsylvania and Virginia” and entering an order “outside its [j]urisdiction.’ …
“Code § 16.1-241(L) grants the JDR courts in Virginia the power to award temporary spousal support. In addition, Virginia has adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)[.] … UIFSA prohibits states from conducting simultaneous support proceedings and entering competing orders. …
“The record establishes that when wife filed her petition for support, the parties were separated, and husband had initiated the divorce matter in Pennsylvania. Neither party, however, had requested that Pennsylvania award wife support before the entry of the divorce decree.
“The JDR court entered its support orders before Pennsylvania entered its order approving the grounds for divorce and retaining jurisdiction over numerous outstanding issues, including alimony. Both parties conceded that alimony under Pennsylvania law referred to spousal support payments made after the Pennsylvania court finalized the divorce, not during the proceedings.
“Therefore, contrary to husband’s arguments, there were not competing spousal support orders in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the circuit court had jurisdiction to enter a support order.”
“Husband argues that the circuit court erred in entering the consent order because both parties did not agree to its entry. Husband contends that his attorney ‘committed an ethical violation’ and that both attorneys knew that husband did not agree to the terms of the consent order.”
The parties “acknowledged their agreement on the record at the January 26, 2021 hearing. The parties’ agreement was memorialized in a consent order, which husband’s counsel endorsed as ‘Seen and Agreed.’
“On appeal, husband argues that the circuit court erred by entering the consent order because it was ‘not agreed to by both parties. ‘Husband will not be permitted to approbate and reprobate, ascribing error to an act by the trial court that comported with his [sworn] representations.’”
“Husband argues that his due process rights were violated after the circuit court awarded attorney’s fees to wife ‘without a hearing. … All the authorities agree that “due process of law” requires that a person shall have reasonable notice and a reasonable opportunity to be heard before an impartial tribunal, before any binding decree can be passed affecting his right to liberty or property.’ …
“The circuit court entered the attorney’s fees order at the March 5, 2021 hearing. Wife previously had requested an award of attorney’s fees, and husband had actual notice of the hearing date. …
“The record demonstrates that husband’s counsel was present at the hearing; thus, husband had an opportunity to be heard on the issue of attorney’s fees.”
Shvets v. Shvets, Record No. 0336-21-1, Nov. 30, 2021. CAV (per curiam) from Suffolk City Circuit Court (Glassman). (Dmitry Shvets, on briefs), pro se. (F. Nash Bilisoly; W. Thomas Chappell; C. Eric Plumlee; Matthew C. Wooten; Vandeventer Black LLP; Plumlee, Wooten & Overton, P.C., on brief), for appellee. VLW 021-7-168, 13 pp. Unpublished.