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Equitable distribution hearing OK in wife’s absence

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 20, 2023

Equitable distribution hearing OK in wife’s absence

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 20, 2023//

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The trial court correctly denied wife’s “motion to reconsider after the court conducted an equitable distribution hearing in her absence and entered a final order of divorce.” The court properly refused “to reopen the record so that she could present evidence on the valuation of the marital accounts.”

Prior delays

“[I]n denying wife’s motion for reconsideration, the circuit court rejected wife’s contention that she was ‘medically unable to attend and participate in’ the trial on August 24, 2022.

“Based on the record before us, we conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion in denying wife’s motion.

“We first note that prior to August 24, 2022, wife, having received two previous continuances based on changes of counsel, sought another continuance to secure new counsel at the original trial date on July 18, 2022; when the court announced its intention to proceed, wife alleged a medical emergency based on headache and chest pains she had been experiencing since a surgery the previous March.

“The court summoned paramedics and granted wife another continuance, setting a new trial date of August 24, 2022, and requiring wife to document for husband a hospital visit relating to the alleged medical emergency.

“Wife does not dispute husband’s representation that she never provided documentation corroborating her claimed medical emergency, despite the circuit court’s order to do so.”

No record support

Wife “failed to appear for trial on August 24, 2022.

“She later asserted both that she did not receive notice of the new trial date and, conversely, that she called the court, husband, and husband’s counsel that morning to explain that she would be absent due to a new medical emergency. The record does not support either of wife’s assertions.

“Additionally, the record does not support wife’s assertion that she was unable to attend court due to a new medical emergency on August 24, 2022.

“Wife claimed that when she began to experience an ‘urgent medical emergency’ that morning, she was ‘unsuccessful in calling and reaching 911.’

“Nothing in the record supports wife’s contention that she was unable to successfully contact emergency services. Although wife contended that during a doctor’s visit later that day, both she and her physician were ‘concerned about a heart attack,’ again, the record does not support this.

“The only medical record from that visit indicates that wife’s physician instructed her to take Tylenol and ibuprofen, and although he did indicate that wife was to have an MRI to evaluate her head pains, he scheduled that MRI for one week later.

“Wife did not allege that her physician sent her to the emergency room, and in fact admitted that she went to the emergency room on her own initiative, ‘to be pro-active.’

“She further acknowledged that she, and not her attending physicians at the hospital, ‘requested a cardiac work up,’ and her medical records indicate that she was released from the hospital some hours later after receiving a diagnosis of knee pain, chest pain of an ‘unspecified type,’ and ‘non intractable tension-type headache.’

“The record is also devoid of any doctor’s note or other documentation that wife could have obtained to excuse her absence from court due to an ‘urgent medical emergency.’”


Bobsin v. Bobsin, Record No. 1389-22-4, Aug. 1, 2023. CAV (unpublished opinion) (Malveaux) From the Circuit Court of Fairfax County (Kassabian). John S. Koehler for appellant. Robert M. Worster III for appellee. VLW 023-7-302, 10 pp.

VLW 023-7-302

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